Sweet Escape: Fort Worth

Wasted youth or not, Fort Worth ups the punk a decade in with a new album

It takes rock 'n' roll lifers to make a punk anthem out of the maxim that youth is wasted on the young.

With its members either pushing 40 or just having crossed over that line, Fort Worth is releasing a third album of hook-laden punk rock, These Amps Aren't Loud Enough serving as an appropriate title for the pell-mell rush of songs.

Fort Worth builds its sound out of elements like post-punk, the heavier side of 1990s indie rock and the brand of punk associated with the Fat Wreck Chords label.

"We're definitely still stuck in the '90s," Fort Worth's Greg Wheaton says. "We can't help it because those were the formative bands for us, like Superchunk, Archers of Loaf and Jawbox."

Formed a decade ago, originally as a side-project, Fort Worth started as a songwriting vehicle for Wheaton, who'd wanted the band to be a different outlet than he had in Good Talk Russ.

"At the time, I was writing songs that just didn't fit with Good Talk Russ, and I wanted to do that," he says. "I was into playing guitar and not having to play drums and sing."

Drummer David Williams says that from the start, Fort Worth was a "low pressure band," focusing on the simple fun of playing rather than any sort of bigger dreams. Guitarist Justin Bernard and bassist Danny Scalzo (who both played in scratchingthesurface) rounded out what was originally a quartet. Guitarist Matt Hamblin joined after about a year and guitarist Jeff Imler and bassist Vic Newman eventually came to replace Bernard and Scalzo.

"I've always wanted to play bass and hold it down with the drummer," says Newman, who'd previously played guitar and fronted The Croutons. "That's comforting. The songs are catchy and good and fun, so it's the perfect band to play bass in and just be a part of something."

For a name, they considered Knuckle Draggers, but that "almost sounded more serious than we were," Wheaton says. At one practice, they tore up a newspaper (a copy of the Tucson Weekly, as a matter of fact) to find different phrases that might fit and landed on Fort Worth.

"In the vein of a lot of other bigger bands, like Foo Fighters or Archers of Loaf, it would've been something better, but that's just what came out," he says.

Fort Worth released two previous albums—Volume 1 Finally! in 2008 and What's That In Your Mouth? in 2010—and started working on songs that would make up These Amps Aren't Loud Enough about four years ago.

To record, they dragged friend Fernando Rivas (formerly of OG7 Studios) out of "pseudo-retirement" to engineer the album at WaveLab Recording Studio. Additional recording took place at Suite F with Corey Reidy.

"It really felt like it was time. To keep playing shows on that 2010 record really made no sense," Wheaton says. "We'd keep doing these newer songs at shows, but they hadn't been recorded yet."

The songs Fort Worth write now reflect a different take on life than the output of the bands from their younger years. "Stand Down" is about letting things go as you get older, Wheaton says. "Good Year" is about getting free from the day-to-day slog to do what you love. "Youth Is Wasted" is about staying young, or at least feeling young.

"We're as young as we want to be," Wheaton says. "This whole thing is still really fun to do. We don't feel old. I don't think any of us act old, except when we're talking about mortgages or when my neck hurts after a show."

The band filmed a video for "Good Year" that reflects that attitude, showing a (fictional) day in the band's life, from waking up to getting together to practice to rolling up at the Surly Wench Pub for a night's gig.

"Everything we've done in the last five years—I'm proud of it," Williams says. "It's quality. We've all spent so much time in other bands, sometimes half-assing it, so it's just cool to wake up and do this."

And maybe that's what kept Fort Worth going for the past decade.

"I did, but I thought that at some point we'd be in some '90s post-punk cover band, playing the songs I grew up with and nobody would know them," Wheaton says. "But the music itself still connects. It's punk rock, but even people who normally don't listen to that style can find something they like. It's not a bunch of screaming. It's songs about friends, relationships and partying."

The band's shows have been sparse, partially out of a desire to keep from over-playing, and partially because life tends to get in the way.

"It takes time, money and effort to do anything that's worthwhile, except maybe jogging," Wheaton says. "It's difficult to come home from work or have a weekend free to do this thing."

However, on those rare days, like the "Good Year" video depicts, Fort Worth makes the most of the time to play together.

"It's almost like a reunion every time we play," Wheaton says. "It's always a bunch of friends. Even people who don't go out to see shows that often any more show up."

The band celebrates that reunion aspect, even in the music. "Sometimes remembering the past is more fun than the past ever really was," Wheaton sings on "Sentinels."

Fort Worth is looking toward a bigger 2016, having just bought a van to enable some weekend touring to Phoenix and Southern California. But for now, the focus is on putting all the energy they can into the CD release show.

"We don't get to do it nearly enough," Imler says. "We don't hang out downtown much anymore. When we play shows, we can reminisce and escape for a night."

Cumulatively, the members of Fort Worth have put nearly 100 years into playing in bands. Those youths weren't exactly wasted when Fort Worth was young, but the present is what's truly exciting.

"The point of the whole thing is it's fun. We all came from bands that were trying to make it and got screwed over at some point. We're past the point of trying to make it," Hamblin says. "This has just been fun and it's the best band I've ever been in."

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