Taking their name from a non-league Scottish football team (for some reason), Forth Wanderers are the spectacularly youthful quintet (Ava only finished high school this summer, and the others are Juniors in College) of singer Ava Trilling, guitarists Ben Guterl and Duke Greene, bassist Noah Schifrin and drummer Zach Lorelli.
Forth Wanderers sound is something of a contradiction, simultaneously complex and sleepy, intense and lazy – there’s a touch of the hyper-active; an ever shifting sound of Weaves, only played with an easy-going laziness more akin to the Pavement slacker-rock handbook. Forth Wanderers music builds largely around Ava’s effortless, powerful croon and Ben’s complex, noisy guitar explorations.
Forth Wanderers are from Montclair a township in Essex County, New Jersey. The home to just under 38,000 people, Montclair is the 60th biggest municipality in New Jersey, and rather oddly is twinned with Barnet. The town takes its name from the French mont clair, meaning “clear mountain” and is unsurprisingly mountainous, located near to the Watchung Mountains. For a relatively small settlement, Montclair has a surprisingly active cultural scene, and was the setting for large portions of the filming of The Sopranos. Montclair has produced a number of talented musicians, including Adam Schlesinger bassist in Fountains Of Wayne, As Time Goes By lyricist Herman Hupfield and the excellent band, Pinegrove.
Forth Wanderers initially formed when Ben was, “trying to find a way to talk to Ava, who was a freshman at the time and I kind of had a crush on her.” He sent her a cassette of recordings for her to sing on, and while romance never blossomed, music did, and Forth Wanderers were born. They released an EP, Mahogany back in 2013, quickly followed by their debut long player, 2014’s Tough Love. Their latest effort, an EP called Slop, is out this week, via Father/Daughter (US) & House Anxiety/Marathon Artists (UK).
For starters calling your new record Slop is a master stroke in entirely unlikely naming, it also sounds nothing at all like you’d imagine a record called Slop would. Across its four tracks, Slop is in fact a well-rounded, neat and rather unsloppy record!
The record beings with Know Better, a twangy guitar-line, part Pavement, part Duane Eddy, plays out a loose, and meandering melody, as Ava’s hooky, sweet vocals, wash across the track. Lyrically it’s an oddly complex rumination on both being let down by others, and more intriguingly the internal conflict of ageing; Ava lamenting her own naivety and concluding, “I need to be loved, no I need to be tough, no I need to grow up”, with all the complex, insecurities of slipping into adulthood laid bare.
Elsewhere the penultimate track, Nerves, is perhaps unsurprisingly about anxiety, and wanting to find words, or actions to, “soothe my nerves”. Musically it plays out from a scuzzy lo-fi beginning to a melodic peak, before collapsing to a thrilling, messy finale. While closing track Unfold is the album’s emotional highlight, it’s a track that lays bare Ava’s feelings, from feeling trod upon by the world, “I hope you keep a penny in your pocket, heads up for luck because I need it”, through wanting to be dragged out of self-doubt, “I get stuck in my head, please relive me”, and ultimately concludes with a heartfelt, romantic sigh, “I get tired of hearing these speeches, needless to say I’m in love with you.” The last line seems to appear from nowhere, a full stop of emotional closure, on an EP wracked with insecurities.
The finest track here though is the title track Slop is a blur of gorgeously, free guitars. Ava has spoken of this record as a cathartic experience that dragged her through a tough period and that’s laid out in the song’s lyrics, Ava sings “I love too much, to hurt this bad, I laugh too much to be this sad”, as if she’s pulling herself out of a particularly sticky vat of emotional treacle. The musical outro is awash with beautifully lazy slide guitar, a sublime highlight on a fabulous and exciting record.
If you were being very harsh there’s not a huge amount of variety across these four tracks, but that could equally be used as praise for the cohesive nature of their vision. It’s an impressive record, and one that bodes well for wherever they take their music next.
Slop is out November 11th via Father/Daughter (US) & House Anxiety/Marathon Artists (UK). Click HERE for all upcoming Forth Wanderers shows.