Forth Wanderers Charm The Hell Out Of SXSW

If you’ve never been and in case you haven’t heard, SXSW can be crazy stressful! It takes a certain kind of band to make you completely forget about the festival’s frantic energy, and thankfully Forth Wanderers are that kind of band. The group played The Sidewinder last night for the Riot Act Media & Father/Daughter Records showcase — F/D put out their most recent EP, Slop. It was their second show of the week in a busy Austin schedule, but the Montclair, NJ-based group didn’t let the outside stressors of the festival get to them. Though their songs are mostly about the manifestations of inner anxieties, they project a preternatural calm, and band leader Ava Trilling has a magnetic presence that makes everything outside of her voice melt away.

On Slop and 2013’s Tough Love — the latter of which they recorded while half of them were still in high school — the band balances cynicism and sincerity in tight and emotionally dextrous songs. The title track of their debut, which they played last night, sounds borderline country in the way that Trilling’s twang lays out a story: “Oh, cause I’ll be down and out/ I think I knew way too soon/ You think he’s in love with you.” They capture the universality of adolescent admiration and jealousy in one fell swoop. The band’s signature trick are these guitar tendrils that wrap themselves around Trilling’s deadpan delivery, like wisps of a fleeting thought that’s stamped out before it can take over your entire mind.

They performed a new song last night, which will appear on their forthcoming sophomore album due out later this year. It keeps the band’s seasick sway while sharpening the tools that they’ve utilized so well over the last few years. “I’ll be honest with myself from now on/ I’ll be aware of my head from now on,” Trilling sings, her voice dancing around prickling guitars. “I think I will not give up waiting on you.” It’s a promising sign of things to come, and a crystallization of the young band’s inimitable charms.