Dave Cromwell - May 25, 2012
Fort Lean conceptualizes sonic escape in a parallel utopian world where you can still see the skyline but not hear any cars, and the weather is always perfect. Isn’t that Portlandia? Their lead single “Sunsick” off their latest 7” builds on a tom tom heavy drum pattern as single stroked guitar chords chime down over distant synthesizer pads. Passionate vocals give way to atmospheric lead guitar figures, while its b-side “The Precinct” is delivered with measured pacing by way of a deceptively calming descending chord progression, until the big coda crashes you over the head with layers of guitars, cymbals and voices.
More than simply a two word band name, Fort Lean is also presented as an escape to this alternate world. Do you think this kind of backstory enhances the appreciation or understanding of what you are trying to do musically?
That's certainly the goal. Presenting Fort Lean as a physical place provides a world of creative possibilities that we've only started to scratch the surface of. It allows us to weave a thread throughout our work that makes a unified and cohesive whole. Hopefully it also provides the listener with a mental image of a utopian place that they can visit and engage with. That place probably means different things for each person, but it's positive and rejuvenating, with a touch of unhinged mayhem.
The cover art for your 7” single “Sunsick” has an interesting drawing/logo on it. What looks like an “F” and “L” facing each other in a compass-like image. How did this visual come about and who created it?
The logo was created by an incredibly talented identity designer based in Amsterdam named Marina Henao. The goal was to create an iconic image that is instantly recognizable once you've seen it once. It also ties into the idea of Fort Lean as a place with the compass feel, but we wanted to incorporate religious overtones as well. She hit the nail on the head as far as we're concerned.
You’ve recently made available one of your tracks which has been remixed by Twin Shadow keyboardist Wynne Bennet. Talk about how this collaboration came about. Do you think current artists remixing their contemporaries is a positive development in getting your music heard by as many people as possible?
Our bassist Jake Aron works as a producer and engineer, and he worked with Twin Shadow a few years ago and became friends with the band. We're all big fans of their music, so when Wynne offered to do a remix for us we were really pumped. Remixes definitely give fans a sense of context for bands, and they also help get bands exposed to one another's audiences. It's also just really fun to hear your ideas recontextualized by someone with a totally different musical vision.
When creating new material, how do you develop the songwriting? Is it mostly the work of one member, or is there more of a collaboration between multiple members of the band?
Our process is extremely collaborative. Generally an idea will start with one or two people coming up with a simple idea, usually a chord progression and melody. The song doesn't really take shape until we all get together in the practice space and start playing it as a group. Everyone is responsible for their own parts, and all of us are capable of writing songs (yes, even our drummer!). It's great to keep everyone engaged in this way, and we all really trust each other's musical instincts.
Do you, as songwriters, ever feel nagged by what is often referred to as that burning desire to write? Referring to an internal pressure that if you don't write something after a while, you then feel like something is missing in your life?
I think we've all felt this way at points in the past, but at the moment we're all extremely busy with new song ideas. We actually have too many ideas right now to be able to get to everything as quickly as we'd like to. We're all focused on trying to make this a full time job, and writing good new songs is central to that. Maybe once we're touring more we won't have as much time as we'd like to write, but we haven't really encountered that yet.
What artists do you feel had a significant influence on the musicians you’ve become today?
Each of us is influenced by different bands and musicians, but some of the people we all agree on are John Lennon, Sam Cooke, Neil Young, the Pixies, Radiohead, and really just anyone who has had really long, productive, consistent careers. We want to make music that we're proud of for as long as we possibly can, and all of those people have done that. Some died too young, but even those that did left behind bodies of work that are extremely inspiring. If we could achieve that goal I think we'd all be very satisfied.