First and Forever returned from Los Angeles recently after spending two weeks recording tracks for 12 to 14 hours a day with producer Courtney Ballard.
There's no release date for that album, which is now waiting on production and mixing, but the band's new EP, Let This Love Lie Dead, came out earlier this month. In five tracks, First and Forever shows a passion for the emo sound of the 2000s. The band manages to balance aching desperation with a sense of fun.
"We're trying to bring the emo scene back," says lead singer Alex Ryan, who feels that the current scene is missing soul and honest aggression.
"One More Time" kicks off the EP. It's a joyful pop-punk song with a dark twist ending reminiscent of In Love and Death from The Used. Drum fills from David Pratt are quick and interesting. They intensify leading up to choruses in "Alone in the Dark" and "In Loving Memory." Then there's Marcus Leopard, guitarist and lyricist, who blends the moods from somber distorted guitar to the melancholy, echoing riff in, "Give Me Up." The lyrics are visual: a knife in the chest, a knife in the back, a woman whose lipstick stains a neck red. It's all a glimpse into agony, into thinking about a breakup that has been dwelled upon and dissected.
The music video for the title track has reached over 200,000 views on YouTube (a first for any single from the band's label, Adventure Cat Records). So it's ironic that lead singer Alex Ryan insists that the trio was never meant to be a "real" band.
Ryan, who has a full-time job in the construction industry, had dreams of being a musician. He was in a hotel in California for work in 2017 when he decided to make it a reality.
“I literally woke up one day and was like, 'I’m in my mid 20s. If I don’t do this now, I never will.
"I went and bought a six-pack of Bud Light," he continues. "I drank all of it just to get the courage to go on Craigslist and find someone."
After posting an ad detailing influences like My Chemical Romance, Taking Back Sunday, and The Used, he noticed an ad from drummer David Pratt.
“I found him on social media and then just badgered him,” Ryan says. “I was super-persistent for three months.”
When they finally first jammed together, Pratt gave Ryan a microphone and told him to sing. Ryan had no prior band experience
“I sang, 'I’m Not Okay' by My Chemical Romance, and [Pratt's] like, ‘Oh. You’re not that bad. We can do this.’”
Pratt and Ryan hooked up with guitarist Leopard and the group practiced covers for a year without ever performing live.
When Ryan’s job took him from Scottsdale to Chicago, the band went on hiatus. But he missed making music.
“I called the guys and said, ‘Hey if I paid for it, would you guys be down to record some songs?’” Ryan recalls. They recorded a song called "Chicago" with Matt Good of post-hardcore band From First to Last.
“That’s the first song I’ve ever written,” Ryan says of “Chicago." (It was co-written by Leopard.) “It’s a classic emo breakup song about a girl, and I should thank her because it kicked off my career.”
When they got the finished track, “We were like, 'Wait a second — is this good?'” Ryan says
Immediately, they got their answer: Ryan posted the song on his personal Instagram account in November 2018 and music labels started contacting him.
The labels asked him if First and Forever was a real band. Ryan told them, no, but the labels told him to give them a call if they changed their mind.
Ryan says the band thought, Why not? and decided to record a couple of more songs.
“We sent that [the songs] around and ended up getting signed,” Ryan says. “The whole point of the record deal was to try to get us on tour. We signed a record deal a year ago, and a week later — COVID lockdowns.”
Recently, though, First and Forever signed with a U.K. booking agency to start international tours. Ryan says they're ready.
"There's a hole in the marketplace in terms of emo music," Ryan says. "We're trying to re-create a sound and update it for a new time."