Q&A with members of Brooklyn’s All Forces
by Andrew Shilling
Mar 26, 2014 | 8538 views | 0 0 comments | 218 218 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Photo provided by Effective Immediately PR
Photo provided by Effective Immediately PR
Following years of side projects and at-home recordings, the driving drums, heavy bass lines and winding melodies from the Brooklyn-based rock band All Forces began in earnest two years ago, and already they are on their way to marking their own territory in the city's music scene.

With the release of their debut single, “We Have Arrived,” and in preparation of their Sons and Daughters EP on April 8, the group is preparing for a record release show on April 11 alongside bands like Locksley and Rocket and the Ghost.

I met up with Johnny Wang, guitar and vocalist, bassist Gizella Otterson and guitar and vocalist Norman Vino – drummer Tiffany Alma was unable to attend - at Wang’s restaurant, Urban Rustic in Greenpoint, last week to discuss the band’s progress over the last two years.

How did All Forces first form as a band?

Norman: I met Johnny when I was 18. I was living in upstate New York for about a year and he had just moved from Holland for school. We both became friends – we were both huge fans of The Cure – and we would sit around and get stoned and try to play Cure songs.

Then I moved to the city and put out a Craigslist add looking for musicians. I just put down a whole bunch of bands that I was listening to and found Gizella. I put out another ad and found Tiffany and then we formed a band before this called Gold Streets. Johnny and I got in touch again, we played a couple of shows upstate and he ended up moving down to Brooklyn and playing with us live as Gold Streets.

We started writing a whole bunch of new material together and realized that this was what we wanted to do. We liked the stuff a lot and we decided to form All Forces.

What drives you as a band?

Johnny: As an artist, I feel compelled to create. I could be 55 and I’ll still be in a band. But this is a natural trajectory for this band. We’re writing and putting things together and we all work – I’m in the food industry, she (Gizella) does too, he (Norman) works in information technologies – we all have pretty serious career jobs, and we’re happy doing them, but for myself, I feel very compelled to write music. I can’t not do it.

Norman: I think we’re all really creative people, but in music there is always something there to just force me to find ways of expressing myself. Especially with this band, I think because of this unspoken language that we all share – and also because you really are putting yourself out there musically – it can be a really vulnerable place to be in and it just builds that sense of trust.

If we couldn’t create an atmosphere in our rehearsals or in the studio where we all innately trust each other, we couldn’t be in a band.

Johnny: When we first started the band a couple years ago there was a lot of blockage there. We were still trying to figure out our roles, but I think now it’s great and we’re writing a lot of new material.

How do you guys write the music?

Johnny: Well T (Tiffany) works a lot of hours and comes to the rehearsals a little later. So normally Norm, Gizella and myself are getting started first.

We usually give T a melody, and she doesn’t play a melodic instrument so sometimes she will sing a melody and we’ll write around that. There are a couple of songs that we’ve done that with and a couple of new ones that were done like that too. But we know our roles, and we’re still finding out more.

Norman: There is no one hired gun that’s writing all the material – it’s definitely a group effort – wherever an idea originates, it could be something that originates from me or from anyone else, but it’s really up to each one of us to really create the atmosphere and create the song, find out parts and what fits best for the song. It’s a lot of checking egos too.

For the last two years we’ve just been learning about each other and being in this band has made me a much better guitar player and really informed me about what I do best, what Johnny does best, what Gizella does best and what T does best, and then trying to find ways of putting that together.

Where do you guys practice?

Johnny: We have a practice space in DUMBO. Interpol was practicing there for a few months.

Norman: It’s a great space. We’ve been there about four or five months. One thing I have to say about being in New York, is the neighborhood, or where you are, can really inform or influence how productive you are. We were in the Lower East Side for a while, but I really just love the energy in DUMBO. I think it’s really convenient for us and we’ve just been writing a lot there. There are not too many distractions in DUMBO. There are like three bars that we could possibly go to.

Gizella: We had two spaces in the LES when we were playing there. There was this really weird, and probably illegal basement space with no door, just a sidewalk hatch, so you could easily kill yourself or someone else when you were entering or exiting. It had no bathroom, so we would always go to the bar next door to use the bathroom. I’d grab a quick shot, and then someone else would say, “Yeah I’ll get one too,” and then 30 minutes later we’re sillier and it wasn’t very helpful.

Is there any local camaraderie like playing in NYC?

Johnny: It’s illusive. There are some art spaces near the Myrtle-Broadway J, and that’s the whole scene we’re kind of involved in right now.

Norman: I think our band just really respects what it means to be a band in New York and play shows and be committed in that way. We’re definitely not one of those egotistical bands, and I have met those kinds of bands a lot around here. We just have a whole different kind of energy. We’ve been playing with bands that we’re friends with and we’ll reach out to bands that have a really great blog that we’re into, and play with them too.

Johnny: It’s just a big city and there are so many neighborhoods. If you’re playing sludge metal you’ll find those bands out there too. Even at our practice space, there’s this real rock and roll mentality. I always say hi, but they’re like (covers face). I’m sure there are some nice people, and there are a few people we’ve met that are really nice, but there is this rivalry competitiveness that just isn’t necessary.

How did you record the new record?

Johnny: Well we actually produced this album at my house, because I have a Pro Tools setup. We produced it, but we used none of those tracks when we went into the studio with Kevin McMahon.

Norman: Yeah, we went out to record at the Marcata Recording Studio and doing it with McMahon, he is such a great producer and probably produced my top 20 records there. But I would hate to record at our own studio and do it by ourselves. There are just too many distractions. And If you have jobs and stuff like that, it just becomes the devil’s playground. But there are reasons why writers have editors.

Johnny: But we’re putting the new album out on April 8, and we have seven new songs and play at least five of them live now. And I hate to sound condescending – especially since I am a get it done, grow and challenge type of thinker – I can’t imagine being in a band and touring on the same material for two years.

How does it feel to now have your name on a record together?

Norman: Really exciting. It’s been a crazy year for everyone. But getting it together and finally being at that precipice – we’re filming a video this weekend for the song we just released, “We’ve Arrived,” we’re having an album party in a couple weeks and we are lining up some shows after that – I think right now is where I just wanted us to be for several months.

Check out All Forces at their album release show at Rockwood Music Hall, 196 Allen St., with Locksley and Rocket and the Ghost on April 11 at 9 p.m.

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