This week we feature, Brooklyn band, Fort Lean, who have released summery, yet lyric-conscious tracks like Sunsick and Beach Holiday that we have been very big fans of. The band just recently came off their first festival experience at GoogaMooga in Brooklyn this past Saturday and are currently working on a new batch of songs for their fans. We expect no less amazing quality for the new tracks as those they’ve already put out. After catching them at U Street Music Hall last March, we know they are a great live band as well. We spoke to guitarist Zach Fried from the band about the meaning of “Fort Lean”, the recording of their EP, their DC experiences, and much more!
Get to know more about Fort Lean in our interview below and download their tracks from bandcamp for FREE! You’ll be thanking us later.
Who are Fort Lean?
Fort Lean is Keenan Mitchell (vocals/guitar), Sam Ubl (drums), Will Runge (synth/guitar/vocals), Jake Aron (bass), and Zach Fried (guitar/vocals). We’re a group of miscreants who play music to stay out of trouble. The band is like a collective probation officer for all of us. Without it we’d probably be locked up.
What’s the story behind your band name? – It says here that, “At Fort Lean, which is a place you can go, the weather is perfect all the time.”
The name Fort Lean represents a utopian environment. It’s a sonic, visual, and physical space that we invite people to visit with us. The idea of this aspirational place is a thread that runs through everything we do. As our body of work grows, ideas about the place grow as well. It doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone, and it shouldn’t. It’s really a matter of allowing our audience to build a sense of locality that surrounds our music, that they can continue to revisit over time.
Brooklyn seems to always be blossoming with band talent. It must be something in the water. How has being a part of the Brooklyn/NY music scene influenced you guys to make the music you make?
I don’t necessarily think that living in Brooklyn has influenced the type of music we make, but it’s certainly had an impact on the process and methodology of making music. There are lots of bands around here that are very professional, so you learn by example. Writing and performing music is still a really wild and rambunctious process for us, but when there are so many other great bands playing all the time you pick things up almost by osmosis.
We’re pretty big fans of your self-titled EP, as well as the singles. Sunsick is fantastic! What did you all love most about writing and recording these tracks? Were there any troubles along the way?
The most fun thing about writing all of those songs is that they were the first songs we ever wrote as a band. So in a sense they represent the birth of the band, and when we were working on them we were all really nervous and excited. It was kind of like looking in a mirror for the first time and really being able to see what it was that we’d created. I wouldn’t say there were troubles along the way exactly, but having had the experience of recording those songs we definitely have a better sense of how to operate in the studio moving forward. I think the saying “you have to walk before you run” really applies with these recordings. The EP is us walking, “Sunsick” is us speed walking. Maybe next time we’ll work up to a jog…
We got to check you guys out the last time you were in DC, opening up for The Postelles. And you most recently played with We Were Promised Jetpacks at The Black Cat. How would you describe your experiences playing in front of the DC crowds?
All three of our DC shows so far have been great. We first played the Gibson showroom with Reptar, and then UHall with the Postelles, and most recently the Black Cat with We Were Promised Jetpacks. Each time the crowds have gotten bigger and I think our performances have matched the growth. At this point DC is probably our best city to play other than NYC. People keep coming back to see us, people know the words to the songs, and they seem genuinely excited to see us play. It’s really encouraging seeing that kind of direct growth, and it definitely gets us excited to keep working hard and get back down there as soon as possible.
How can you describe your live shows for those who’ve yet to see you play?
I think our live show brings a raucous energy that our recordings don’t fully capture. As a band we spend a huge amount of time in our practice space playing together, so when we’re on stage is really when we shine. Our singer Keenan is a real wildman performer, pretty much constantly thrashing around and headbanging. So there’s lots of movement, and lots of unhinged rocking out. Someone recently described us as a “70s high school prom band on steroids,” which I like.
Besides touring, what else does the band have planned for the rest of 2012? We saw you tweet recently that you’re all working on a “big batch of new songs.” A full-length album on the way, perhaps?
We’re going to record again soon. At the moment we’re deciding who we want to produce the songs with us, but it’s definitely happening in the next couple months. We’re not totally sure if we’re going to do another EP or an LP at this point. We have enough songs for an LP but we might hold off and continue to grow the audience. There’s so much over-saturation with music these days, and we want to make sure that when we do take the steps to record a bigger batch of songs, there are people who really want to listen to them. We’re really excited about the idea of having a full-length album, but we just want to make sure we time it right so it has maximum impact.
Speaking of Twitter, Fort Lean tweets plenty. How important do you think it is for starting bands to keep up with the social networks?
I think it really depends on the type of band and the personalities. We’re just getting started, so for us it’s important to keep people excited and engaged. Some bands have a real air of mystery around them, and for them I think staying away from social media can be a good thing. But for us we’re amused by fan engagement, and we want to provide a window into our world and allow people to feel connected to what we’re doing. Our personal lives don’t really come into play at all, but it’s nice to be able to contextualize the music we make in relation to things we find funny and interesting. A lot of my favorite musicians are very three dimensional personalities, and I think there’s a lot of power in that level of access and direct connection.
You guys are playing GoogaMooga this Saturday in Brooklyn. Is this your first festival experience?
This will indeed be our first festival experience. We’re really excited! It’s cool to be able to do this kind of event in our hometown with lots of our friends in the audience. Hopefully we’ll be playing more and more festivals in the coming months/years, but it’s a really nice way to start things off. We’re also very excited to eat some of the crazy food there…
We hope to see you guys back in DC soon! Any last words?
We hope to be back in DC soon! We’re finalizing some summer touring plans now, and it looks like we’ll be back down there in July or August, so keep an eye out.