Balladry Reborn: Student Songwriter Focuses on Storytelling
By Aaron Richardson
Forrest Marquisee sits in the corner of a crowded room fiddling with the equalizer knobs on his PA system. It’s 9 p.m. on a Friday night and the house on Weedon Street is packed to the gills with high schoolers in skinny Levi’s and checkered Vans. Marquisee strums his guitar and says, “Can everyone hear me over the guitar?”
Marquisee looks and sounds nervous as he prepares to perform songs from his solo music project Father’s Gander. After more fiddling on the glowing blue equalizer module, he jumps right into a song called “Red Rabbit” from “Wormtails,” the first album from Father’s Gander.
“I wanted to make something whimsical,” Marquisee, a 19-year-old sophomore says. However whimsical “Red Rabbit” may be, it’s Marquisee’s darker songs from “Gooseneck Tragedy,” his second album, that really define Father’s Gander.
The songs are more like fairy tales or reminiscences, told from the perspective of an old man. Marquisee, who loves the music of the avant-garde band Ween, sings in a frail falsetto to give his character life. The old man, Marquisee says, is supposed to be alone and entertaining himself. This character is what Father’s Gander is all about.
“When I sing a Father’s Gander song, I am whatever I’m talking about,” Marquisee remarks. For Marquisee, the real fun of Father’s Gander is that the songs are pulled from somewhere within himself. Instead of sitting down and constructing verses and choruses and setting them to music, Marquisee lets the writing happen as a free-form experience.
“Most songs I just squeeze out of myself without writing them down,” he says. “It’s more fun and exciting that way, like Father’s Gander telling a story.” Marquisee wants the music to tell the stories of his character’s life.
To aid the experience of Father’s Gander as a story rather than a performance, audience participation is important during shows. The idea is that music and storytelling should be fun and interactive. As opposed to passively observing a concert, you become a part of the music as well as the audience.
During songs like “Curious Cat,” Marquisee urges participation. “If you guys want to make some cat sounds during this one, that would be great,” he says to the eager crowd. He grins during the song as the audience obliges in grand fashion.
Father’s Gander isn’t in its element in live performance though. The full experience is taken in from the CD, by yourself, with headphones on. “I’m trying to paint a picture,” Marquisee says. “When it’s on CD there’s a lot more room for imagination.”
Marquisee plays both guitar and mandolin well, but focuses his efforts on simple guitar work for Father’s Gander. He also spends time making electronic music on his laptop. Electronic music has been put on hold for the time being though, because of the time it takes to create.
“I’m not as focused on that…it’s more difficult so I don’t do it as much,” he says.
Marquisee plans on making another album in the style of Father’s Gander. This one, he says, will be more comforting, but still dark overall. “It’s like a little kid playing on top of a snakepit. He doesn’t know it, but he’s gonna die,” he says.