Forest Claudette Find Their Home In ‘Jupiter’

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“If men are from Mars and women are from Venus, then where are all the little non-binary babies from?” 

It’s a metaphor for a question that Forest Claudette poses to themself. In a world where everyone else seemed to fit, where did they? Was there a physical place or was it a mindset? Would it be a place to hide or a place to reach? 

“I was talking it over and over,” they say, deep in thought. “Then I was like, ‘What if it is an inner peace or a safe haven where it’s just a sense of belonging?’”

Forest’s final answer to this question became, “I feel like we’re from Jupiter” and their latest EP — titled fondly after this place they’ve found themselves in — is one step closer to Forest making sense of themselves in an ever-messified world. 

“I think externalising [that place] was really helpful in the writing process, where I’m reaching [for something]. When I get there, then I’ll feel accepted and I’ll feel comfortable and have ownership over my identity,” says Forest. 

Pre-interview, Forest welcomes me on screen with their cheshire smile in a spotless white room. The World Naked Bike Ride is where we’d last seen each other (at my invitation) and though neither of us were naked, or riding, or involved, we were both interested, in my opinion, in the unorthodox nature of that form of expression. 

Expression is the key word here. Forest Claudette is an artist unafraid of exploring their own identity in a world trapped in the bores of the binary and sensible: No judgment, just curiosity. It’s where the mindset behind Jupiter fits: An EP that precedes their ARIA award-winning project Everything Was Green, which plays more like a patchwork exploration of self than the more intentional project at hand.

To me, Everything Was Green is an elevated version of The Year of February,” Forest says. “It was a natural progression. But those are linked. They’re an era. And I feel I had in my head that I would love to try and create something around a concept. This time, I feel like I set out to achieve this level of intention. I need to have a story.”

Filled with upbeat funk that builds to a sedated ending, Jupiter’s four-track story begins vaguely. On its introductory song, ‘Kobe Beef’, there’s “anguish and pain that is [the] shedding of old skin,” Forest says of the track, which features lyrics like “My ID been on thin ice” and “What you see ain’t what you get”.  

While ‘Big Wigs’ ends the EP, it’s the third song ‘Only Human’ where the story really resolves. “I’m like, ‘Okay, all I am is this and that’s all I’ll ever be. That’s all I can be’,” Forest says. The lyrics reinforce the idea: “I’m human / these days I feel like I’m superhuman”.

That story is also told through the EP’s artwork. Forest portraits permeate shattered glass where each single cover represents “versions of me I thought I should have been or wanted to be”, they say.

But more than that, it’s a comment about their hair…

“And being able to play with my make-up… It’s a story, but it’s not a story…” they say. “I think the story is just the possibilities of different ways of expressing. That was so exciting and gratifying and liberating. I was like, ‘Dang, this is really special’. I get to see how my face changes and how my features feel different or how I feel different when I look.”

When Forest Claudette first started passing across the lips of tastemakers around Australia, they were often compared to the laconic croonings of Frank Ocean. While Jupiter still holds whispers of the comparison, the EP’s production pushes Forest into a far more unique realm of their own.

What’s surprising to learn is just how chaotic Forest’s writing process is. ‘Kobe Beef’, for example — the most complex song on the record, it sounds like three songs in one — underwent constant rewrites, was left for a few months, then returned to. There ended up being seven different versions of the verses until Forest decided: “I’m just going to sing for 10 minutes and see if any melodies happen.”

“I wasn’t going into the process being like, “‘I’ve got everything’,” says Forest. “I was like ‘I have nothing, and I need to make it all now’.”

Though familiarity wasn’t necessary within the collaboration process, previous collaborator Alex Tirheimer (also known as Bumbasee) returned as writer and producer across the record (“There was that sense of trust and familiarity, which is why I trusted him with ‘Kobe Beef’,” says Forest). Then ‘Gold’ — the record’s second track and a song Forest describes as being “rooted in this idea of being overwhelmed by what I’m supposed to be doing, and then trying to feel grateful for having purpose in life” – became a family affair. 

Forest’s mum, especially, was hankering for a spot on the record, so ‘Gold’ became their parents debut, with ‘Big Wigs’ coming in next.

“I was playing the song to her and I was like, ‘it’s missing something’. On the chorus I wanted another choral [part]. I was like, ‘Can you just sing it?’ And so she was just singing: ‘Ah, me’,” they say. “They didn’t do bad. That was such a special thing to be able to do.”

With the EP now out, Forest Claudette looks to touring. “Any live instrumentation?” I ask.

“Oh, no, no, no,” they laugh. “I know I look like I’m living this lavish life but not yet. I mean, the dream is absolutely to be able to tour around the world with incredible musicians. But fuck… it does make me think about how people do that. And it also makes me look at those people differently. I’m like, either you guys are scraping to get to the end of the show — no one’s getting paid. Or you’re secretly rich. Because me flying to the UK… it’s expensive to tour. ”

Despite that — and jokingly entertaining the idea of doing a “Snoop Dogg” and being everywhere, anywhere, all at once, including writing a Menulog jingle — Forest says, “But the tour is going to be really cool. I am thinking of ways to make it special with what I have.”

In the meantime, Forest Claudette’s EP Jupiter proves that to be able to live outside of conformity is to be honest and original. It’s gotten them to a place where they don’t “feel like a baby giraffe, looking around like, ‘Is this okay? Am I doing it right? Am I walking? Is this it?’”

Instead, Forest Claudette has found their home in Jupiter. 

Forest Claudette’s new EP Jupiter is out now.

Julie Fenwick is a music and culture writer from Naarm/Melbourne. Follow her on Instagram @juliefenfen