Band of the Day

2012.02.07

Fort Lean

Gorgeous, soaring indie rock songs that will transport you to an imaginary paradise
You were my dream, you left me all alone. You unlocked the door, you told them all I was home.
lyrics from Dreams (Never Come True)

Fort Lean is a 5-piece indie rock band based out of Brooklyn, New York. Formed in January 2011, the band first came together while studying at Wesleyan University in Connecticut. The name Fort Lean refers to a conceptual idea of a paradise/holiday get-away. Alongside playing together as Fort Lean, all five members also occasionally play with other local bands (including Bear Hands and Slam Donahue), and they each still have day jobs. Drummer Sam Ubl is an elementary school teacher, guitarist Zach Fried works in real estate, bassist Jake Aron is a recording engineer, keyboardist Will Runge works in an ice cream sandwich truck, and lead singer Keenan Mitchell does set design and works for a company that makes axes. In 2011, Fort Lean self-released their debut self-titled EP, which is built on catchy, upbeat '90s pop and classic rock influences. The band is currently touring around North America and recording more music.

What do you do when you've burned through all of your paid vacation days, but are yearning for a break from your mundane routine? You could a) quit your job, embark on a nomadic journey around the world, and watch your bank account dwindle down to zero; or b) pop on Fort Lean's debut EP, let their music take you away to an imaginary paradise, and rake in the dough while doing so. Granted, the journey will only be 12 minutes long (unless you play it on repeat—which you probably will), but it will be a sweet one. The 5-piece indie rock band, based out of Brooklyn, New York, has only been playing together for just over a year. In that time, they've self-released an EP and have played all over North America, while still maintaining their day jobs (which range from being an elementary school teacher, to working in an ice cream sandwich truck). But if these four songs are anything to go by, they won't be working their day jobs for much longer. According to Fort Lean's official press bio, which was written by the landlord of their studio space, of all people, “They’re writing choruses you wish you had written, and playing tighter than your band ever could. They’re only going to get better too.” We couldn't agree more. Opening track “Beach Holiday” is a perfect example. It starts with a good-natured guitar riff, setting a beach-y mood. As lead singer Keenan Mitchell describes the perils of alcohol-fueled actions (“Yelled at some kids/ I took off all my clothes/ They hit me in the face/ The blood was pouring out my nose”), his vocal range powerfully builds up, while maintaining some grit. This is the type of voice that doesn't have to take shelter behind layers of vocal effects; it's naturally powerful and dynamic. As Mitchell repeats the phrase “what a beach holiday,” the frustration and sarcasm comes through with every line. Considering that they came up with the name Fort Lean to describe a conceptual paradise, “Perfect” is the song that best reflects this. Background “ahh-ahh's” give an otherworldly feel, and the lyrics describe a place where the “weather's perfect all the time,” and “where it will never rain or snow” (definitely not Brooklyn, then). Fort Lean might be an imaginary place, but the music is as beautifully real as anything we've heard in a long time.