Jan 272010
 
Authors: Nic Turiciano

From the outside, the Maddocks family barn just looks like a barn. The cream colored structure sits just south of the household, which sits east of Interstate 25 and north of Vine Drive.

Inside there are tools: a riding lawn mower and other property tending equipment.

The floors are covered with rugs, and sheets hang from the ceiling. The building inspires the feeling of a place where people have been congregating for years. And in fact, it is.

Aside from being a landscaping equipment storage area, the barn functions as a recording studio for the so-called “record label” Act So Big Forest –– mixing board, studio and all.

Jon Alonzo, Dave and Tim Maddocks, Ryan Hover and Kay Berthoff, some of the key members of ASBF, sat around an ashtray Saturday afternoon discussing what exactly Act So Big Forest is.

Surrounding them was a plethora of musical instruments, pieces of homegrown art, photographs and knick-knacks.
The five came to the conclusion that they were all parts of not a record label, as they are referred to on their blog, but of a family … kind of.

ASBF consists of a fluctuating list of 10 bands that happily play with, promote and support each other under the Internet moniker Act So Big Forest.

The “family” started four or five years ago, an answer to this question no one could come to an agreement on, when some musicians started branding their CDs with the Act So Big Forest name.

ASBF has digitally released 31 albums since that time.

“When we started as teenagers making music, it was really fun for us to do everything as if it was for real. Make a CD with a cover and a label name on it,” said Hover, who plays guitar and sings for the Fort Collins band Candy Claws.

“Then we realized that there’s actually real music on these CDs and we’re playing real shows. What makes that less real than some label with a bunch of money?”

Much like the barn, the collective effort of Act So Big Forest looks one way from the outside, but lives up to so much more than it appears.

Something that’s music and much more

ASBF holds semi-regular “Beach Parties,” where bands gather at a location, usually a member’s home, and play an all day show.

The events act as a venue for Fort Collins and Denver bands that don’t have the opportunity to play in festivals together.

During the last five years, they have grown, even attracting the attention of Fort Collins Police Services, which set up a DUI checkpoint at the edge of the Maddocks family’s property last summer.

Almost all of the guests were pulled over, according to those who attended.

The Do It Yourself genre runs deep within the ASBF’s genetic makeup.

Alonzo created and maintains the collective’s Myspace and blog, Tim Maddocks, who reported for the Collegian while studying for his bachelor’s degree at CSU, operates a local literary news magazine dubbed “The Rabbit” and Hover often contributes art to both.

“It isn’t just music, that’s for sure,” Alonzo said. “It’s a very small part of it, but I guess it’s the most official. It’s just the part that everyone else sees.”

It is this unflinching drive to create that has attracted the attention of parties both in and out of Fort Collins.

Something that people can identify

Until very recently, Hover did not know anyone had taken note of ASBF. His band Candy Claws, with its growing Internet buzz, and Paean’s recent tour with ASBF mate Sour Boy, Bitter Girl, have attracted attention to the collective.

“The reassuring thing about this week is that two different publications contacted me within a couple days. At first I was like, ‘Is this a joke?’” Alonzo said.

Three bands have contacted ASBF within the last year hoping to sign onto the label with an actual record deal. Hover and Alonzo had to tell the groups that ASBF is not actually a record label with money, but simply a group of friends.

“Someone actually asked us to make him the next big indie band, and we had to tell him that we really couldn’t do that,” Hover said.

Something that doesn’t come cheap

Many of ASBF’s members work day jobs in order to support their passion. To some, money is key to the family’s survival.

“To make money you need to tour, and to tour you need money,” said Berthoff, who is also a vocalist and guitarist for Candy Claws.

Candy Claws will be playing at South by Southwest, a music festival in Austin, Texas, this March and Paean just finished their first tour.

In the collective model, when one band gains notoriety, exposure follows for all other groups involved –– that is, if they can afford to tour.

But, according to Alonzo and other ASBF mates, the money doesn’t matter. They’ll be making music, art, videos and all around fun together whether or not there’s enough money to do it.

This philosophy has molded ASBF into what it is today; Act So Big Forest simply is.

“I don’t want it to ever end. I guess that means that I want the people that are a part of it to stay where I am, because without that it would be nothing,” Alonzo said.

Staff writer Nic Turiciano can be reached at verve@collegian.com.

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