Have you ever met someone who makes you feel like you’ve known them forever, even if you’ve never spoken with them before? Rej Forester has a way of doing that. The singer/guitarist/songwriter, along with drummer Mia Morris, make up the two-piece self-described “Queerdo Scream-Pop” band GRLwood. LEO caught up with Forester prior to the release of their latest single “Love is Fire,” and what started out as a typical interview turned into an hour-long conversation with what felt like an old friend.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
LEO: You haven’t played Louisville since pre-COVID. What have you been up to?
Rej Forester: When COVID happened I was like, fuck, what am I gonna do? I have to make money. So even though I don’t smoke, I got a job in California in the marijuana industry through someone I knew. I did farm work there for about a year, and then I came back to Louisville and have mostly been focusing on recording. I was playing shows nonstop before because it was the only way I could make money. Whereas now streaming has been pretty good and I’ve taken advantage of it to really flex my artistic muscles in ways I didn’t have enough time to before. So that’s why I haven’t played shows in a while, because I’m working on recording. So after these songs get released, we are turning our engine towards performing again.
I know you left Louisville in 2010, and spent several years hitchhiking around numerous other countries. What prompted you to leave initially?
Well, it probably starts like any chapter in a coming of age, typical trope-y lesbian story; I had a crush on somebody. I finished high school and I didn’t know what the fuck I wanted to do. I tried going to college and it was a horrible idea. I hated college. I hated everyone around me. I hated my family. Louisville was not something I felt good in at that moment, so I was like fuck this shit. And I had a crush on somebody who called and said, “I’m going to be in Honduras in a couple of weeks, you should fly down and meet me.” So I scraped together all my money and I went, and that’s how it started. It was just crazy because I had never slept outside, I’d never been camping, I’d never been out of the country. So I get down there and come to find out the situation is not at all what it was made out to me to be, and it wasn’t too long before I was on my own. I had like $100 cash on me, a Walmart kids play tent, and a Walmart school backpack. I was not ready. And I had this crazy whirlwind experience where I went from having never even slept outside to waking up with howler monkeys above my head and having to chop wood to make the fire every night to heat up water to drink and foraging for food. Everything got better once I got a guitar and I started busking in the streets for money. But it takes a lot of fucking gumption to walk miles every single day to play music in the street for six hours a day, that is a fuck ton of energy. Then walk back, doing all of that on only like a kebab or what you can find in the garbage can as your only meal for the entire day. So I’d hitchhike into towns to make money, and then I would hitchhike out when I wanted to go somewhere. And that continued until I came back here and started GRLwood in November-ish 2016 and decided that I was gonna pursue music seriously. There’s a lot that happened between leaving Louisville and coming back, but it definitely made me who I am today. All the PTSD along with the good things, it’s not all bad. I love who I am and I am very thankful for all the lessons I’ve learned and I have a lot of really valuable life information because of it. If the zombie apocalypse ever happens, I am your bitch! [Laughing], I got the team!
What can you tell us about the new material?
You know, I have so many fucking songs that are done right now that I can release one huge album or two full albums. What I love about it is that it’s all over the place. There’s a lot of poppy songs sprinkled in with the rock music, I even have an ‘80s synth pop song in there. But they’re all done; I’m just wrapping up the last few. I’m also making music videos for every song, and then I’ll figure out how I’m going to release them.
How do you think people are going to react to the new songs?
I don’t want people to ever know what to expect. When I release these, I want some people to be like, “What the fuck? I hate it. Why is it so different?” I want everything to be a curveball. I’m a person with a lot of experience and a lot of likes, and I love to channel that through music. I feel like people are always trying to put me in a box of like, “You need to make only hardcore punk music.” And it’s like, “Bitch, have you listened to any GRLwood albums ever? Because there’s literally only a few songs per album like that.” I mean, you can sit at the table amongst the buffet of flavors and only eat what you like. That’s okay if you only like mac and cheese, you can eat the mac and cheese. But when it’s all gone, don’t bitch about there not being more because you ate it all. Why don’t you try these dank-ass fuckin’ brussel sprouts? And if you don’t want to try the dank-ass Brussel sprouts, that’s on you not me, [laughing].
Is there any timeline as to when these songs will be coming out?
Best case scenario, early fall. Worst case scenario, fucking winter.
Are you putting it out yourself, or is this on a label?
No, no more labels. You don’t need a label. Honestly, most of the music business is just a bunch of business people trying to take money, And if they’re not actually doing anything to further the art itself, then why give them your money? I worked really hard to get to where I’m at, and I am at a position now where I can put something out by myself. I don’t have to deal with someone being like, “I need an album right now. I need exactly one love song. I need three sad songs, and I need five heavy songs.” I’m so fucking blessed that I don’t have to deal with somebody breathing over me telling me what I need to put out, telling me what kind of songs I need to create, telling me when I need to put it out. It’s great! I love being free. •
GRLwood’s latest single “Love Is Fire” is now available on all major streaming platforms. For more info on the band, check out their website at grlwoodband.com