Interview: Fort Lean

Words & Photos by Saidy Lopez


It’s beginning to feel like winter might finally be over. That means festival season is upon us and local musicians make their exodus to the west for huge music festivals like SXSW and Coachella. I had an opportunity to see one of these local bands before they headed out to SXSW.

Fort Lean, the rock quintet from Brooklyn, played their first show of the year at Rough Trade back in February along with The Henry Millers and NGHBRS. I had a chance to take some photos of the show and chat with two of the members of Fort Lean after their high energy performance. Keenan Mitchell (vocals and guitar) and Zach Fried (guitar) were in great spirits and pumped from rocking the hyped, sweaty crowd that made it out to Brooklyn in the snowstorm. We talked about their upcoming debut album Quiet Day on Ooh La La Records, prepping for SXSW and what musician they think could rock the planet Mars. You know, should one day planet Earth finally have it with us.

Tell me a little about Fort Lean. How did you guys meet and decide to start making music together?

Zach: We all went to college together. I started a band with Sam [Ubl] and Jake [Aron], who are the drummer and bassist in this band, our first week of college. This was a little over 10 years ago. We then met Keenan and Will the following year. They are a year younger. We played music in college. We moved to New York. We played in different bands for a little while and then put this band together, now about four years ago. It’s a college story.

Your debut album, Quiet Day, is expected to be released in the Spring of 2015.

Zach: That’s the plan.


How is that experience, of recording this album?

Keenan: Slow and satisfying.

Zach: It’s exciting, we’ve been working on it for a long time. It’s going to be relieving in certain ways to just get it out to the world. We’ve lived with it for a while, the songs at least, and then we spent a long time recording them and putting the pieces together to get the whole thing ready and now we’re just ready to take on the world. We’re pumped!

Can you tell me a little about your songwriting process? What influences you, motivates you, how do you get it all down?

Keenan: It’s a 100% collaborative song writing process. It starts generally with one little idea from any member of the band and we all work on it together in our practice space. We then take it to the studio and go from there.

Zach: It’s a lot of batting ideas around, someone starts with something and then …

Keenan: We all have different areas of expertise.

Zach: Exactly, so something will start sounding one way and then when you end up with the final product, if you were to look back and hear where it began, often times it’s not at all the same thing. Yeah, we just bounce ideas off each other.

Keenan: Like Sam playing the piano and singing and then bounce to me and Zach. Jake is an excellent resource because he runs a recording studio and knows a lot about that. We all get involved at different stages.

Zach: The simplest answer is there is no one process. Anything goes.

What do you hope your fans will take away from your debut album?

Zach: I’d say a number of things. Excitement, maybe some confusion. Fear.


Zach: Happiness.

Keenan: Happy fear.

It’s a roller coaster of emotions.

Zach: It actually is like a roller coaster of emotions. We did not go into the process aiming to make something that goes to many different places, but that is what we came away with and I’m happy with it. Stoked!

Which of your songs is the most fun to play live?

Keenan: I like the ones that are short, fast and loud.

Zach: We’ve been having a lot of fun playing a song from the record, it’s called “I Don’t Mind,” which is actually one of the songs we’ve released into the world. It’s groovy, fun and exciting. It’s a good one.

You guys met at college, that was in Connecticut right? You then came here to Brooklyn, how has that influenced your sound and music?

Zach: We’re lucky to be exposed to and surrounded by a lot of other really talented musicians, mostly on a social level. We definitely go to a lot of shows, but they are shows of friends’ bands and they are not at all similar to the type of music we make.

It expands our taste to be in a social environment where people are making things and even though they might be something we are not immediately drawn to on a personal level, you become friends with people because you like them and you see them make a different style of music and you’re like oh, I can approach my own music in a slightly different way having seen this person who makes ethereal electronic music, even though that might not seem like an obvious influence to us …

Keenan: It’s not a direct influence. It’s more like an inspiration to see so many people we know and are friends with making all different types of good music.


Could you see yourself living somewhere else and still making music together?

Keenan: Anywhere that we did live, we would want to make music together.

Zach: Yeah, I think we fantasize about …

Where are you fantasizing about right now?

Zach: L.A.

Keenan: New Mexico. Anywhere that is warmer than 18 degrees.

You guys are getting ready to head to SXSW, how do you guys prepare for that?

Zach: Practicing a lot. Working a lot to make enough money to afford to not work while we’re doing it.

Keenan: Taking the van to the shop.

Zach: Yeah, fixing the van so that it doesn’t die. Getting our instruments in order.

Keenan: Push ups.

Zach: Lots of push ups. Exercise. Not really.

Keean: Taking multivitamins. Gearing up for a 32 hour drive.

My last question might sound a little out of left base. I was listening to the radio the other day, as I was heading to another show on the bus, that the Dutch Foundation, Mars One, that is planning to colonize Mars by 2025 and create a reality show around it, has narrowed the applicants down to a 100. From there, four winners will get a one way ticket to the much anticipated Red Planet Mission . Do you have any thoughts on this?

Zach: I’m all for it because we’re destroying the planet that we are currently on. So if there is some way that we can go to another planet …

Keenan: … and destroy that one too?

Zach: It will prolong the ability of the human race to make loud rock music and that is ultimately what it is all about.

Keenan: What is the name of that Vandervelde Moonbase house band?

Zach: Oh yeah, Moonstation House Band.

Keenan: Yeah, I want to be in the Mars One Station House Band. If we can just go out there and make cool space lounge music.

Zach: So you were saying before, do we fantasize about going somewhere else to make music? We were thinking about LA before, but now I’m thinking that it just has to be Mars.

So, if any artists or musicians were selected to go to Mars?

Zach: There is only one answer, in my personal opinion, to that question of who would it be. Prince!

Keenan: You have to conserve space. It would be good, since there are only four people going, it would be good to send someone like Prince, because he could just go by himself and still make excellent music. If they were to send us they would have to send an extra spaceship.

Well, they are sending out shifts of four.

Keenan: Well then I wonder who we’re going to have to cut…

NGHBRS & Fort Lean Live at Rough Trade…


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