Thursday, September 22, 2011

New directions for Fort Frances

The Chicago-based Fort Frances is an indie pop trio with some local roots. Their debut album, The Atlas, has earned strong reviews. The free show they’re playing this week should be a strong incentive to catch them now while you can. LEO spoke with leader David McMillin about location, location, location and the Beatles.

David McMillin: I grew up just north of Louisville, in Columbus, Indiana.

LEO: I was just there last week.

DM: In Columbus? The architectural mecca of the universe! (laughs) It’s so crazy growing up there, to have tours, the Columbus Vistors’ Center bus _ when you grow up looking at all those churches and the library, you don’t think much of it, but that’s cool that you were there. I actually lived in Louisville for about a year or two.

LEO: What part?

DM: I lived in St. Matthews. I guess it was in 2008? I used to do a lot of solo stuff, so I spent most of that time working on writing a record.

LEO: And now you’re in Chicago?

DM: Yeah, I’ve been in Chicago for three years. Aaron (drums) and Jeff (bass) have been here for that whole time, too. Jeff was a drummer originally, and we had to make him a bass player, ‘cause we already had a drummer (laughs).
The solo stuff was a lot more Americana-type stuff, and now we’re experimenting with a lot of textures, and it’s gotten pretty layered. It’d be great to gave a 4-piece or a 5-piece. Right now, we make use of just having the three of us. There’s a lot of changing of instruments on stage, so I’ve been forced to turn myself into a keyboard player. There’s a lot of movement onstage.

LEO: Does that affect the momentum?

DM: I actually feel like it helps us. I guess that’s my selfish opinion, I like a little bit of change, rather than he’s playing guitar, he’s playing bass and he’s playing drums, and that’s the look for the next 60 minutes. We do have a lot of gear, I guess it could be kind of awkward … (laughs) But I think it works to our advantage, to have different instruments, even if they don’t appear song after song.

LEO: I know I’m not the only one to hear a Beatles influence in your songs.

DM: Yeah, yeah — thanks! That’s a big compliment. And it’s also sort of what we were aiming for. With our debut, with this record, I wrote most of it in my apartment here in Chicago. I guess I became more interested in experimenting with sounds and layers of sound, rather than just strictly writing a song on guitar or piano. I think that makes finishing songs a lot more difficult, but I think it ultimately can lead to — for me, a lot of songs that I never would’ve been able to write three or four years ago. The record is by no means a concept album, but it is written to flow somewhat together. A lot of these songs were written almost in pairs. Thematically, I guess the biggest common theme would just be direction … it’s called The Atlas, (laughs) so … I think much of the reason that is what the whole record is about probably because there was a big change in direction from the solo stuff to what we’re doing now.

LEO: You’re from Columbus, lived in Louisville and Chicago, and recorded this album in Maine. Maybe changing directions is a natural theme for you.

DM: Yeah! Right. (laughs) We’re pretty excited, I think the show in Louisville is going to be the first of a couple week’s span, and then a couple weeks in October. Personally, I get in these modes where it feels better to be in as many different places as we can be. There’s something nice about waking up and not necessarily knowing where you are. I find it really hard to write while I’m traveling, but when I get home, it’s the best time to write. So, when I haven’t been gone for a while … it’s not writer’s block … I just get a lot of inspiration from being where I’m not supposed to be.

Fort Frances with JK Mabry
Friday, Sep. 23
The 930 Center
8 p.m., free

c. 2011 LEO Weekly

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