Oberlin’s Own Forth Wanderers Drop “Slop”


Photo courtesy of Grace Rossi-Conway

Indie rock band Forth Wanderers released its new EP Slop today, the latest in a body of work defined by a unique rise to recognition.

Daniel Markus, Managing Editor

Forth Wanderers is a band with an improbable history: a high school crush turned songwriting partnership, a brilliant band name taken from a random Wikipedia article and a Twitter shoutout from Lorde while all the band’s members were still in their teens. The band’s success, including — but not nearly limited to — praise from NPR Music, VICE, and Pitchfork, a nod from SPIN as one of the 50 best rock bands in 2015 ahead of Grammy winners Alabama Shakes and a selection to play SXSW 2017, could be described as similarly improbable. And nobody in the band has even graduated from college yet.

The story of Forth Wanderers started when College junior Ben Guterl, Studio Art major and the band’s principal songwriter, and Ava Trilling, the band’s lead singer and lyricist, attended high school together in Montclair, NJ.

“I think I was trying to find a way to talk to Ava because I had a crush on her,” Guterl said. That led to an offer via Facebook message for Trilling to record vocals over one of Guterl’s demos. “I didn’t really have much of an intention to start a band,” he added. “But she sent [the song] back to me and … [it was] sick.” The crush didn’t end up amounting to much, but Trilling’s collaboration on the demo quickly became Forth Wanderers, a name that comes from Forth Wanderers F.C., a Scottish junior soccer team Guterl found while clicking through random articles on Wikipedia.

Not long after, a self-released debut album titled Tough Love hit in November of Guterl’s first year of college, while Trilling was beginning her junior year in high school. Along with Lorde’s tweet, the album gained traction with Portals and Gold Flake Paint, two staple blogs in the indie music world. This recognition led to notice from Jessi Frick, co-founder of Father/Daughter Records, which, as the label’s name suggests, Frick started with her father, Ken Hector.

“[Forth Wanderers was] always a band that I was keeping my eye on. … I came across Tough Love and I just thought it was such an amazing record, and it was on my [list of ] favorite records of that year,” Frick said.

With that, Forth Wanderers signed to Father/Daughter for its label debut EP Slop, which comes out today. The record will be the second Father/Daughter has released to feature a current Oberlin student, the other being T-Rextasy’s Jurassic Punk. It is one of numerous indie label releases by Oberlin musicians in recent memory, following albums like Swings’ Sugarwater, put out by Exploding In Sound, and Shya’s trying, signed by DZ Tapes.

Looking back on it all, Guterl seemed at a loss for words. “We sort of expected this a little bit, but…” he said, his voice trailing off and giving way to an excited grin. Talking about it in the moment, even he seemed surprised at what his band has accomplished. “It’s great … and kind of overwhelming and a little nerve-wracking,” he said.

This amount of success for a band this young is surprising, or seems that way until you hear Slop. Then it all makes sense. The EP is incredibly good, clocking in at just under 12 minutes through four tracks. Trilling delivers note after note of beautiful melodies and harmonies with a candor that rivals Porches’ Aaron Maine, and overdriven guitar riffs and progressions by Guterl make for catchy tunes that will stay with you all day. Contributions by drummer Zach Lorelli, bassist Noah Schifrin and guitarist Duke Greene, though more subtle, round out the songs with perfect accents that shouldn’t be ignored.

Slop is also totally effortless. Despite the tendency of genres to blend, blur and deform, there is little to question about Forth Wanderers’ music: unabashed, straight-up rock. Call it musical comfort food. There is something almost intangibly good about this band, something even Frick, who signed them and released their EP today, can’t put her finger on. Plenty of bands have good riffs and melodies, but Forth Wanderers delivers on something more with Slop, just as they did with Tough Love. The record is intensely relatable. Lines like, “I love too much / to hurt this bad,” and “Soak me up / ’til I can’t feel nothing at all / I don’t mind,” might sound cliché coming from someone other than Trilling. But they’re universal, and the sentiments contained within are palpable and deeply resonant. Guterl’s guitars, though simple, are wonderfully familiar.

Listening to Slop reminds me of talking to an old friend from high school for the first time since coming to college. It reminds me of realizing that despite the time and distance, your friendship is more or less the same now as it was then, and that as much as you might have thought they were cooler or more experienced in life, they’ve had the same heartbreaks, joys and struggles.

These are trying times. People a lot older and wiser than me have said that the way to get through is to be good to yourself and those around you: Call your family and hug your friends. Eat good food, and do the things you love to do, the things that you’ve always leaned on when times are hard. For me, listening to and playing music has always been the thing that makes me feel good like almost nothing else can. So this weekend, I’ll listen to Forth Wanderers’ music, and I’ll marvel at how good it is and how it makes me feel. Consider, at the very least, listening to support a great piece of art a fellow Obie has made, as supporting one another is what we all must do right now.