It’s been 16 years since Forrest Kline formed emo-pop project Hellogoodbye, and in many ways, nothing has changed. Sure, he’s not at school anymore. He’s married, settled in his Long Beach home, and has stable income. But Kline is still the same hopeless, unapologetic romantic he was when he first sat down with his laptop to write a song that would make Robin Hood minstrel Alan-a-Dale proud.
The focus of his romantic intent has changed, though. Kline admits that, initially, he was writing songs as a means to woo girls — to record something that could be added to a mixtape with a hand-drawn cover, with the teen hope of charming his way to first base. Nowadays, every song he writes is about his wife in one way or another. Which comes as some relief, because the songs back at school never achieved their intended aim, anyway.
“I started recording the stuff in 10th grade,” Kline says. “But it never worked. I’m happily married now. I’ve wooed her many times. Every song is somewhat about my wife. I don’t know if it ever played a role in her choosing me. It might have. She wouldn’t admit it, probably.”
Hellogoodbye is certainly a band that hammers home the fact that “emo” stems from the word “emotional,” and while that heart-on-sleeve approach to songwriting might be a little much for some people, what’s undeniable is that Kline is authentic. He really is as hopelessly romantic as his lyrics make him appear.
“It’s all about love,” he says. “Not to sound cheesy, but love is one of the all-encompassing topics. Not that I get political or anything, but a song about love could also be about politics. Or a song that’s about your parents or your relationship — anybody in your life, or any thing that you interact with. It’s always through the lens of love. I do make a conscious attempt to keep it positive, and to look more on the loving side as opposed to the hating side.”
A reminder — Kline is saying this in 2017, with the country all but ripped in half and “hating other people” close to becoming a national pastime. In all honestly, his words are a little jarring during our conversation, because they’re so contrary to the general mood in America right now. But they’re also really refreshing.
“I’m an inherent optimist,” Kline says. “I don’t get too down about things for too long so that’s natural for me. But it’s sort of conscious, because early on I realized that when I wrote songs, as much as they were to woo or charm a girl, they were also me putting down reminders for myself for later. Like, ‘That's a really good thought and that’s a positive thing that you should try to remember, so put it down in a lyric and then you’ll remember it in 10 years.’ And that’s worked out. They’ve served as nice reminders.”
Kline is 33 now. He was 22 when debut album Zombies! Aliens! Vampires! Dinosaurs! came out in 2006, and he’s currently working on Hellogoodbye’s fourth studio full-length. This year, the band are hitting the road and playing the debut in its entirety, including a Sept. 27 show at the Observatory in Santa Ana and a Sept. 30 gig at the El Rey. Prepping for the tour gave Kline an opportunity to listen to the album all the way through for the first time in a decade.
“To be honest, I don’t look back often, and I hadn’t given history a lot of thought,” he says. “So it was an explosion of memory for me, too. I mean, it’s wildly different [from the more recent material]. I don’t know necessarily how to [describe] what is different about it now, other than it’s more mature, elegant and hopefully better done. I guess the common thread, I notice that it’s all sort of super-hyper-earnest. Sincere, almost to the point of embarrassment. That’s something I didn’t think about a lot but I think I’m proud of. That it should be sort of an uncomfortable glance into someone’s heart or psyche.”
There are still plenty of people who dig Kline's sensitivity and honesty — enough to sell out theaters and cause a buzz online. “It’s been a long time since we’ve played any shows at all,” Kline says. “The last thing we did was when we went out on tour with Paramore two years ago. Those shows were quite big, but that was with them. It’s been a minute. I’m chatting with kids online, though. I know that these two shows in question will sell out for sure.”
It must be nice to be popular, especially for someone who escaped his native Huntington Beach, where he was never one of the cool kids, in favor of the more diverse surroundings of Long Beach.
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“It’s quite a bit more lively and creative than Huntington,” Kline says. “I love Huntington, in a way, but I got out of there at my first opportunity. Not nearly as much culture, for sure. And kind of a ‘bro’ mentality. I would get made fun of on the street, all the time. That doesn’t happen in Long Beach. There’s a little bit of everything. That makes it wonderful and comfortable, and I think everybody’s free to be whoever they want to be.”
Those sort of loved-up vibes will surely offer no end of fuel for future Hellogoodbye lyrics. The songs for the forthcoming fourth LP, currently untitled, are written and recorded, and awaiting mixing and mastering. It’ll probably be too soon to pull them out on this tour, but these shows are all about nostalgia, anyway. Sort of. The songs from Z! A! V! D! are getting an update — as are the songs from the band's sophomore album, Would It Kill You?, which they're also playing in full — and the sets are getting switched around night-to-night.
“What we’re all prepping for is a longer set than we normally play, by far,” Kline says. “It might be just too much. If we trim it down, then we might have to flip-flop a bit. Switch it up. But that said, even if the songs are the same, it’s going to be wildly different every time, I’m sure.”