Forest Claudette’s aura is on fire. Whether he’s werking the hell out of a metallic Celine shirt (see above) or serenading a huntsman spider (see this video), the rising star radiates a warm, goofy energy that’s impossible to resist. It’s this relatability, paired with pure talent, that captivated audiences when his debut single ‘Creaming Soda’ dropped in July of this year.
The track is an effortless blend of funk, soul, psychedelic rock, and RnB sounds with a highly quotable hook. “Simply repeat the phrase ‘fuck it, I’m 19’ and proceed to walk away from whatever you can’t be bothered dealing with,” Forest wrote on Instagram when promoting the single. It was an instant hit, with Forest’s honeyed vocals drawing comparisons to early Frank Ocean and propelling him into the spotlight.
When we talk to the 23-year-old artist from his family home in Naarm, he’s gearing up to play his first ever live shows at Brisbane’s BIGSOUND festival and release his debut EP – The Year of February – which came out on September 30. Forest, who goes by Kobe Hamilton-Reeves when he’s not on stage, is chill, genuine and seems blissfully unaware of the fame that’s coming his way. He also has excellent taste in music, books, and movies. Get acquainted below.
Celine top, orchids by Claire Mueller at Acid.Flwrs
Where do you live now and where do you consider home?
At the moment, I’m out in The Patch with my folks. I’ve called this place home pretty much my whole life; pretty weird to think about.
How do you think your upbringing helped to shape your worldview?
Music has always sort of been the glue for my family – my parents met at a music school in the states. I grew up learning stringed instruments just like my two older brothers. We’re mixed race, but mum grew up not saying the N-word so when my oldest brother got deep into hip-hop, he had to get a Walkman. Mum was right into us from pretty young, pointing out all the racism/colourist symbolism and shit in the crappy cartoons and movies we watched. I think a lot of that stuff helps me see the way I do.
What music did you grow up listening to? Has that changed?
I listened to all kinds of music growing up; classical, RnB, pop, hip-hop, indie, rock, funk, you name it type thing. I remember when I was a kid it was Black Eyed Peas – Elephunk, So Fresh CDs in general, Daft Punk – Technologic, Coldplay – Parachutes and Mario – ‘Let Me Love You’. I feel like the variety in music that I listen to has not really changed, but I’m always listening to things I’ve never heard before, whether it’s old or new.
If you could only listen to one genre of music for the rest of your life, what would it be?
I think maybe 60s/70s soul – there’s so much there that I still haven’t gotten to and every time I dive in it’s like ‘wtf have I been doing’, you know?
In your opinion, who is the most important voice of our generation?
Hmm, that depends…if it’s artists I’d say either Noname or Brittany Howard.
What’s your creative process like?
It definitely varies, but it usually starts with lyrics. More often than not some will pop into my head throughout the day, and either come with a melody in mind, or I might find some chords later on and record improvisations into my phone. Now I’ve started taking some of those little ideas to the co-writing sessions I do as a sort of starting point to get a jump on things.
What subjects or themes do you find yourself returning to in your music, and why do you think this is?
I’d say time; I think about it often, whether I’m using it right or not. There’s also love and relationships and probably a tinge of existentialism. It’s just how my brain processes stuff, or maybe the things I mull over the most…?
Do you create music with your audience in mind?
Well, I mean, until now I’ve never had an audience, so I suppose not. I’m sure playing live shows and being able to interact with crowds will inspire me though.
When do you feel most ‘you’?
I think I feel like myself a fair amount of the time but probably the most when I’m with my family or close friends – boring! My fun answer is when I’m on top of high things.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
This is specific to skating, but still: keep your eyes on your back foot when trying to lock in the back trucks for a 50/50 grind.
What books are you reading at the moment?
At the moment I’m reading James Baldwin’s If Beale Street Could Talk, it’s incredible.
So far – I’ve only just gotten back into reading over the past couple years – I think my favourite book is Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo.
One of my faves is Sorry to Bother You.
That’s an impossible question, but one of them for sure is ‘Sound & Colour’ by Alabama Shakes.
Are there any social or cultural shifts you hope will happen in the next ten years?
There are many, and this is very broad, but I hope to see more men waking up to the harm that the patriarchy causes; not only to women and non-men, but to literally everyone. That’s probably gonna sound rich coming from a cis man, but I think it’s worth saying.
We acknowledge the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation as the traditional owners of land on which this shoot took place.