Band spotlight: A River Forth is a dysfunctional family, yet manages to rock

Melissa Treolo

The lead singer of A River Forth doesn’t mind getting naked. In fact, that’s how he got the audition. “I met James (Wesley) at The Boobie Trap and he asked me if I would try out for his new band,” said Adrian Hall. “At the audition everyone seemed really tense, so I got naked to break the ice and the rest is history. It’s kind of a running theme for me. I get naked a lot.” A River Forth, Topeka’s shining star of the post-hardcore rock band world, got started in January of this year with Hall, who had just arrived in Topeka after living in Washington D.C., and four other Garden City natives: Scott Neuman on drums, Wesley on guitar, bassist Robert Gonzales and guitarist Dustin Mustard. These four members may be part of a band now, but their formative years in Garden City were spent in avid dislike of each other. “We didn’t get along in Garden City,” said Wesley. “We were all in rival bands and we were competing for a very small fan base and everyone wanted the pie.” The guys are all friends now but not too much has changed in terms of how they communicate with each other. “We fight all the time,” said Hall. “We all have a lot of ego and our egos get bruised very easily.” Their onstage performance tells a different story. From the way the band plays together, one would never guess that there is some discord between the five members. A clear bond is noticed as they play songs that are heavy, most of the lyrics are thrust at the audience in ear-deafening screams, but thought-provoking. The band is not only distinctive in how they move on stage, but in how they move together. There is something almost choreographed about their expressive bodily gesticulations. Neuman says that this is all just part of the show. “The moving on stage is something we strive for and, in the beginning, it was all about who could outdo each other,” said Neuman. “We really try to make our shows as interesting as possible because nobody wants to see five people just stand there.” Hall takes this stance very seriously and his own stage performance is one of complete bodily freedom. He is an Ian Curtis of a performer; like the former Joy Division singer’s uninhibited style, Hall expresses the feelings behind his lyrics in body movements that are desperate and without restraint. Hall speaks, however, of a certain method to his onstage madness. “There are parts to our music that are heavy and parts that are soft,” said Hall. “I don’t have an instrument so I have to act that all out. My stage performance is completely an open window, it’s just raw honesty.” The band thinks of themselves as a family, albeit a dysfunctional one, with certain roles assigned to each member. Mustard is the solid, dependable one; the father figure of the group. “I’ve been dubbed Dad,” he says. Hall is the visionary and Wesley is thought of as the “sugar daddy,” or provider, of the group. Not only does he help run a merch company and a sound company, but he owns the van that is responsible for getting the band and their instruments to and from gigs. Neuman, as the drummer, is thought of as the rhythm and Gonzales is the adored youngest member of the band. “Robert is the baby of the band,” said Hall. “Everybody really loves him and looks out for him.” Gonzales is also the most audacious. “I’m hotter than all of them,” he insists. This family of sorts may fight a lot but the bottom line for them is that they all have a common goal and a deep affection for one another, despite any disagreements that may occur. Their songs are therapy that allows them to put the arguments aside and focus on the music. “It’s very freeing to play,” said Mustard. “You get on stage and hit that first note and all the b.s. in your life just disappears, for thirty minutes at least. We all love each other to death and share the same desire for playing. So, all the problems aside, our main goal is to make music and put on a good show.” A River Forth is currently recording a demo at Alibi 6 in Lawrence and will be performing several shows around the Midwest over the month of November. Their next local show will be Jan. 7 at The Boobie Trap Bar on 6th and Washburn. Don’t come expecting to see something you shouldn’t, though. Hall has no plans to expose himself onstage. “I might get in trouble for that.