I always love me some sassy keyboards and screaming guitars, but in today's growing sea of predictability, it's refreshing to hear a band like the Lonely Forest, a group of young men from Anacortes who create dynamic piano-laden pop that sounds both genuine and badass.

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I was first introduced to the Lonely Forest earlier this year via the EMP's annual Sound Off! competition. The Lonely Forest, then performing under the moniker John Van Deusen and the Lonely Forest, took first place in this year's battle, beating out a talented list of contenders that included Capitol Basement, Ben Rice and the Youth of Blues, and the Histrionics.

Since taking the crown at Sound Off!, the band have recorded a six-song EP, Regicide, with Jack Endino, which flaunts maturity and confidence while still sounding fresh and youthful. Most songs elapse over four minutes and border on epic thanks to dynamic song structures that explode with unpredictable mood swings. Airtight drumming lays the backdrop for frontman Van Deusen's intense piano playing, while the lyrics are delivered with passion and unforgettable, catchy melodies.

After "Regicide," a 30-second instrumental opening track, the EP's second song, "Tooth for Tooth," opens with turbulent and pounding piano. Van Deusen earnestly questions the presence of God in a less than perfect world, singing, "Here alone I wonder what to say/Not sure if someone hears me when I pray."

The following tracks carry out some of the same themes. "God Is Dead" dances with bright and catchy piano and harmonies while a chorus of voices sings, "How does it feel?/To not have a reason/You're living this life on your own/Because oh, God is dead."

Thanks to the vibrant piano, the Ben Folds comparisons are the most obvious ones to make, but Van Deusen and his bandmates (bassist Eric Sturgeon, drummer Braydn Krueger, and guitarist Tony Ruland) actually have a long list of inspiration—the Who, Nirvana, Mudhoney, Smashing Pumpkins, Pink Floyd. "We also listen to a shitload of Queens of the Stone Age," Van Deusen admits.

The Lonely Forest plan on spending the next few cold months close to home, playing a handful of local shows (including this weekend's Vera Project—sponsored show on Saturday, November 18, at the Downtown YMCA's Fusion Cafe). They'll also start working on new material. "We'll spend most of our winter practicing, writing, and freezing our asses off in Braydn's garage," says Van Deusen. "We plan on recording some new demos with Jack [Endino] in December as well."

Also, the band will be learning how to get by as a trio. "The Lonely Forest is now a three piece," says Van Deusen. "Our guitar player is moving and going to school. We all support him completely, but now the Ben Folds Five comparisons will double!"