Forty Feet Tall- Treefort Interview

Interview by Kevin Maret

From left to right: Ian Kelley, Jack Sehres, Brett Marquette, Cole Gann. Photo by Harper King

Forty Feet Tall, an alt-rock group is composed of members Cole Gann (lead singer/guitar), Jack Sehres (guitar), Brett Marquette (bass), and Ian Kelley (drums). The four of them together make incredibly hard-hitting music similar to Queens of the Stone Age and The Strokes. Their intense stage presence and imaginative songs make them one of the most exciting rock groups today.

We got the opportunity to speak with the group in Boise about their favorite songs to perform, influences, and how they all met.

Kevin Maret: Have to start off the interview with a fun one! If you were all WWE stars, what is your entrance song and why?

Brett: “I Can’t Make You Love Me” by Bonnie Raitt. My whole character is like heartbroken, and I’m going to break everyone else. It will throw people off.

Jack: I’m trying to think of the name of the song, it’s like a Rascall Flatts song. Life is a Highway thats it. Rascall Flats because I feel like if I would ever be in the WWE I would get crushed immediately. So I might as well go in knowing it. And my wrestler name would be “The Crushed.”

Ian: I would have to say the song “All is Lost” by Wasted Shirt. There’s actually like a bunch of other dudes on that record too like Ty Segall. Its really just not coffee shop appropriate, but I still like to turn it on in my coffee shop and its one that I like to kick everybody out too.

Cole: Ummmm I would walk out to the Pink Panther theme wearing pink spandex.

Jack: You’d always come out of a different area too

Cole: I’m sneaky as hell, like under the stage. But the costume would give it away pretty quickly

KM: Watching your guys’ set earlier today, I have to ask about the Nick Cage song you played. Is it a National Treasure thing? A Raising Arizona thing? Where does this come from?

Cole: All of the above. We kinda introduce it being about Nick Cage, and it is in a lot of ways. But it also stems from being at a party and talking to someone you have no interest in talking to. We all really love him and all of his bullshit.

Jack: We started the riff before we had the lyrics and Cole was just messing around and said “Nick Cage all night” or something like that and we just knew that was the one.

Cole: At that point we were like “are we actually going to call it Nick Cage?” No we can’t do that. And we ended up calling it Nick Cage.

Jack: We also watched Face-Off recently so I think that had something to do with it.

Brett: While we were recording our album we watched it and it was like “holy hell” this is the best and worst movie of all time”

Cole: Worst movie ever. Most entertainment out of a movie ever.

KM: Do y’all have a favorite song to perform live?

Jack: We had one that we didnt get to play today called “We Can’t Go Back to Normal” and that one is fun because its the easiest one to play for me so I can just relax for a second and not have to worry about what I am actually doing. It’s just a few chords for the most part. Its super fun

Brett: That’s like the hardest song for me. I love it too. Cole doesn’t have a guitar on this one so he is just running on the mic and jumping in the audience

KM: How has this tour been and do you have a wildest memory so far?

Jack: It has been pretty up and down. We have had some amazing shows and some just bad shows. We played in Fort Collins and we don’t know anyone there, but it was an awesome show and we had a great time. We played in a bowling alley which was sick.

Cole: The green room was like an old school bus in the back it was incredible.

Brett: Our SXSW show we played after KT Tunstall and that was wild. She was super cool and as we were unloading our gear, T-Pain was playing across the street. Just a weird mix where we did not feel like we should be at, but it was so fun.

Jack: There was one that blew my mind. We opened for a band called Steely Dead, which is exactly what you think it is. We were super nervous, but all of the hippies loved us. Genuinely one of our best shows and the venue was amazing. The lowest of expectations and definitely one of our favorite shows.

KM: Your music gives off very “Strokes-y” and Queens of the Stone Age sounds, however, what non-rock artists do you find direct influences in?

Cole: Frank Ocean is someone I have always been attached to. If I had like desert island albums, one of them is Channel Orange. He’s obviously a far cry from what we are doing, but I am obsessed with his vocal delivery. 

Ian: I listen to a lot of soul and old 60s style—pesky rhythms, heavy falsettos, one room mice kind of music. It’s funny actually one of my bigger influences, Thee Sacred Souls, are actually here at Treefort. We actually didn’t even know that until we were walking along yesterday and their name was on a sign by the Radio Boise stage. Definitely influenced by a lot of jazz.

Jack: I definitely listen to a lot of indie music, but I am terrible with band names and I am drawing a complete blank.

Cole: He actually doesn’t listen to music.

Jack: Julian Baker. Also Slothrust. I caught them in Portland in 2019 I think and they rocked

Brett: I guess I really love Motown bassists. James Jamerson is definitely one of my favorite bassists. Like seventy percent of motown records was him playing bass and that’s insane. I feel like some of our newer songs like “Tunnel Vision” have more of that dancier or groovier feel which is fun. That’s definitely my biggest non-rock influence.

KM: Forty Feet Tall has some insane music videos, do you have a favorite one that you have shot?

Jack: Each time we do a new one that ends up being our favorite. I liked “Don’t Tell Your Mom”. That one was nice because it was inside and it was cold outside. Some of the other videos have been uncomfortable because of that. And that was our first time working with a whole production team.

Cole: We showed up and we thought it would just be the director and the photographer and there was like a whole crew with catering and everything.

Jack: Smashing the car was awesome. I really wanted that to be in the video and the director said we could make it happen. 

Ian: My favorite video would have to be “Julian”. I am kind of a car nut, and we sourced a really nice BMW 540 and it was just peachy clean. It was a 1995 and not a single scratch. The dude we were renting it from would run in between shots and wipe off any fingerprints. He was even more of a car nut than I am. I got to drive it all of a mile within the shoot, but it was still nice.

Brett: I can’t pick a favorite. Music videos are like our babies. We just recorded a new album and I am so excited to make new ones.

Cole: I don’t think I have a favorite. I think “On/Off” was fun but it was so cold. I still can’t pick a favorite.

KM: What does your creative process look like when making music?

Jack: I would say sporadic organization. Controlled chaos. Its very collaborative where one person will start something then we will all jump in and work on it. That’s how we do most of our newer stuff which has been really cool.

Brett: There’s a lot of times where we will be practicing or rehearsing the songs we have and warming up. Every now and then someone pulls out their phone and opens voice memos, we know this is something fun.

Jack: Apple Voice Memos honestly are a savior honestly.

Brett: We are also pretty good about everyone writing their own parts of the songs. We trust each other to write what works best and that comes together really well.

KM: What can you tell us about your upcoming album?

Cole: We just finished the record with Cameron Spies; he’s an incredible producer out in Portland. He has a band called Night Heron that are incredible as well. Brett just ran across his instagram and had a gut feeling that he was the guy to work for us. The best, he’s the absolute best. I think we will have some singles out early summer, then the full album hopefully in the fall.

Jack: Now we just need to figure out the album art and the album name.

Brett: We are all on the same page when it comes to our music, but we have very different opinions when it comes to art. What you said earlier, our music is shifting away from The Strokes and Queens sounds and more influenced by Parquet Courts, Ty Segall, Shame. Some people are saying we are sounding a bit Talking Heads-y, which wasn’t our goal, but we love them.

KM: You mentioned Parquet Courts and Shame which are huge favorites of mine and incredible inspirations.

Cole: We were playing SXSW and we were at a bar afterwards and the bartender caught our show earlier that day. He said he walked by our set and thought we were Parquet Courts and we were like “thank you”! That’s the best compliment we could ever get.

KM: How did all of you meet?

Cole: Jack and I have known each other since we were in diapers. We started the band in high school in like 2011 and played for a decent amount of time in LA then went to college. I graduated and wanted to get the band back together.

Jack: I was living in San Francisco with Brett and we had a band that was falling apart and Cole hit me up at the right time. San Francisco was getting too techy and too expensive and didn’t feel as artsy. Cole asked if I wanted to play guitar again, and I was like yeah. The bassist in that band didn’t want to and I was like “I got somebody”. Brett, how hard did I have to convince you?

Brett: Honestly not at all. I was like yeah lets go.

Jack: There was this one time Brett super stoned and opened a beer

Brett: It wasn’t a beer, it was a Four Loko. It was the last Four Loko I have ever had. And I blame it on Steven Driscoll.

Jack: I was like, “are you kidding me?” He was just looking at instagram and popped open a Four Loko. It was incredible.

Brett: I remember we played a show with Ian a little bit after that. And this guy was just amazing and fun and kind and talented as fuck. Like a month later we needed a new drummer and we got the guy. We tried out a bunch of people and no one fit except him.

Cole: We had to woo him.

Ian: It was 100% mutual. I was in a group I didn’t want to be in. It was fun, but it just got super toxic and took the fun out of it. I was filling in for a few of their shows to start with and I couldn’t be in full time because of a bunch of crap going on. I respected these guys enough not to do that to them. We played a few shows and all started hanging out and it was so fun. 

KM: You mentioned earlier that you see the band in this current evolution towards a new sound. How do you see Forty Feet Tall in the future?

Ian: Tightness.

Brett: I’m into it

Jack: I think we are just growing in different ways. Over the past five years we have really gone down the post-punk and psych-rock rabbit holes. Those have been huge influences and we have been trying to put that into Forty Feet Tall.

Cole: It feels like this album is finally the real us. With having Ian on board, everything feels right. I was talking to a friend a few weeks ago and they saw us in Portland and they were like, that’s you, that’s your sound.It was so great to hear and this just felt right.

Jack: I don’t feel like we are trying to get away from anything. It’s just our growth and evolution as band members.This is the first album with the four of us, and it just feels good. 

KM: I will end the interview with a fun question: do you all have a favorite tattoo and a story behind it?

Cole: I’m against tattoos. 

Brett: All of us have tattoos and Cole doesn’t so it makes him pure.

Ian: My favorite one is probably a cross between this one which is a carton of orange juice named after my niece whose name is Olivia-Jean. Hence the nickname OJ. My sister was mad because the nickname was too close to OJ Simpson, but I was like no she’s the juice.

Jack: Honestly my favorite one is the reaper just because I like it. I have honestly wanted a reaper since I was 18, and I pushed it off until last year because I was like “you can’t get a reaper tattoo without some meaning behind it”. I lost a few grandparents in the past few years, so I got it because of that. But I also do like the aesthetic of it.

Cole: I think he has wanted it before he was 18. Can confirm.

Jack: Yeah dude I have wanted a reaper forever

Brett: My favorite is his smiley face.

Jack: Oh yeah. This one is the best story for sure. So I was really drunk and I was trying to date this person and she wanted to do stick and pokes and I said sure. So now I have a smiley face forever now

Brett: I like this one. These are the same width and distance as the Rickenbacker bass I have; the strings. It’s my dad’s bass that he got when he was like 13. He never tried to get me to play bass. I wanted to be a drummer, but my teacher said I was too loud, so i had to start playing bass. He just so happened to have a bass in the attic, so that’s what I started playing. So these mean a lot to me.

KM: Thank you so much for your time. I am beyond appreciative of this opportunity to interview you guys. It has been an absolute blast and I wish you the best of luck with the new album.

Forty Feet Tall’s newest single BOIL released on all platforms Friday, July 29th. Give it a listen below!

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