1974 is a band I had the good fortune of seeing when Mike Lawson and I went to check out another band. So glad we did. They are a five piece rock band hailing from Newington, CT (A. Mike Forgette – guitar, vox, Tim Moore - drums, vox, Gary Dionne – bass, vox, Adam Clymer – guitar, Angela Rhea-Piccoli – keys, vox.) They have released their album, “1974 & The Battle For The Lazer Fortress” with critical acclaim from local music news groups. The Hartford Courant calls it “an ambitious effort, in concept and musicianship…an accomplished album from a young band worth watching” and CT.com named it one of the 15 best of 2011. I was intrigued as I got to talk with two of the members: Mike Forgette and Gary.
lsg: Tell me about the origins of 1974.
MF: The band started as kind of a combination of a couple of other bands. I knew Gary from college. The other guitar player, I knew though another band I had while I was in college. The drummer I knew from a band I had when I was in high school. After I graduated from college and I wanted to continue doing music, we just kind of all got together and started playing music without the intention of making albums and doing live shows. It was solely just us playing music.
GD: Mainly it was just kind of a fun on the weekends and drinking some beers and write music kinda thing.
lsg: So in that process, you just decided hey we’re pretty good at this so let’s take it a step further and make a record.
MF: We really didn’t know we were going to do anything with it. Especially Gary and I. We’ve been, I think, in three different bands together and they’ve been very wacky, bands that that don’t really fall into a genre and just had fun without really have a product that was marketable or anything like that. So when we got together with 1974 – and this is before we even had a name – we were just writing kinds of music that we liked to play and we were looking at it as fun for us as opposed to something to market. That sort of thing came later. Much later. The band technically started in December of 2007. It wasn’t until around 2009 was when we started focusing on getting our music out to people.
lsg: So you two are the founding members pretty much?
GD: I joined probably a couple of months after they started jamming so I guess I am one of the founding members.
MF: Technically there are four original members. Me, the second member is the drummer, Tim, who was in the high school band together so we kind of go back the farthest. The other original guitarist, who isn’t with us anymore. His name is Nick. So all three of us were the band and we needed a bass player and since I’d been in a bunch of bands with Gary we just said hey how’d you like to come in and play bass with our jam band, I guess you could call it. And at first he was he was with another band at the time.
GD: Yes. I was with a ska band at the time so I was pretty involved with that. It kind of fell through that summer so I kind of over lapped and started focusing my energy on 1974.
lsg: I saw you play a few months back and I love the keyboards and vocals that were brought by Angela. What made you decide on her addition?
MF: (laughs) Gary?
GD: Um let me see. She was at practice and she was just kind of hanging out and she played keyboards. We’d been through a few different members as far as our guitarist at the time was our keyboard player and he left. So we needed a keyboard player. She started out as one of Forgy’s sister’s friends and then started dating our drummer and then she joined the band playing keyboards.
lsg: Let’s talk about your album, The Battle for the Laser Fortress. It’s a concept album and I gotta say I don’t think I’ve heard anyone call their album a concept album since American Idiot anyway. Tell me about the record.
There’s a pause and they both laugh.
GD: Forgy you go now.
MF: You led me on there.
GD: We’ll go back and forth.
MF: OK we’ll tag team this one. I’ll take it from the literal sense of it and you can do the allegorical sense behind it
(Note: Yes. I’m not gonna lie. It took me a few tries to even spell it to find out what it means!)
MF: So quite literally it’s a science fiction sort of concept where the Earth is encased by these lasers that are controlled by a satellite base. The reason they are up is because there is sort of a viral software designed by someone and it creates clones of people which is supposed to be meant for people to clone themselves. Basically what happens is that the clones end up taking over the Earth and they try to kill all their counterparts and spreads like a virus. So the concept starts off in space, ends up on Earth, and then the finale is on the moon. It’s about the fight between people and their clones to determine who is going to inhabit the Earth.
GD: Yeah. Nothing too heavy.
MF: We tried to start small.
GD: OK so I’m doing the, what’d you say? Allegorical? Big word. Thanks.
MF: I’ll use it in a sentence.
(all laughing again)
GD: So basically it’s the struggle between the advances of technology vs the human instinct and the natural human progression. Hold on. My cats are fighting…
(What? MF and I just dissolve into laughter)
GD: OK so…I lost my train of thought. Technology vs the natural human progression. So all of our concepts are based on…
(GD goes into the sci fi discussion about a book and an author I have not heard of and it’s all too much for this simple woman.)
MF: In the world of the Laser Fortress you can download your consciousness digitally. If your physical body dies, and you have someone can carry out your wishes for you, they can clone you and then throw your consciousness into a new body and basically it’s that eternal life thing. So that’s the draw to the technology but then what happens if it falls into the wrong hands and it’s used incorrectly and that sort of thing. So it’s about how far will we bring technology before it turns around on us?
lsg: Um. Wow. That’s some pretty heavy shit.
(all laughing now.)
lsg: Wow. Um. Ok. You blew my mind. So. CT.com called it one of the best 15 albums of 2011. What was that like for you?
GD: It was surprising.
MF: In a word. Whaaaat???? We are based out of Newington and the drummer and I grew up there. It’s a town that really isn’t known for much besides we have the Department of…
GD: No. It’s the town with the smallest waterfall.
MF: Right. That’s our claim to fame! It’s always been a small mentality for us in the sense that we weren’t the type to push it on people or think it’s the next best thing since sliced bread. We do what we like and we kind of kept it to ourselves for a while. We came out with two albums worth of songs before Laser Fortress was born. To hear that this band that we are in – and none of us have ever really been in a commercially successful band before – not even locally successful – not even town-wide successful.
GD: Some of our friends didn’t even like the band!
MF: So when we were writing the album, we realized that the scope of this was bigger than anything we had work on individually before. So we decided “well, let’s give this a shot”. It’s the only recording we sent our press releases for. And it got picked up by the Hartford Courant and was reviewed which, that itself at the time, was mind boggling that we had reached that far. I would have been happy with something in Newington Life. Then from there, it seems to have the effect on people that it’s either going to be really cheesy and terrible or surprisingly engaging.
We’re glad that it’s the latter!
lsg: I’m gonna go with that too. I’ll be honest; I still haven’t listened to the entire album because I can’t seem to get past the epicness of the first track, “Overture”, and the beautiful harmonies in the second track.
With that said, I want you to rave about some other tracks on this.
MF: Hey Gary, what’s your favorite track?
GD: What is my favorite track? I think maybe “Clone Discovery”. I don’t know why that would be mine. Oh wait. Maybe because I wrote the bridge. (He laughs). That’s one of my favorites in terms of the interesting strong structure as well as the bridge.
MF: Yeah that’s a really good one because it’s very intense. There are three different singers in it. Not just in backup vocals. There are three distinct singers in it. The drummer, Gary, and myself. I probably sing the least in it. It’s really neat and the structure of the song is not your standard pop verse chorus verse chorus verse chorus. What I like about the album is if you listen to it in its entirety, like the Overture is quite a piece to get through. The fact that you sat through the whole 15 minute long instrumental to me is hard core.
lsg: No no no. You have to understand. I love that thing. I am a throwback air instrument player and I feel like I could totally play air drums to this. I think I’m Neil Peart. I have listened to it not just once but a few times because I think it’s awesome.
MF: The good thing about that is that some of the melodies that are in there, some of the themes, are repeated throughout the album.
GD: I would say you hear most of Overture somewhere within all the other different songs on the album even it’s a little bass part or a guitar riff here or there.
lsg: Who writes your material?
GD: We all do. Most of the stuff is either written entirely at practice just riffing off each other going back and forth and coming to a consensus. Or someone brings a concept. Maybe a riff and we all tinker with it. Everyone has equal say in how the song turns out.
lsg: So you guys are doing a Live and Local this week. Are you planning anything special for that gig? I sort of wonder if you’d do the whole album front to back? Is that ever a consideration?
MF: I would love to play the entire album front to back! But, it is over an hour long and very technical and we still have Angela who is still learning pieces of it (she only joined us this summer). And we also have some new stuff we are coming out with later in the year. We are planning to put out a couple of ep’s this year with some material that didn’t make it to this album but seem to fit together so we also want to play some of that material as well.
lsg: What are your plans for the rest of 2012? You’re going to put out a couple of ep’s and…
GD: Pretty much playing as many shows as we can. Where ever we can. Back yards. Basements. Venues. Where ever we can.
MF: In terms of what we’re doing off the stage. It’s been really kind of weird for us because I don’t think that in any of the bands we’ve been with, we’ve never had this many shows lined up in a row. I think we are playing Friday Saturday Friday Saturday all in March. For us, it’s like an onslaught of shows. We have to balance live gigging with now we don’t have time to practice. We all have 9-5 jobs during the week. So we are working on the 2 ep’s we have coming out. One will come out in June and is being wrapped up as we speak. The art is being done, songs are being mixed. And then we have another ep coming out later in the year. With all that happening, there are the undertones of another big concept album. We expect that for but it’s something we are also working on in 2012.
GD: Oh and the music video.
MF: Oh yeah the music video. We are making our first music video this year as well.
lsg: For what song?
GD: It’s going to be one of the songs…off of the new CD.
lsg: Have you not decided or are you just being coy?
MF: We’ve gotten response from three out of the five members on it. We think we know which song it’s going to be. And it’s a very rock heavy song. Classic rocky sounding stuff. The music video concept is gonna be fun.
lsg: Last question. Usually a goof off question. So today, since Spring is just around the corner and my local Dairy Queen is opening in 4 days – everybody thinks it’s about that rodent but it’s really about Dairy Queen – what’s your favorite thing at DQ? What do you order?
GD: Dairy Queen. I don’t think I’ve ever…I don’t think I’ve ordered…
lsg: (now horrified) Hush your mouth! You haven’t been to Dairy Queen!
GD: (he lives in MA) The “Twister”. Is that one?
MF: (laughing) Oh NOOO! It’s a Blizzard!
GD: Yeah Yeah. The Blizzard!
MF: She’s going to erase this entire interview! I have to say, I do love the Blizzard. Anything with peanut butter.
GD: I agree. That’s my favorite too!
lsg: Ok. I have a mission for you Gary. You have to go to your local DQ (or the one in Newington on the Turnpike) and order a chocolate/vanilla twist with a cherry dip. You need to get yourself over there and have it. You will be so happy.
MF: Band meeting at Dairy Queen!
Hmm. I believe it is now Saturday and that means DQ is open. Screw the diet. I’m going for it!
1974 performs for the latest edition of “Live and Local” at Arch Street Tavern March 3 at 9:00 pm. YOU SHOULD GO!!!