Spotlight: Gorch Fock
1am, Whisky Bar
If Atlanta's Mastodon personify the mythical sea beast of their 2004 album Leviathan, Austin's Gorch Fock represent the ragtag Pequod crew hot on its tail. Trombone-blasting frontman Joey Ficklin often performs in full midshipman regalia, and their tempestuous, heaving songs are dotted with nautical images. The original Gorch Fock, see, was an ill-fated sailor and eventual German folk hero.
"I compare him to the German Cesar Chavez," Ficklin figures. "Not politically, but in every town there's a Gorch Fock street or Gorch Fock elementary school."
"My ex-girlfriend grew up in Germany, and she went to Gorch Fock Elementary School," confirms guitarist Kevin Stack.
Rounded out by drummers Jason Morales and Aaron Seibert, guitarist Bryan Nelson, and effects utilityman Jeff Swanson, the evocative septet's true anchor is bassist Win Wallace. While in local noise-rockers Gong Li and listening to practice-space neighbors the Snails, Wallace began seeing connections and proposed a merger. The sketches that became Gorch Fock's 2003 debut came pouring out one feverish night; the seafaring accoutrements soon after.
"It was this engraving Kevin had of [the name] Gorch Fock," Wallace says. "We just liked the way it sounded, and the naval theme started to snowball. I draw all the posters, and for a while I was doing naval-themed posters for every show.
"It's become a whole metaphor for the band," he continues. "Like we're on this fantasy ship in our own minds."
Thunderous second LP Lying and Manipulating (Australian Cattle God) takes Gorch Fock into uncharted waters. The more collaborative new effort, they joke, is their "exercise in democracy."
"I like the fact that other people have taken some things in different directions," agrees Wallace. Nonetheless, he admits to assuming a firmer hand over their in-progress next one, which Ficklin calls "fire and classic rock."
"I don't think I'm the best musician in the band by any stretch," Wallace says. "It just works a little better if somebody's putting their foot down."
Gorch Fock also shuts down SXSW 05 Sunday, March 20, 1am @ Emo's Jr.