Nothing Can Crack Forth Wanderers

Even with members scattered across different cities and schools, Forth Wanderers just keeps getting tighter.
Nothing Can Crack Forth Wanderers

Even with members scattered across different cities and schools, Forth Wanderers just keeps getting tighter.

Words: Max Freedman

photo by Julia Leiby

April 25, 2018

MEMBERS: Ava Trilling (vocals), Ben Guterl (guitar), Zach Lorelli (drums), Duke Greene (guitar), Noah Schifrin (bass)
High school friends who turned shared musical interests and passions into their own exciting act
FROM: Montclair, New Jersey; members now based variously in Oberlin, Ohio, New Brunswick, New Jersey, and Brooklyn, New York
YOU MIGHT KNOW THEM FROM: The buzz they generated after SXSW 2017, or their 2016 EP, Slop
NOW: Releasing their self-titled sophomore album—their first for Sub Pop

Forth Wanderers know how to open an album. The band’s latest record begins with vocalist Ava Trilling boldly declaring, “I am the one you think of when you’re with her”; on their previous album, 2014’s Tough Love, the first words she hums, over solemn guitar harmonics, are “I want to be known as the girl who’s stone cold.”

“I’m still not known as that—it’s still a desire,” she says over brunch at revered Brooklyn venue Baby’s All Right, where she’s joined by Forth Wanderers guitarists Duke Greene and Ben Guterl, the latter of whom is the band’s primary instrumental songwriter. Baby’s isn’t an unfamiliar spot for Forth Wanderers: They headlined there shortly after releasing Slop via Father/Daughter, and they’ve opened there for their mutual high school—and current—idol, (Sandy) Alex G (later, when Trilling shows me a video of her eight-month-old German Shepherd mix, “Proud” is playing in the background). It was back in high school that shared musical passions and live music brought Forth Wanderers together; after high school, the band recorded Tough Love just before all its members except Trilling, the youngest, left for college.

“We’re like a family in every sense of the word.” — Ben Guterl

One might have expected the physical separation that college can cause—not to mention the emotional maturing it usually brings—to take a toll on the band’s first full-length, written across this distance. Instead, it’s made them tighter. As Trilling tells it, the process of writing Forth Wanderers “was the exact same thing” as with all their previous releases. If anything, the separation only enhanced the band’s charms: Trilling’s featherlight, melancholy singing and radically open-hearted lyrics; Guterl’s gradually unfurling guitar lines, which notably focus more on piercing single notes than on chords; guitarist Duke Greene, bassist Noah Schifrin, and drummer Zach Lorelli’s magical ability to transform Guterl and Trilling’s foundation into mid-tempo rock songs equal parts muscular and downtrodden.

“We never had the relationship where we would sit down and make the song together,” Trilling says. Their songs have always been Internet-born; Forth Wanderers began when Guterl, as Trilling recalls it with a hearty laugh, “kinda slid into my DMs” with a guitar demo. Greene and Guterl laugh, too, suggesting this is a story they recount often. “I shot my shot,” Guterl adds to even more laughter. Trilling then recalls sending a vocal track back to him without his prompting. “I blew his mind,” she jokes, the whole group still cracking up.

It’s clear that, if anything, Forth Wanderers are as strong of friends—and bandmates—as ever. Trilling, Guterl, and Greene are elated to be, for once, in the same room (“We’re the only friends we have,” Guterl, certainly the most wry and excitable of the three, jokes). These days, their time together is limited: The band had to record Forth Wanderers in just five days, which they did in their close friend Cameron Konner’s Philadelphia home studio.

Not that the band needs much time to perfect its music (in fact, they’d originally reserved two days with Konner). A Forth Wanderers song comes together in many rooms, with no pressures regarding time. On Forth Wanderers, a particularly impressive result of this freeform approach is Trilling’s increasingly confident melodies and lyrics, which she writes at home, alone. “Taste,” her favorite of the new songs, is exceptionally vulnerable. As she describes it, the “narcissistic and petty” viewpoint of “Nevermine” is riveting. And she’s so assertive on “Saunter” that it’s impossible not to root for her.

“After I write [lyrics], it’s therapeutic,” she says, “because I look back and I’m like, ‘Oh shit, that’s how I’m feeling. I had no idea.’” Even across state lines, Forth Wanderers is a space for all its members to relieve their stresses. “Our relationships are all stronger now, because we have this goal that’s really unique,” Guterl says. “We’re like a family in every sense of the word. We fight and work shit out. It’s the good and bad parts of being in a family.” FL