Boom Forest is the spiritual incarnation of John Paul Roney, a Nashville-based songwriter and an evangelist for a contemporary folk tradition forwarding humanism in the face of our looming techno-apocalypse. Begin with the acoustic introspection of Bob Dylan, add artful electronic production cues a la Kid A, and layer in multi-part harmonies that would be at home in a Southern Baptist choir, and you’re on your way into the sound Boom Forest makes from the Automated Woods of Tomorrow.
A son of Wisconsin, John Paul’s musical education began in his smalltown church, where he taught himself to harmonize to hymns so he could sing alongside his family. He never learned to read music, but whatever he did, it worked—he was soon traveling across Europe, the Americas, and Asia as the soloist for an internationally regarded boy choir. As he began writing his own songs, he quickly realized music could be a portal to people’s innermost sanctums, and that the right song could be a powerful vehicle for truth and beauty. John Paul’s whole artistic project centers on building authentic human connections: his live show features a rotating support cast of mutual best friends (most notably including members of Phox and Foreign Fields); a hush comes over the entire barroom whenever John Paul begins the subtle a cappella vocals of “No Lion”; and if he politely asks the audience to forget their smartphones for a minute, they do so happily, because the Boom Forest stage show is an experience so visceral and immediate that you’d hate lose a moment of it to mediated reality.
Such folk earnestness is central to John Paul’s approach to art. For years, he toured the country without recorded music, simply to practice the folk tradition of the wandering bard. He spent the entirely of 2010 allowing himself access only to the objects and technologies people had access to in the 60s, a sort of techno-cleanse for the purposes of artistic and spiritual development. The resulting music was heartfelt and observant, a meditation on what it means to be human in an increasingly automated world. Boom Forest’s forthcoming album “Post Knight Errant” is a new chapter in a world in which there is and eternal struggle between humans and machines: in the post-apocalyptic White City, techno-golems have imprisoned humans in a symbiotic stasis to feed on their life force. The Boom Forest canon serves as an evolving battle hymn to help humanity reawaken - the message: better to live and die a human than to sleepwalk through eternal digital slavery.