There's a Riot Goin' On

class=img_thumbleft>Fort Wilson Riot are in fact composing a five-part suite about globalization, Yankee arrogance, mystical birds, pirates, and more than can be here explained, with music sometimes reminiscent of Sondheim and Beethoven, and yes that might be extravagantly ambitious for a four-piece rock band with only an EP to its name. But don't count them out till you hear how funny and smartly arranged the work-in-progress is, especially its completely over-the-top pirate song. The just-over-a-year-old band--singer-multi-instrumentalist Amy Hager, bassist-beatboxer-singer Joe Goggins, guitarist-singer Jacob Mullis, and drummer Ben Smith--are both earnest and pranksterish, a rare and in this case winning combination that helped them make the Top 10 of our recent Picked to Click new-band poll. We sat down with them last week at the Seward neighborhood's Pizza Luce, where the conversation ranged from the short fiction of Paul Bowles to the risks of making drug references at high school talent shows.

City Pages: So did any of you do musical theater in high school?

Joe Goggins: I didn't do any theater, but I was usually in the talent shows, mostly because it was a way to get out of class for the day. I played original songs. "Barnyard Pervert" was one of them. We auctioned off eggs and hickory before the show. The last one I did was called "Joe's Bong Shop." The administrators didn't like that one, but it was my senior year.

Jacob Mullis: Fort Wilson Riot has actually played "Joe's Bong Shop." I was in musicals in high school. The first show I was in was Pippin. I did Into the Woods, and later, I did some professional theater for about a year.

CP: So tell me more about this five-part song cycle you've been working on.

Ben Smith: Well, you heard the first three parts at the last show. We're still working on the fourth and fifth. It was inspired by a short story by Paul Bowles, something I started working with quite a while ago, and then Amy started fooling around with it. It's called "Idigaragua." It's about an American journalist traveling in a foreign country who gets drunk in a bar and makes a fool of himself, and then wanders off and passes out in a boat, which floats out to sea. That's where he has these dream-like hallucinations that make up the different sections of the piece. The whole time he's being stalked or led by this bird who keeps singing out, "Idigaragau." Of course we can't really tell you yet how it all works out.

CP: What are some things--concerts, books, whatever--that really inspired you over this past summer?

Joe: The Belles of Skin City CD-release show with Dosh and Thunder in the Valley was amazing. I dance so much I think I annoyed people. Jacob and I ended up having a discussion about the ethics of dancing.

Jacob: Joe's really tall so that factors in that debate. But yeah, it feels like an inspiring time just to be part of the music community. There are so many great local bands going right now--the Alarmists, Murzik, Coach Said Not To, The Gleam, the Knotwells, Belles of Skin City, Thunder in the Valley, Dosh, I could on and on.

Amy: The Worn-Out Shoes is another one. They live in Wisconsin, but they come to town a fair amount. I've also been inspired by this internship I'm doing at the University Good Samaritan Center. I studied music therapy in school, and that's what I've been doing, working by playing music all day.

Fort Wilson Riot with Le Cirque Rouge and Thunder in the Valley; Friday, October 21; Triple Rock Social Club; 612.333.7399