THE LONELY FOREST (From left) Braydn Krueger, John Van Deusen, Tony Ruland, and Eric Sturgeon.
Last September, the Lonely Forest got fired.
"I have the termination letter framed," the band's guitarist, Tony Ruland, says with a laugh. His bandmates—singer/guitarist John Van Deusen, bassist Eric Sturgeon, and drummer Braydn Krueger—chuckle along with him. "I printed it out and framed it. I just thought it was so funny. It starts 'Dear Gentleman,' and at the end it says, 'Sincerely yours, Atlantic Records.'"
The band can laugh about it now, but that letter—the letter officially informing them that they'd been canned by Atlantic Records—was a bittersweet ending to a tedious, draining process. By the time that letter arrived, it was more a relief than a disappointment.
It wasn't the ending anyone saw coming more than three years ago, when the Lonely Forest excitedly announced that they were the first band to sign to Trans-Records, the new Atlantic subsidiary started by Death Cab for Cutie's Chris Walla. At the time, as the band continued to sell out venues in Seattle and gain more critical acclaim, signing to Trans- and possibly joining the Atlantic family felt like the most logical step.
Their contract with Trans- had an upstream option, meaning if they sold a certain amount of "units," they would automatically be signed to the major label. But that never happened. After the Lonely Forest released Arrows in 2011, "a Russian billionaire" bought Atlantic, and in the shake-up of new ownership, Trans- was dropped from Atlantic's roster, making it Walla's own independent label, and the Lonely Forest's contract became void. They were label-less.