This might be the first time you’re hearing of Chicago rock trio Fort Frances, but they’re huge in Lithuania. No, seriously. The band’s strange path to a very specific kind of fame began three years ago, when they released an out-of-character cover of Will Smith’s 1991 classic “Summertime” that racked up over a million YouTube views. Plenty of those views originated in Lithuania — so many, in fact, that Fort Frances was invited to the Baltic nation in 2015 to headline one of its biggest summer festivals, Loftas Fest.
Now that they’ve secured a rabid fan base halfway around the world, Fort Frances have another milestone to look forward to: Releasing their first full-length album in five years. Led by vocalist and guitarist David McMillin, the band has gradually shed their Americana roots and morphed into something much more dynamic. Their trip overseas last summer certainly had something to do with this. “Lithuania was a complete refresher for us,” bassist Jeff Piper says. “It gave us a whole new way of looking at the world, and with it came a new way of looking at our own music.” The name of their new album, Alio, means “hello” in Lithuanian, and it very much signifies a new beginning for the trio.
So much is apparent on Alio’s first single, “Building A Wall”. One of the very first demos for the record, it’s a song that has morphed into one of the loudest, most triumphant declarations in the band’s catalog. McMillin originally wrote the song about moving in with his then-girlfriend. “Each of us seemed to have some trouble letting our guards down,” he explains, “but there still seemed to be some borders that weren’t coming down. It’s where the line ‘Memories are not meant to be kept inside a frame’ comes from — we were both stuck on trying to be these people from the past.” It looks like they worked out their issues; McMillin’s then-girlfriend is now his wife.
Musically speaking, McMillin claims that “the last minute of this song is my favorite minute on this record. It’s a balance between these soaring guitar-monies and a gorgeous descending piano line while the chaos of the drums clatter with the image of building walls inside your brain.”
Listen to “Building A Wall” below.
Alio will be released on April 22th.
Alio Album Artwork: