Fort Wilson Riot
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Fort Wilson Riot

Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States | SELF

Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States | SELF
Band Rock Avant-garde


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"They Are Called Fort Wilson Riot"

Earlier this year I had one of those evenings that made me remember why I do what I do. Before you start thinking dirty thoughts, I am talking about my love for music and sharing it with all of you wonderful readers out there via this high tech blog. I don’t get paid for this (yet), but I can tell you what, I will do this for as long as I can just because I love doing it…

Great, now where was I?

Oh yes, that one evening earlier this year when I remembered why I love music and my blog and blah blah blah… Flashback time.

It was a warm summer evening and my favorite Columbus folk-duo The Electric Grandmother were playing a show at Annabell’s in Highland Square (a hipster rich area in Akron). We arrived just before the show was to start and I remember helping them move their gear into a side room of the bar as there was another act scheduled before them.

Mary Alice & Pete (aka The Electric Grandmother) offered me a delicious tall PBR as a thank you for helping them get situation (who later in the night dedicated a song to me – how thoughtful).

As I sat there and enjoyed that 24oz. of goodness, there was a male/female duo getting set up. I remember specifically stopping everything I was doing the second they started their soundcheck. All I could think of was “who in the hell is this?” Mind you I was dead serious and not sarcastic…

The band was called Fort Wilson Riot and they just so happened to fill in a last minute slot at Annabell’s as some unnamed venue in Cleveland cancelled on them. They were not looking rushed but you could tell they were moving as fast as they could to get set up. It was then and there they started that song that my attention was captured.

The song they played was called “Snakes & Scorpions” and featured the duo singing in a perfect harmony backed by an electric guitar and electric keyboard as well as a drum machine providing the beat.

It was a simple set up but the sound was not what I expected at all. The duo consisting of Jacob Mullis and Amy Hager reminded me of everything I liked about acts like Dresden Dolls, Mates Of State, Matt & Kim, and even The White Stripes. Why? Because they complimented one another perfectly. It’s like the ying and yang of music.

I liked what I heard and apparently so did everyone else in the bar that night as the entire basement of Annabell’s filled up after a couple songs in by Fort Wilson Riot. They were indie rock, they were pop rock cabaret-style…they were…good.

No one was expecting to hear that kind of music that night. I know I wasn’t.

I remember looking at Pete & Mary Alice and then looking around at all the people who gathered to see this mysterious band play. It was one of those acts where we could see people mouthing the words “who are these guys” followed by “they are really good.”

When I see people do that while watching a band I can not help myself but smile. That is why I love music and that is why I like to share it. Chances are I am not the only one who decided to tell someone about Fort Wilson Riot. I know I have multiple times, and here I am telling you all.

After their set I greeted them and throughout the night we chatted. I found out that they were from Minnesota and once were considered an “indie-rock opera” before slimming down to the duo. They were touring in a van on their own and had been touring with Ice Palace before making the stop in Cleveland.

Amy and Jacob hung out with us for the rest of the night and by the end of the evening they hooked me up with a copy of their latest album Predator Prey, a self-made album that once I listened to, turned me into even a bigger fan.

Not only is it the duo on the CD but they also enlisted a bunch of their talented friends to put together one great listen. I highly recommend checking out “Forgotten Language”, “All My Friends”, “Snakes & Scorpions” and cabaret-heavy “Diamond Blues”.

Have you found yourself interested in this band Fort Wilson Riot I speak of? Fear not you can check them out by heading over to their Bandcamp page. The album is only $8. What are you waiting for? - (12/29/10)

"Fort Wilson Riot: Daytrotter Session"

For There's No Getting Any Younger
Jan 29, 2011

Words by Sean Moeller
Illustration by Johnnie Cluney
Recording engineered by Mike Gentry

There seems to be a jumbly time in our lives when we feel like we might be on the wrong path, that we're under-performing or that people might expect more than we're delivering, that we're getting too old to be acting the way that we're still acting or that we're defining words differently, now that we have reached that age when we should tuck in our shirts and stop being so young. Most of these feelings should be taken with a grain of salt and most of these feelings are just projected half-feelings, only important to other people, but it is how it is and there's little we can do about it. Amy Hager and Jacob Mullis of Fort Wilson Riot wonder about these feelings, benchmarked by receding hairlines, wider hips and not getting carded anywhere for anything any longer. It might come with a strand of gray hair or fewer college boys turning around to check you out after passing them out in public. For whatever reason, the tables have turned and things are making more sense as you're making less sense of it all. It's a willingness to get rolled up into the knotty beat-down of the running clock, of the diminished returns, of being beyond what we thought we considered our primes. Fort Wilson Riot music touches on these ideas. It takes a brusque, bouncy and often whimsical tact to the thought of tides changing, of getting backed into corners, seeing how much our skin's aged since the last time we really looked at ourselves in the mirror. It's an objection to feeling the way you look as Mullis sings, "You break my heart every time you talk about acting your age," on the song "Take A Number," a song with a chorus that sounds as if it could accompany a dinner at a fine restaurant or the bouncing ponies of a merry-go-round. It's as if, at the end of it, that the principle characters are in their rooms breaking things, throwing things and revolting against the ropes and the chains, or the wrinkles and the sore joints. Hager and Mullis take us into the shadows of wherever they are, leading us down dark alleys before flipping on the lights and putting on a little vaudeville number that feels as if we're still going to be able to get away with however we choose to act, for as long as we want to get away with it. - (1/29/11)

"CD Review: Fort Wilson Riot "Predator/Prey"""

Fort Wilson Riot return with their sophomore release "Predator/Prey." The album finds the duo continuing on the success of their debut release "Idigaragua."

Singer Jacob Mullis' vocals gets highlighted wonderfully by Amy Hager's harmonies on the album's opening track "Forgotten Language." The music that these two produce is magical and at times you forget it's made by only two musicians. One of the most mainstream songs on the album is "Gold-Flecked Morning." It contains the right mix of storytelling lyrics with a comfortable acoustic sound. The duo does like to experiment with styles as noticed on the broadway sounding "Diamond Blues" and "Lately." Jacob's folksiness shines through on part one of the two-part album closer "Pieces Of The War." The second part shows that band does like to let their hair down and rock.

Fort Wilson Riot are currently on tour and will make their way to the east coast at the beginning of December. Look for them to visit your area at - JP's Music Blog / Meriden Record-Journal (11/11/10)

"Review: Idigaragua"

by Quinton Skinner

Every devoted theatergoer lives for the thrill of the left-field discovery, the unheralded show that excites with unexpected daring and ambition: "Idigaragua" represents just such a project. A one-hour musical performed with crackling precision and dark, evocative imagery, it updates the rock opera with sufficient energy and imagination to match productions with far greater resources.

"Idigaragua" was first hatched as a 2007 concept recording by Fort Wilson Riot, a genre-straddling four-piece band that subsequently collaborated with director Jeremey Catterton to create this production. The action revolves around an American journalist (Garrett Fitzgerald), who begins his picaresque odyssey sipping bemusedly from a metallic flask on an idealized Third World shore, a moment of calm before decidedly unsettled action.

The ensemble players act out the events of the subsequent song set, miming the haunting vocals of Fort Wilson Riot singers, who perform upstage.

Band member Amy Hager plays multiple instruments as well as providing voice, often in harmony with guitarist and second singer Jacob Mullis and bassist Joe Goggins. Mullis wears a white suit to match Fitzgerald, and the pair creates a weird, eerie synchrony while the story unfolds.

The music is difficult to categorize, blending the trappings of indie rock with the storytelling of musical theater.

Similarly, the plot escapes simple summary. Fitzgerald is accosted by pirates, forced to walk the plank, and subsequently rescued. He then hides amid the carnage of a bloody battle, raises and loses a family, and forges a society of skyscrapers and scientific achievement before his dream sinks amid industrial rot.

It's a heady hour, to say the least. The multi-media chaos of puppets and video accompanying the music eventually settles in to depict the journalist's end, with a final refutation of the notion of imposing order on reality. Which is ironic, given this show's flirtation with disorder and its knack of pulling tight storytelling and vivid imagery from a stew that could easily descend into incoherence.

By the time the lights go down on this restless endeavor, there's a sense that the often-shotgun marriage between rock music and the theatrical stage has seen an interlude of connubial bliss. Whatever the future holds for this "Idigaragua" (there is talk of a restaging, finances allowing), it endures as an effort of distinct originality -- an uncompromising dream from which it's a disappointment to awaken.

Set, Eva Signy Berger; lighting, Cameron Brainard; sound, Jacob Grun; production stage manager, Alexis Cuttance. Opened April 3, 2008. Reviewed April 5. Running time: 1 HOUR.

With: Jayne Deis, Julie Fairbanks, Jake Lindgren, Katie Rose McLaughlin, Melissa Anne Murphy, Dan O'Neil, Ashley Smith, Carl Atiya Swanson.

Variety is striving to present the most thorough review database. To report inaccuracies in review credits, please click here. We do not currently list below-the-line credits, although we hope to include them in the future. Please note we may not respond to every suggestion. Your assistance is appreciated. - Variety Magazine (4/18/2008)

"Top 20 Albums of 2007 & Favorite Live Acts of 2007 (critics poll)"


A-plus for ambition, as this quirky, carnival collection of Wagner-via-vaudeville music is actually the soundtrack to an "indie-rock opera" the band staged this fall at the Bedlam Theater.

-Chris Reimenschneider


1. Prince (30 points)

2. Brother Ali (24)

3. (tie) The Alarmists and White Light Riot (18)

5. Fort Wilson Riot (15)

6. Dance Band (13)

7. (tie) First Communion After-Party and P.O.S./Doomtree (12)

10-pointers: Birthday Suits; Building Better Bombs; Happy Apple; JoAnna James; Chris Koza Band; MC/VL; Muja Messiah; Skoal Kodiak.

9-pointer: Mouthful of Bees. - Star Tribune (12/28/07)

"Picked to Click 2005"

By Chuch Terhark

To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, music is too important to take seriously. (The actual quote swaps "life" for "music," but ask anyone involved in this poll: they're basically interchangeable.) That lesson is rarely heeded here in Minnesota, where--a few notable exceptions notwithstanding--the sad sack is king, the third wave of ska rolled past to crash on distant shores, and the dance music scene is trapped in a Pan-like state of perpetual infancy. As mantras go, "know thyself" is nearly always preferable to "know thy dance shoes."

Onto this fertile-but-dour landscape stomps Fort Wilson Riot, a motley troupe of troubadours with such random and unexpected tastes--rock, waltz, hip hop, polka, bolero, Broadway--that the only discernable unifying theme in their sound is the Pooh-in-the-honeypot giddiness they emanate. The primary perpetrator of this un-Minnesotan blissed-out stage show is frontwoman Amy Hager, whose deceptively demure stage presence gives way under the weight of a hefty voice that ranges from Eartha Kitt growl to Judy Tenuta vibrato, hitting every drama queen in between. Backing up Hager's swagger is a solid base of orchestrated goofiness, most notably from bassist Joe Goggins, an inveterate crowd-pleaser and inventor of "harmono-boxing" (beat-boxing into a harmonica mounted in a flower pot).

The final impression, both from their live performance and their self-titled debut EP released this summer, is that Fort Wilson Riot will try just about anything--better music through democracy. Such playful mix-and-match, like soda fountain suicides, normally requires a bottle of Tums to digest, which is why FWR comes as a surprise. "Who cares about aesthetics/Think about your tummy," trills Hager, lashing out against fine dining in the class-warfare allegory "Heir to a Throne." Fort Wilson Riot, it turns out, care about both. - City Pages (9/28/05)

"Best Live Band 2005 (critcs poll)"

5. (tie) Atmosphere (22 points) Many fans enjoyed the new live band. More seemed to prefer the live debut of Ant on turntables. Either way, Slug had no trouble keeping us interested.

Fort Wilson Riot (22 points) Another fun and somewhat silly act, this quartet has an insanely earnest, boogieing pop/rock sound, and singer Amy Hager is quite the dramatist. Next gig: Saturday at Hexagon Bar.
- Star Tribune (12/27/05)

"There's a Riot Goin' On"

By Dylan Hicks

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

Posted by Dylan Hicks at October 19, 2005 10:42 AM - City Pages (10/19/05)

"A Riot of Their Own"

By Cyn Collins

In a music scene where flannel remains a fashion statement, Fort Wilson Riot stands out. The flamboyantly costumed Twin Cities quartet draws in audiences with theatrical stunts, trading instruments back and forth, dancing wildly on stage and supplying the occasional touch of harmonica -- played through a flowerpot.

"We like to have fun," said drummer Ben Smith. "When we started, we wanted to be a visual presence, not just stand onstage and play our instruments, like so many other bands. We are a spectacle. If you're onstage, you might as well use it."

Fans of Broadway musicals, film and fantasy literature, the band has taken the next logical step with its new project: "Idigaragua," which is both a concept album and an "indie-rock opera" opening this week at Bedlam Theatre in Minneapolis.

"It's magical realism, where anything and everything can and does happen, including dancing cactuses," said the show's director, Jeremey Catterton, a friend of the band who moved to Minneapolis to work on the project after hearing the album. "'Idigaragua' is a hybrid of a rock show and an opera. It's Wagnerian, using all the devices known to man -- music, dance, theater. Opera was a rock show!"

Inspired by two Paul Bowles short stories ("Tapiana" and "A Distant Episode"), "Idigaragua" centers on the epic adventures of a naive American journalist abroad. Captured by pirates, he saves himself by glorifying them in the media, then escapes to an idyllic village, only to destroy it through globalization.

"He's a Western idealist, following the classic Western ideals, some of which have become clichés," said Smith.

Originally, "Idigaragua" was one of the first songs written by FWR after its multitasking members -- besides Smith, there's Amy Hager (vocals, keyboards, guitar, horns), Jacob Mullis (vocals, lead guitar) and Joe Goggins (bass, vocals, beat-boxing) -- decided to form a band after playing together at a wedding in 2004. Over the past two years, that song has evolved into an hourlong, five-part epic in a collage of styles, including rock, pop, punk, cabaret, jazz, hip-hop and funk.

Mullis plays the journalist. "He's very naive at times regarding what goes on in the real world and his effect on the real world," Mullis said. "He's left naked as a person, and he has to rebuild his ego as he goes, with the decisions that he's making. The idea is how he reacts to these things as a child of Western culture."

Throughout the story, he's followed by a mystical bird named Idigaragua, played by Hager, whose vocals weave and soar as she sings achingly beautiful harmonies with Mullis. The bird also magically transforms into a lover and an ominous rider -- sung and played in Pink Floyd-esque style by Goggins -- who trails the journalist in the desert. Ultimately, the bird is the journalist's conscience, his internal judge, his remorse and regret.

Magical realism threads throughout "Idigaragua," particularly in an eight-minute scene depicting the building and destruction of a civilization, using video and film projection (an angry mob destroys the projection equipment). A puppet journalist is torn limb from limb by puppet dogs. The sets are simple and symbolic.

FWR will perform the score on an elevated stage while actors lip-synch to the music.

Bedlam Theatre, with its radical reputation for mixing theater, puppetry, music, film and art, is the perfect host for "Idigaragua," which was first sampled at the theater's Ten-Minute Play Festival.

"We knew Bedlam would be the best fit because of their experimentation," Smith said. "When we said, 'We're going to do a rock opera, with puppets and dancing,' they didn't shy away from it at all." - Star Tribune (8/31/07)

"The Morning After"

by Steve Marsh

Like many nights, last night began in a reputable lair of capitalist decadence. Together with my girlfriend and another couple, sitting at Barbette in Uptown, gorging on gastronomy, adhering to gastronomic protocol by bitching about said gastronomy. I mean, three squash flowers for fifteen bucks? My friend agreed. “Yeah, they should have called it quinoa with tempura squash flowers—not the other way around.” He caught the waitress’s attention. “Excuse me, could we get the check?” She came over. “Sorry, we’re kind of in a hurry. We’re going to a rock opera.”

Rock opera. It’s a pretentious term, sure, but it’s the fun kind of pretentiousness. It’s not like real opera. But it sounds just a touch more important than a rock concert. It’s the kind of fun pretentious you feel compelled to share with your waitress. We were going to Idigaragua, the rock opera Fort Wilson Riot is putting on at the Bedlam Theatre on the West Bank.

The West Bank: the home of college-age kids who dress like post-globalist hobos. These kids are fun pretentious too—the fun pretension of youth hopeful enough to make harsh criticisms that go beyond complaints about the number of squash flowers on a plate. And because of all these fun pretentious kids in such a fun pretentious place, the Bedlam has become the home of a fun pretentious movement. It’s the home base for bands like the Blackthorns and Fort Wilson Riot; skinny young people affecting Tom Waits poses, singing in veiled metaphors about unsustainable industry.

So Idigaragua is fun pretentious, but it’s also great. Fort Wilson Riot is a fun pretentious band with a terrifying amount of talent. But before Idigaragua, they reminded me of Trip Shakespeare—talented, but a little too fascinated with camp. Here, they take Radiohead’s Hail to the Thief and marry it to Cirque du Soleil’s Alegria on the West Bank of the Mississippi. Sitting there, in the dark Bedlam, watching the young actors dancing, lip-synching to the band playing on a stage behind them, manipulating gigantic puppet birds of prey and pulling down a disposable screen playing a psychedelic video montage featuring chickens being de-beaked—well, it’s bewildering. You’re not exactly sure what’s happening, but it’s impressive. You will buy Idigaragua the album when you leave Idigaragua the rock opera. You will listen to Idigaragua in the privacy of your own home and it will make more sense there.

Let me just give you one piece of advice anyway: show up early, and read the libretta before the rock opera begins. Otherwise, you might not be able to follow this story about a journalist drunk in a strange bar in a strange land, who sells his soul to a band of hipster pirates, builds first a family and then a modern civilization, is abandoned in the desert before ending up in another strange bar in a strange land toasting a giant demon cowboy . . . you might be able to follow it, you might be able to absorb some of the anti-imperialist themes, but it might just come off like hippies mangling Brecht; a co-ed freakout with dancing cacti and wolf-women in gas masks.

So read the libretta first. It’s just good form at a rock opera.

Idigaragua runs through September 16 at Bedlam Theatre.
- MSP Magazine (9/14/07)

"Idigaragua: And Now For Something Completely Different"

By Andrea Meyers

For the past three years, the members of local rock band Fort Wilson Riot have been plotting a revolution. Quietly, and out of the limelight, during long Saturday afternoons writing and rewriting stories around a piano and late into night at their rehearsal space, the four members of the band—Amy Hager, Jacob Mullis, Joe Goggins, and Ben Smith—have envisioned, built, re-built, and toiled over an album and multimedia extravaganza that is unlike anything either the rock venues or theater stages of Minneapolis have ever seen before. And at long last, their self-proclaimed “indie rock opera,” Idigaragua, is ready to be unleashed.

Directed by burgeoning young director Jeremy Catteron, the groundbreaking musical event combines every element of live performance imaginable: live rock and roll, acting, dancing, puppetry and video collide to create an event so unlike any of its individual elements that it is nearly impossible to define. On an afternoon a few weeks prior to the show's debut, Catterton and the members of Fort Wilson Riot sat down in drummer Ben Smith and bassist Joe Goggins's sunny Whittier neighborhood apartment to discuss their upcoming CD release show/rock opera/hypercreative, genre-bending multimedia event.

“We never necessarily meant it to end up being a theatrical performance,” begins Smith. “We were just writing this long song that had different parts.”

The band and director are sitting in a circle in Smith's living room, and throughout our interview all five are so excited to discuss their project that they answer many of my questions before I even have a chance to ask them.

“The song began right after we formed as a band,” says Goggins, and guitarist and singer Mullis jumps in to finish the thought. “I think we decided pretty early on that it was going to be in five parts,” he chatters, “one song in five parts, but we didn't know... Each part was getting longer and longer and longer...”

What began as one of the band's first songs soon turned into an epic, sprawling narrative, based in part on short story by Paul Bowles titled Tapiama that centers around a foolish but well-intentioned bird, Idigaragua, who cries “Nadie me quiere,” nobody likes me. The bird appears again in the opening lines Fort Wilson Riot's nearly hour-long song, and it resurfaces throughout as they tell the story of an unnamed American journalist who is lost at sea, encountering challenges both real and imagined on a whirlwind existential journey.

If it sounds like a far-fetched premise for a rock song (or if the idea of one of a band's first songs being an hour long seems shocking), it's because the storyline is so complex and rich with philosophical musings and moral dilemmas that it is nearly impossible to explain in words alone. On a concept album that shifts from Gilbert & Sullivan to the Arcade Fire at a moment's notice, Fort Wilson Riot's album Idigaragua yanks the listener out of the confines of normal rock music and throws the listener into a mystical world filled with circus freaks, pirates, village riots and zombies. And when the album is brought to life on stage, actors play out the scenes in the songs with wild dancing, costumes, and puppets in a frenetic fashion unlike any kind of theatrical production being made today.

Jeremy Catterton - Photo by Stacy Schwartz

“I hate musicals,” confesses Catterton, a graduate of the Guthrie BFA program at the University of Minnesota. An articulate, enthusiastic ball of energy, Catterton jumped at the chance to take on the challenge of bringing the concept of the play Idigaragua to life. “I didn't want it to be a musical, and I didn't want musical actors. I didn't want it to be in that world. I wanted it to stay about the band, the band has so much charisma... I know the second you get a properly trained, Guthrie musical theater actor, it turns into something so different, so Broadway and flashy.”

Rather than having musical actors sing the parts, the members of Fort Wilson Riot plus two guest musicians, Rob Schlette and Jess Haas, perform live on stage, with the actors running around in the forefront and dragging out props to create real-life re-enactments of their lyrics. The journalist and a revolving array of characters played by nine cast members dramatically lip sync the words and flail about, grabbing lawn chairs and scarves and whatever else happens to be laying in the wings to illustrate a particular scene.

“We just want you to come along with us for a ride,” says Catterton, as he picks up a pen from the coffee table, his eyes glinting. “I mean, if this pen is a pirate sword, and I want you to walk the plank, we don't have time to discuss or think about, is that really a sword? No. Because they're rocking, ok? So deal with the fact that we say this is a sword, and now let's rock and go with it. That's what has to happen.”

The result is spectacular. Not only has the band managed to create one of the most ambitious debut full-length albums in Minnesota rock history, but they have united with a visionary director to create, at the risk of sounding hyperbolic, what could be the musical event of the year.

“People from so many different forms of art are really excited about being a part of it, and giving their time,” says Mullis, and the bandmates shoot each other giddy smiles. “It's just this massive community movement to make this thing.” Hager agrees. “This is the most collaborative thing I've ever worked on in my whole life,” she says. “It's a really a beautiful thing to be a part of.”

In the end, Idigaragua is a show put together by a group of people who are genuinely motivated to make the best work possible—not for fame, not for glory, not for indie street cred; but for themselves, fueled by the excitement of their own wild artistic vision.

“It's a wonderful opportunity for us to really brandish our weapons,” says Catterton, raising a clenched fist in victory. “We're all on the brink of something great. We're all still young, we're all in our mid-20s, and we're all foaming at the mouth to show the world what we can do.”

Fort Wilson Riot's website
Fort Wilson Riot's myspace page

Watch the trailers for Idigaragua:
Trailer #1 - Reveille Magazine (9/06/07)


by Haily Gostas

With the debut of the ambitious Idigaragua, experimental rockers Fort Wilson Riot give the Bedlam Theatre a new night at the opera

The cold concrete stockroom space of downtown Minneapolis' Sound Gallery has been temporarily transformed into a theater, despite the very obvious lack of a common playhouse's crush-velvet elegance. A cast of 20-somethings frantically change behind folding screens, preparing to dash out into the mock-proscenium and blossom into patchwork, scallywag pirates. Painted-blue lawn chairs are their seven seas and orange-yellow dartboards their setting suns. Bodies twist and tumble, swirling about to a romantic rock opus as puppeteers drift past with stalks of delicate paper birds.

No horned Viking helmets or warbling fat ladies here - the stale idea of a night at the opera has now been shattered, and it's thanks to Fort Wilson Riot, a quartet of sound scientists who can currently be found on the rehearsal's sidelines, dressed like bandits, making more like Freddy Mercury than Figaro.

"Idigaragua" is their latest ear-pleasing, mind-tickling venture, a collective project inspired by books, Broadway and the big screen they've appropriately deemed an "indie-rock opera." And though there is an accompanying album to the stage show, the stunning dramatics of its sprawling narrative could not be contained to a by-the-numbers CD release. "Idigaragua" is meant to represent something bigger and bolder, both the evolution of a band and their sense of communal collaboration.

"We want to transcend what people think about musicals," said director Jeremey Catterton, a friend of Fort Wilson Riot who packed his bags and headed hell-bent back to Minneapolis after hearing only a few songs. "We want them to say they've never seen anything like this before."

No doubt. As you take in this troupe of off-the-cuff harlequins weaving a carnivalesque hour of magical realism and modern political pathos, you get the sense that - though it touches upon aged influences - this is of a new, rare and very beautiful design, a something unlike most anything else.

"Idigaragua" is an adult fairytale with a bumbling, puckish protagonist at its heart. Inspired by the short stories of Paul Bowles (specifically "A Distant Episode" and "Tapiana"), it traces the across-the-pond misadventures of this "man of papers," a naïve Western journalist who gets kidnapped by pirates. Desperate to save his neck, he promises them positive publicity and then retreats deep into a peaceful village to lay low. Though the journalist arrives with good intentions, he ends up obliterating the untouched land with the thick toxic gas of globalization.

During these and other plights, he is followed by an ethereal winged creature and her haunting chant of "Idigaragua … nadie me quiere" (which literally translates as "nobody likes me"). She takes several transformations, including lover, mother to his children and, eventually, a menacing figure that doggedly trails our anti-hero to ensure he pays duly for his foolish actions.

Now a five-part epic with a cut-and-paste collage of genres (including pop, punk, cabaret, jazz … and hip-hop?) and lyrics so story-like a whole literature class curriculum could gleefully surround them, it's hard to fathom that "Idigaragua" was originally among Fort Wilson Riot's infant attempts at song craft.

After playing a friend's wedding in August of 2004, the band's four multifunctional members - Amy Hager (vocals, guitar, keys, and trumpet), Jacob Mullins (vocals, guitar), Joe Goggins (bass, vocals) and Ben Smith (drums, percussion) - decided they couldn't keep a good spectacle down, co-perfecting their untraditional musical approach with all the flamboyant costumes, choreographed dancing and beat-boxing necessary to make them one of Minneapolis' most beloved live acts.

"Everything we do is 100 percent collaboration," Smith said of Fort Wilson Riot's sound teamwork. "We all write an equal amount, even if it means that the four of us have to sit at a piano and trade bits of lyrics. There's so much freedom, we always seem to keep moving."

Goggins claims that most songs have an initial creative pioneer who defines the shape the song might take, and Hager praises how each member brings "a different world" to the table. Fan favorite "Five Fierce Jokes" is a perfect example of this quadruple contribution, a song-series of gags at the federal government's expense. With the fat bass lines and fluttering vocal harmonies, it's got a little bit of each of them, like a cocktail of individual influences.

When Fort Wilson Riot realized "Idigaragua" was to become a new breed of musical monster, Catterton swept in to lend his all-encompassing stage smarts. The goal? To translate the band's efforts into a parade of visuals meant for a theater-going audience. They had already made a beautiful mess; now they needed instruction on how not only to make sense of it, but to create a show that could cushion it ("It was beyond us," admitted Goggins). Plans were made, auditions were held, and a partnership of visionaries came together to help "Idigaragua" take flight.

"We could never have done this if not for this city," Mullins swore. "It's such a huge pool of resources that's so easily accessible to artists."

Catterton said that the group considered several spaces as potential hosts, but always kept the Bedlam Theatre at the top of their list. To them, its love of all things odd and avant-garde would help truly nurture a DIY approach.

"They were actually excited about our project and willing to offer support," he explained. "We could do whatever we wanted, and they don't expect us to compromise."

For Hager, it was a match made in heaven.

"That venue is beautiful," she added. "It just had the right atmosphere, like we were meant to be there."

And anyway, just the chance to perform the once-small vision that snowballed into something incredible, is exciting enough.

"Because it took so long, it became such a part of me," continued Hager. "It meant enough just to put it on an album. I feel so happy, like these songs deserve it."

"Idigaragua" will place its creators on an elevated platform while their actors enact each scene and lip-synch each lyric. Though it's poised to be the production on everyone's lips (and the inspiration of many more to come), the band still insists that the simple, sweet art of entertainment comes first. The best success is, after all, having the ability to consistently do your craft.

"We want to make something cohesive and creative, something people can have a great time with," said Smith. "It's a complete success to us already, and it hasn't even opened yet."

Goggins agrees: "It's the cherry on top if the audience likes it." - Minnesota Daily (9/06/07)

"Riot At The Bedlam"

By Christopher Matthew Jensen

Few bands can summon the creative stamina required for a project like Idigaragua. Yet with their first full-length effort, local musical impresarios Fort Wilson Riot have fearlessly thrown down a jewel-encrusted, multi-patterned, Technicolor gauntlet. A nexus of dance, costume, puppetry, film, theater, concept album, and live rock 'n' roll, Idigaragua is perhaps the most ambitious and imaginative debut release in indie-rock history.

A five-act operatic suite, Idigaragua tells the story of a nameless American journalist swept up in a Homeric journey. The narrative begins in a foreign bar, and soon finds the ill-fated protagonist cast out to sea. There are pirate encounters and discoveries of isolated civilization. Ultimately, he finds himself lost in a maddening desert void, reliving the events of his journey through harrowing hallucinatory recapitulation. All the while, the narrative voice, a hovering bird, consistently coos her leitmotif, "Idigaragua, nadie me quiere," nobody likes me.

"It started off as a little song, a simple thing based on a short story by Paul Bowles called 'Tapiama,'" explains bassist Joe Goggins in his deep baritone voice.

In a roundtable-like discussion at a rented south Minneapolis church, the band spend their pre-rehearsal break laboring to explain how this one little song, begun back in 2003, blossomed into a full-on concept record and theatrical production.

"We've always liked to string our songs together," offers Mullis, the band's primary guitarist, who, like the majority of the band, also sings and plays a variety of other instruments.

Feeding off of their various points of inspiration—the works of Bowles, archetypical literary forms, and the experiences three of the four members had while traveling together in Guatemala—Fort Wilson Riot have woven an intricate tapestry. Each of Idigaragua's five acts is subdivided into songs, which are themselves sectioned into distinct parts and themes.

The music, sounding something like a collaboration between Modest Mouse, Beirut, and Andrew Lloyd Webber, is as tumultuous and unpredictable as the story itself. Employing drastic shifts in voice and instrumentation, as well as extended stretches of prosaic recitative, the band makes good on virtually every opportunity to flush plot action out of the movements in the music.

While the music for Idigaragua has been in the works for years, the idea to bring the album to the stage for a fully realized theatrical production never entered into the equation until recording was completed last spring.

"At that point, we knew how long the album was going to be, and how crazy and involved it was. We knew for sure however we performed it live, we didn't want it to be a normal show," Mullis confesses.

"We knew we couldn't act it all out. We thought about putting sets up on the stage, but we needed more," chimes in frontwoman Amy Hager.

Enter director Jeremy Catterton, U of M/Guthrie Theater graduate, co-founder of the London based Collision Theater, and longtime friend of the band. Catterton moved back to Minneapolis from London just as the band hatched the idea to stage a theater show.

Although Catterton previously worked with Mullis and Goggins on Exit/No Exit, which combined theater and live music, he admits to having never worked on a project so focused on a live band.

One of the unique twists of Idigaragua's staged production is that while the band is playing live in costume at the back of the stage, symbiotic actors are dancing, lip-synching, and emoting for them up front.

"Ultimately, we're living out the music," Catterton claims. "The point of the performance is to flesh out the story."

Playing the lead role of the journalist, Garrett Fitzgerald is the live embodiment of the character voiced by Mullis. "The hope is that by me being onstage and adding a physical and visual component to it, that I can take that same intention and give it even more depth, breadth, and specificity," he explains with a spark of pride.

While Fitzgerald and the rest of the cast perform a full rehearsal (minus costumes, a few props, and one performer) Catterton's energy picks up with the music. He jumps out of his seat to dance with the actors, and conducts their movements like a full-bodied baton. During the fourth act, where the video segment takes place, Catterton rushes over to video director Kevin Campbell and begins rifling off ideas for how to synchronize the flickering still of an animated bird skeleton with the actors' movements.

"He just fucking died!" the energetic director later shouts, instructing Fitzgerald to ratchet up the shock and torment.

Seemingly as invested in the project as anyone in the band, Catterton realizes the one thing that makes the whole project work, both as a play and as an album, is commitment. And it's just as important for it to be there in the audience as it is for the crew. After all, this is an indie-rock show we're talking about here, not some big-budget Broadway production.

"We're really shooting for a childlike aesthetic," he says. "It's like, come play with us, enter this fantasy, this bottle is a ship if we say it is."

Residing within that little nutshell is the crux of the whole thing: As difficult and grandiose as Idigaragua is, all it takes to climb aboard is a little bit of imagination. - City Pages (9/05/07)

"Smaller-scale Riot"

Like most rock operas, Fort Wilson Riot's 2007 album "Idigaragua" was so ambitious and grandiose, most listeners either adored or abhorred it. The group has scaled back on several fronts on the much more accessible follow-up, "Predator/Prey," which it's promoting Friday at the Kitty Cat Klub (10 p.m., $5), with Zoo Animal opening.

Most of the creative work was left up to the core duo of singers/multi-instrumentalists Amy Hager and Jacob Mullis, who stripped out a lot of the excess instrumentation and stuck to nine carefully honed songs. There's still a lot of variety in those tunes, though, from the playful Tin Pan Alley ditty "Diamond Blues" and the sultry, leave-the-light-on romp "All My Friends" to the full-on rock closer "Lead Me On (Pieces of the War, Part 2)." Best of the bunch is the reverby, Grizzly Bear-like harmonizer "Gold-Flecked Morning," while Hager's long, "Leader of the Pack"-like cooing bit in "Lately" is priceless. I'd say this one's adorable. - Minneapolis Star Tribune (7/29/2010)

"Fort Wilson Riot performs in The Current Studio"

By Dave Campbell

St. Paul, Minn. — How do you follow up writing a rock opera for your first album? And not just a recorded rock opera, but one that developed over three years from an idea to an album and finally to a fully realized stage show incorporating puppetry, film, dance and a cast of 15?

For Amy Hagar and Jacob Mullis of Fort Wilson Riot, the answer was a natural reaction to having lived and breathed "Idigaragua" (the band's massively ambitious 2007 album/musical theater piece) for nearly half a decade. It was time to go in the opposite direction. After amicably losing their drummer and bass player to other life pursuits, the duo regrouped and wrote their second album "Predator / Prey" with the shorter, catchier songs in mind. A real departure from the moodier, minor key songs that Fort Wilson Riot has been know for in the past, the songs on "Predator / Prey" are almost sunny in comparison. Almost. What they've achieved is accessibility without surrendering the depth and complexity that the band has always preferred. "Predator / Prey" was recorded in the couple's home, at the Sound Gallery and also at Jacob's former place of employment (a parking garage). And although live drums, bass and various other instruments were used in recording the album, Jacob and Amy have had to acquire new skills to play the record live. Now employing a drum machine, a sampler and multiple keyboards, Fort Wilson Riot version 2.0 is officially up and running. The next step will be to leave their jobs behind and to take to road, bringing "Predator / Prey" to the rest of the country. But first, they'll play an album release show at the Kitty Kat Club in Dinkytown on Friday, July 30th with Zoo Animal and Phantom Tails. - The Current- Minnesota Public Radio (7/25/2010)

"Soundcheck: An Interview with Amy and Jacob from Fort Wilson Riot"

By Joshua James

Minneapolis duo Fort Wilson Riot first came to prominence with 2007’s treasured indie-rock opera Idigaragua. On July 30 they are releasing their ambitious follow-up Predator/Prey but you can get a sneak peak at this electric duo on July 16 at Project Lodge when they take stage with Madison’s own Nester. Recently Amy Hager and Jacob Mullins of Fort Wilson Riot took time from touring and being generally awesome to answer some questions for Dane101.

Dane101: Are you both natives to Minneapolis?

Amy Hager: I grew up on a farm in Wisconsin. The city was and still is Fall Creek. I had a horse and was in all of the musical activities that my school offered, including show choir and jazz band. Super Cool! I moved to Minneapolis to attend the University of Minnesota and boy am I glad that happened...phew!

Jacob Mullis: I actually grew up mostly in Madison and graduated from West High School, but I spent some of my formative years in Honduras where my parents worked for Habitat For Humanity. That's actually where I started playing guitar. It was something to pass the time in a tiny mountain village of about 700 people. The fella' that taught me my first few chords only knew christian hymns so I spent most of my time playing those same hymns over and over again until some friends in the States sent me a pile of Beatles tapes, and book of Beatles tablature.

D101: I grew up in a small town as well (Iola, Wis. not like it matters much) but you growing up outside of Eau Claire and hearing a lot of bands coming out of the Chippewa Valley i.e. We are the Willows, Bon Iver, and Laarks is there something in the water in that small corner of Wisconsin that breeds phenomenal artists such as yourself?

AH: When I moved away from the Eau Claire area, I felt a huge sense of relief, but as of late I have been really noticing that there ARE a lot of musicians from the area. I think i was in denial at first. Then I thought, ha, maybe I am proud of my hometown!!! I love all these bands and I feel pretty honored to have a common place of origin.

D101: What drew you to Minneapolis especially you Jacob after seeing more of the world than many of us do in a lifetime?

JM: I was actually drawn to Minneapolis purely by happenstance. I was working at Victor Allens coffee shop and a friend of mine who was just about to start his sophmore year at the U of Minnesota called me and said "we found a really cool house we want to move into but we need another roommate, you in?" And I said yes and drove up to Minneapolis right after I got off work and signed the lease. I'd been thinking about moving to another city to play music anyways so it worked out. Minneapolis really does have a special arts community that kind of sucks you in so it wasn't hard to decide to stay as long as I have. It's very much my home now.

AH: Minneapolis was a place that I could move that I always thought would be a mile marker. Move to Minneapolis, finish school, move some more, find a cool job, move some more and so on. But when the band started, it was the first time that i thought, i might actually stay here with these friends of mine. "I think I might have found my people!" I would say to myself with joy. So at first it was more like I have these people and I like my city but I could still try living in another city.....then Minneapolis just sucked me in! It is magical here and the music scene is ever blossoming amazement. I know now that although we are going to head out on the road, Minneapolis is my Home.

D101: For Predator/Prey you converted your house into a studio how did that change your approach to the album? Did it lend to more stress or did you feel more relaxed being able to work on the record at home?

AH: Creating a home studio was just what the doctor ordered! I can not lie, it did lend to some stress. This stress came from feeling the obligation to always be working on the tunes even if friends wanted to hang out. It was sort of a balancing act. It took us some time in understanding what we needed and how to achieve these desires, but the overall affect was inspiring. I think it is important to try new ways of recording because inadvertently new realities shine threw. I personally found extreme comfort in recording in the privacy of my own home. It gave us time to try things without pressure form the outside world.

JM: Recording in our house changed the approach drastically! The previous FWR recordings were co-produced by a dear friend of ours, Rob Schlette, who is an absolutely masterful engineer/producer. That was when we were a four a piece, and working with Rob it was like having a fifth member. We had a lot of creative control, but he definitely ran the sessions in his own way, and of course it wasn't as easy for us to just take quite as much time as we wanted. Recording at home we could record whenever we had an idea we wanted to get down with little, to no restriction. It was also a learning experience so there was a lot of trial and error, and we did things in a way that a trained engineer wouldn't, so, for me, aspects of the record come off a bit more loose and alive then the more tight and controlled feel of the previous recordings, and I really like that quality of the new record. But it was also a bit stressful since we had to rely on our own somewhat limited recording knowledge which can be a bit scary after working with such confident professional. Mainly we wanted to give ourselves as much time as we needed to arrange and shape the songs, which we did, and that was ultimately very gratifying.

D101: I am always intrigued by couples who start a band together; does your relationship sometimes conflict and carryover to your artistic lives?

JM: Well actually we weren't dating when we first started the band, and before that we had been good friends for a while, so it wasn't really deciding to start a band with a significant other. I think it worked out pretty well because when we started dating we were already very familiar with the way we communicate, and collaborate, and all the frustrations that can come from any intimate artistic relationship, so we new what we were getting into really.

AH: Music it the general topic of our daily conversation. We had this band together before we started our relationship. The rest is history. Best Friends+ Music= Love!

D101: On this album you decided to record as a duo as opposed to a full band, I believe you started off with four members; was there any glaring reason behind that and are you touring as a two piece as well?

JM: Well the first member, Joe Goggins, quit well before we started working on this new batch of songs, and actually touring is the primary reason why our drummer, Ben Smith, quit. Amy and I reached this decision that we really wanted to dive head first into a touring life style. We've both held off on trying to pursue any "career" oriented jobs in order to make space for touring and such. At the beginning of 2010 we just decided that we were really ready to commit fully to music, and that we wanted to try and remove as many distractions as possible, namely day jobs. But when we started the album we were still a three piece, it was about half way through that our drummer quit.

AH: The history of the band is long and sometimes overwhelming, but the real reason for now being a two piece is the desire of Jacob and myself to tour. We have always talked and conjured ideas of touring but it was harder to commit with more members.

D101: How difficult of a decision was it to focus purely on music and ditched your day jobs and what were you doing before you made the leap to full time musicians?

JM: Well I've been in bands in the Cities since I moved here and have always had "non-career" oriented jobs in order to cater to the music playing, but I've never been in a situation where it seemed really viable to just drop everything and go. So it's something we've always had our sights on, it's just that at this point in time the chips have fallen in place and it all works. The job that I just quite was an underground parking ramp, and due to the space, and the abundance of down time, we actually recorded a good chunk of our new record there, and I did a lot of the mixing and editing there as well. The third song on the record, "Gold Flecked Morning" we actually started and finished in one work shift at the parking ramp between 6 p.m. and 2 a.m.

AH: Ever since Jacob and I started playing together in a band we fantasized about touring. We got a chance to tour last year on an amazing bill while playing in the band Ice Palace! The tour was about a month, month and a half in all. I think it finally gave us the confidence to do it with our own music for more than a two week stint. I try not to think about what I am leaving in Minneapolis cause I get a bit emotional, rather I try to focus on the life experience Jacob and I will get to share with one another. I do love my jobs here in Minneapolis though, and hope that they will take me back when I am in town. My jobs have become more than just jobs to me because the people that I work with have become more like a family!

D101: Having a skinnier lineup how do you plan on reaching the full sound of Predator/Prey while on tour?

AH: While recording Predator/Prey, we became the two piece and because of the recordings, we started shapping our sound. The real lavish arrangements gave us an opportunity to really experiment and indulge into our toys making the sound very full.

JM: Well when you come to the show next Friday you'll see. We created a midi chain of a sequencer, a sampler, and a synthesizer, and we're able to get a surprisingly full sound out of the setup. One thing that people comment on regularly about our sets is how surprised they are at how much sound we generate for a two piece.

D101: What are a few of your favorite bands from the Twin Cities?

AH and JM: The Twin Cities are full of wonderful bands. My favorites are Phantom Tails, Me and My Arrow, The Gleam, Vampire Hands, Daughters of the Sun, To Kill a Petty Bourgeois, Zoo Animal, Best Friends Forever , Speeds The Name, Bouncer Fighter, Flavor Crystals, and The Guystorm to name a few. There are just so many good bands in this city, and a new one seems to pop up every couple of months. - Dane101 (7/14/2010)

"Fort Wilson Riot CD Release Party at the Kitty Cat Klub"

By Natalie Gallagher

Amy Hager and Jacob Mullis of Fort Wilson Riot looked innocent as they assembled on stage at the Kitty Cat Klub on Friday night for their CD release show. The venue was fairly packed, and Hager and Mullis smiled and waved to friends as they set up.

But the duo’s sophomore release, Predator/Prey, is anything but innocent, boasting an eclectic but carefully planned mix of instruments and contributions from talented friends.

On the new album, Hager and Mullis switch off on guitar, keys, bass, percussion, and vocals, while Hager expertly layers in trumpet on some tracks. A close listen to the album and you’ll pick out other instruments: marimba, kalimba, accordion, flute, clarinet, cello, euphonium, and saxophone are all captured as if Hager and Mullis wanted to fit as much of an orchestra into their recording as possible. Part of this may be homage to their 2007 album Idigaragua, which was part opera, part rock ‘n’ roll treasure, but for the most part, it’s a sign of the brazen musical innovation the duo seem driven to produce.

Describing the sound of Fort Wilson Riot is like trying to describe the sound of a tornado: reckless and unpredictable, with so many things happening at the same time, but somehow still delivering the majesty of the storm itself and the quiet of the air after it. Hager and Mullis segue from catchy pop to experimental garage rock to strangely beautiful gypsy ballads in a seamless journey; the listener is entranced but never lost.

For their Predator/Prey release, the duo delivered nothing less than a cyclone of furious sounds, switching back and forth between keys and guitar, and sharing vocals. Hager’s atmospheric soprano is a surprising complement to Mullis’s earthy tone, and the two layered their harmonies perfectly. Between songs, they thanked everyone for coming out, praising the opening bands (the similarly manic Phantom Tails and the always dynamic Zoo Animal).

The pair invited some of their special album guests to help celebrate, and they were joined on stage for some songs by Jason Pape on saxophone, Logan Kerkhof on euphonium, Sergio Hernandez on marimba and Orion Treon on accordion, among others. The crowd was supportive, and as the final song ended in a frenzied amalgamation of sound and exuberance, the yells of the audience competed for air time.

If Fort Wilson Riot is a tornado, their live act is a perfect balance of the calm before the storm and the glittering excitement of its strength. More than just musicians, they are composers—and seeing them practice is a thing to see. - (7/30/2010)

"Fort Wilson Riot debuts Predator/Prey- Packing plenty of pop punch"

Fort Wilson Riot has gone small in a big, big way. Starting life as part of a mammoth musical-theater experience—2007's critically acclaimed rock opera Idigaragua, staged at the Bedlam Theatre by a six-piece band and nine actors—the group has reemerged as a dynamic duo bearing little resemblance to its earlier incarnation. Formerly a baroque, minor-key rock unit with a penchant for bombast, the slimmed-down Fort Wilson Riot that returns this month with Predator/Prey is a sly and seductive pop-leaning twosome.

"As soon as we were done with Idigaragua we knew we wanted to try and go in the opposite direction and write shorter, catchier songs," says vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Amy Hager, who carries on the Fort Wilson Riot name with her romantic and musical partner, Jacob Mullis.

Hager's words ring true when spinning Predator/Prey. Apart from moody ballad "Snakes & Scorpions," all the songs hover around the three-minute mark, and the nine tracks fly by in just a shade more than 30 minutes. The concision shouldn't be mistaken for lack of ambition; Mullis and Hager prove themselves skillful chameleons as they morph repeatedly over the course of Predator/Prey. Beginning life as wistful pop-folk practitioners on album opener "Forgotten Language," they shift their sound effortlessly over subsequent tracks, tapping into their Blondie-copping inner disco-rock divas on irresistibly slinky single "All My Friends" and bringing the album to a close while striking their finest garage-rock pose on "Lead Me On."

Repeated listens to Predator/Prey reveal the album to be both exhilarating and slightly jarring in its idiosyncrasies. The transition from a Mullis-sung slice of laid-back pop like "Gold-Flecked Morning" into Hager's lush, high-drama ballad "Heira" isn't exactly seamless, but the end result is a true original. Mullis, for one, wouldn't have it any other way.

"I love the tension that can be found when you have an album with two different, distinctive songwriters sharing space on it," says Mullis. "I'd like to think that Predator/Prey has a bit of that going on. Our voices are quite different, obviously, but I think our songwriting styles are as well."

With its ambitious, genre-mashing balancing act and ample array of atypical rock instrumentation at play—xylophone, accordion, clarinet, and heaping helpings of trumpet are all prominently employed—it's hard to believe Predator/Prey was recorded almost entirely in the couple's home. Their bedroom closet doubled as the recording studio. The upside of such an intimate arrangement is rather obvious—the clock's never running out on studio time—but, as Hager explains, the situation presented its own unique perils.

"Because our recording setup was literally right in the closet, we couldn't even get to our clothes very easily without having to stare down our gear," recalls Hager, while eyeing Mullis playfully in a way that hints that the closet-studio concept was likely his idea. "The physical inconvenience also led to being drained emotionally somewhat, because I'd always have that feeling of 'We should be working on the music right now' whenever I went into the closet. It was hard to learn how to carve out breaks."

Breaks will be few and far between for Fort Wilson Riot if things go according to plan. Hager and Mullis have put the wheels in motion to leave full-time employment behind come September and hit the open road for months on end to spread the word about Predator/Prey to the masses. It's the kind of gamble bands are increasingly less willing to take in the file-sharing era, but one the couple sounds eager to jump into with the same world-conquering zeal they applied to their home recording.

"We did the rock-opera thing and now we really want to do the band thing," says Mullis, audibly excited about what the future holds. "That means going on tour and trying to push everything else aside so we can really commit to playing music more and being as productive as possible. We've decided to get rid of our day jobs and see how long we can last doing that. We're setting ourselves up right now to live out of a van and live with friends as we're traveling. The long-term goal is to be self-sustaining from music. All we can do is try to start building something and hope that whatever we put into it we get back out."

If Mullis and Hager can throw their recording gear into their closet and take out one of the most intriguing and irresistible slabs of Minnesota music released this year, I like their odds. - City Pages- Village Voice Media (7/28/2010)


Daytrotter Session (2011)

Predator/Prey (Full-Length, 2010)

"Take a Number" (Single, Released on "8Hz Compilation", 2009)

"Song of the Conscripts" (Single, Released on "Don't Fall Asleep: A Minneapolis DIY compilation for Daybreak Newspaper", 2007)

Idigaragua (Full-Length, 2007)

"Hairspray That Holds" (Single, Released as a free download on, 2006)

Fort Wilson Riot (EP, 2005)




-89.3 The Current, Minneapolis

-WPPJ 670AM, Pittsburgh

-City Pages

-The Wall Street Journal

As they tumble out of the back of a maroon minivan into clubs, bars, living rooms and festivals across America, Fort Wilson Riot are liable to become a favorite local band, no matter where you live. Splitting their time between unstoppable touring and incessant recording, the Minneapolis-based duo of Amy Hager and Jacob Mullis have no shortness of ambition. In their time as a band they have recorded an indie-rock opera, Idigaragua, and performed it with a full cast of actors and dancers, produced and recorded their full length follow-up,Predator/Prey, and dropped singles, remixes and compilations.

Their ambition doesn’t just include themselves, they actively work to promote other bands who become friends and collaborators on the road. Amy & Jacob will often go out with bands who are perhaps making their first attempts at a tour and Fort Wilson Riot has released several of the Wild-Eyed Scientist mixes to spread the word about the great music and musicians they find all across the country and the world!

In their own music, Fort Wilson Riot isn’t just happy to let it stay the same either. Yes, they make great harmonies, with Amy’s soprano lifting and floating over Jacob’s growl and yelp, but there is nothing easily classifiable about the rest of their sound. From the crashing guitars and keys, to the blasting uplift of trumpet and harmonica lines to the dancing thump of electronic drums, Fort Wilson Riot are an energy that grabs a hold of you and takes you on a journey. The music doesn’t let up, and wherever they are, neither do Fort Wilson Riot.