Brooklyn's Fort Ancient have come a long way since their humble days when there were only two members, and humble nights of playing Brooklyn rooftop parties. The band is now five members strong, originating in Kentucky, Wisconsin, Illinois and Texas. An engagement and two weddings later (two of the band members are married to each other), the Fort Ancient family is releasing its third EP, I Believe in Tornadoes, mixed by Thom Monahan of the Pernice Bros. The band participated in last month's NEMO Music Festival in Boston, and have been deemed playlist-worthy by East Village Radio (New York), Radio Indie Pop (New York), KEXP (Seattle), Indie 103 (Los Angeles), and Friuli Radio (Italy).
Fort Ancient are, left to right: Scotty Kawczynski (Keyboard, Egg Shaker), Kristen Swenson (Drums), Matthew Mills (Bass Guitar), Rance Piatt (Guitar, Keyboard), and Joshua Weill (Keyboard, Guitar, Vocals). The band tosses it right back at us almost faster than we can get the questions out.
First, some questions about Home Sweet Home:
What is your first conscious memory of living in New York?
Kawczynski: Almost getting flattened by a truck on the BQE as I drove in.
Mills: Moving in to my first NYC apartment on a stormy Halloween night in 1995.
Piatt: Watching a man get beaten with a crow bar in the U-Haul parking lot while trying to return the truck.
Swenson: Driving down Canal Street in a Ryder truck… headin’ to Brooklyn!
Weill: Sitting in a local park made entirely of concrete and metal, watching kids laugh.
What is your favorite/least favorite memory involving New York?
Kawczynski: Waking up on the F train at Coney Island at 4 am. Answers both.
Mills: Favorite – Seeing Al Green at Lincoln Center. Least Favorite - Let’s just say it involved an overnight, no-sleepover in the Kings County Jail.
Piatt: Favorite - Rooftop parties! Least Favorite: Moving my shit!
Swenson: Favorite - Too many to decide (I’m a Libra). Least Favorite - Getting beat up by a cabbie.
Weill: Favorite – Seeing sunrise over the Brooklyn rooftops after an all-night party. Least Favorite – Three words: raw sewage flood.
[INTERVIEW CONTINUES INSIDE]
What is your favorite place to drink? What's the best night of the week to go out?
Kawczynski: Great Lakes. Tuesday night.
Mills: Great Lakes. Savvy New Yorkers don’t go out on weekends.
Piatt: Commonwealth Bar in Brooklyn. Any night that ends in “Y”.
Swenson: My office… every night!
Weill: On a stoop, paper bagging it, any night of the week.
What is your favorite/least favorite thing about playing shows in New York? Is there a difference between shows in Manhattan and Brooklyn?
Kawczynski: Favorite - Just playing. Least favorite - Loading out. No difference between the boroughs.
Mills: Parking/Loading/Unloading. A show is a show is a show, no matter where.
Piatt: All shows are fun to play, but you don’t really get much time to visit with friends with all the load-out issues involved in Manhattan shows.
Swenson: Favorite - Rockin’ out. Least Favorite - Trying to figure out how the heck to get my drums to the show.
Weill: In NYC, there is always that slight chance that your future is a nameless face in the crowd in front of you. However, shows in Manhattan can be too “professional”.
Do you think your New York connection shows in your music? If so, how?
Kawczynski: Someone else can answer this better than I.
Mills: The NYC/Fort Ancient connection is pretty deep. Lots of lyrical references to the city and a certain NYC indie vibe.
Piatt: If so, it’s probably a result of the common experience of other bands (shuffling between shitty/expensive rehearsal shares, etc) more than anything else.
Swenson: Definitely, we are all Midwestern transplants who were drawn to the big city.
Weill: Our music evokes all the sounds of the City – its rhythms, squawks, blaring horns and hidden melodies.
Now its time for some fill-in-the-blank action:
"You've made it when…."
Kawczynski: There are action figures of the band.
Mills: The Man stops hassling me.
Piatt: I get a sandwich named after me.
Swenson: You get free beer.
Weill: Rance starts wearing Gucci loafers to practice.
"It'll be time to pack up the gear for good when…."
Kawczynski: The band decides to only play cover songs.
Mills: The Man stops hassling me.
Swenson: We have to pay to play.
Weill: The word ‘aromatherapy’ starts appearing on our rider.
"I'll never forget the first time I…."
Kawczynski: Ate squid brains. No shit.
Mills: Played a New York show.
Piatt: Flunked organic chemistry.
Swenson: Wore high heels.
Weill: Realized I was too drunk to stand, much less play.
Now for some quick word association:
Piatt: Phone company.
Kawczynski: Who cares.
Mills: Hate ‘em.
Piatt: Gary Carter’s afro.
Swenson: GO Cubs GO.
Weill: Keith Hernandez’s pimp moustache.
Kawczynski: Why am I doing this survey?
Mills: I’ll invoke my rights under the 5th Amendment on this one.
Piatt: My favorite airline.
Swenson: Stay away from my husband.
Weill: Tanya Harding in three years.
Bridge & Tunnel
Kawczynski: Is this some sex thing?
Mills: Beats per minute.
Piatt: Favorite band ever.
Swenson: Oh yeah. Manhattan is an island.
Weill: Cover charge.
Mills: Pain in the ass.
Piatt: So many light bulbs… so little time.
Swenson: Ouch. Look out for the light pole.
Weill: For the love of God, Uncle Fatass, get the fuck out of my way.
Bloomberg/Smoking Ban/Noise Laws
Kawczynski: Money. Money. Money.
Mills: Bloomberg sucks. Smoking ban rocks. Noise laws are a bit much.
Piatt: Quit smoking just in time!
Swenson: Boo / I love my lungs / Turn it up.
Weill: Banning Bloomberg is a great idea. Oh, wait…
And a few last questions on the music tip:
Who would be in your ultimate music supergroup?
Kawczynski: Freddy Murcury, Steve Harris (Iron Maiden), Tim Lash (Hum), Doug Martsch, Patrick Wilson and Brett Favre.
Mills: Stephen Malkmus, Kim Deal, PJ Harvey, Bill Callahan (Smog) & Steve Shelley.
Piatt: Peter Hook (bass), Peter Buck (gtr), Stuart Copeland (drums), Colin Newman (vox)
Swenson: Janet Weiss, PJ Harvey, Kim Deal, Kim Gordon.
Weill: Bob Mould, Chris Walla (Death Cab), Eric Bachmann (Crooked Fingers) and David Lovering (Pixies).
What were the first & last albums you bought on the day they were released?
Kawczynski: Possessed by the band Venom, andAnd the Horse They Rode in on by Soul Asylum.
Mills: Definitely can’t remember the first, but the last was Wilco’s A Ghost Is Born.
Piatt: Purple Rain, and Summer Sun by Yo La Tengo.
Swenson: Run DMC Raisin’ Hell and PJ Harvey Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea.
Weill: Metallica’s And Justice For All... Probably first and only, as I’m usually a month behind.
Fort Ancient celebrate the release of I Believe in Tornadoes at Pianos tomorrow, Wednesday, November 10 at 8:30 p.m. at Pianos (preceeded by Quiet Life and Low-Beam, and followed by The Head Set, National Eye and Telecom). Tickets are $7 available at the door or at Ticketweb.
Can't make it tomorrow? The band has several shows to keep you warm this winter at Don Hill's (December 16), The Knitting Factory (December 18), and Arlene's Grocery (January 7). Drummer Swenson wasn't making light about the cabbie incident: the December 18 Knitting Factory show is a benefit for ride-home nonprofit, Rightrides.org.
On November 19, Fort Ancient will be included in a special show on Friuli Radio, featuring music exclusively from Brooklyn bands.
I Believe in Tornadoes is available from the Fort Ancient website, where you can also stream a selection of tracks. Their self-titled 2003 EP is also available there, and can also be purchased from Truthflies.com.
[Fort Ancient cartoon by Scotty Kawczynski; live photograph by Jasper Coolidge, www.jenyk.com]