Announcing Fort Fresh

We have bad news and good news today, folks. Bad news: we’re winding down this whole Fort Frances project. I know it’s weird timing since we’re about to put out a new record, but after so many years of writing sensitive rock songs, we’ve started to worry that we have too many feelings. This was a tough decision, and we all cried about it a lot. But the music business is tough; there’s only so much room for bands that don’t know how to play iPads on stage. So we feel like this is the right move.

Good news, though: we’re starting a new band! It’s called Fort Fresh. As the name implies, it’s super fresh. From here forward, we’ll only be recording cover songs of hip hop artists from the 1990s. This seemed like an obvious move, too. Between Jeff’s upbringing in suburban Kansas City, David’s early days playing the classical cello and Aaron’s days working at a golf course in northeastern Indiana, we know we are oozing with serious street cred. 

So, we proudly present Ice Cube’s “It Was A Good Day”, the debut from our new record “Hey, Yo.” Go HERE to listen. Enjoy, and we hope you’re ready to hear our fresh new jams whenever find yourself in da club this summer.  

JP Smooth
ARON (Aaron is actually Akon’s cousin)

PS. You can still pre-order a copy of the Fort Frances “Alio” record on vinyl. And you probably should because it will basically be a collector’s edition once Fort Fresh starts appearing on Yo! MTV Raps” and headlining festivals around the world.

We're Giving You Free CDs for Underneath Your Trees

The joyous holiday season has officially started. As people beat each other up in retail outlets around the country, we would like to help you check a few items off your shopping list without having to go anywhere, fight any other consumers or even spend any money. 

Consider this a token of our appreciation for coming to shows, buying our music and helping us continue to do what we love. We’d like to send you a few physical copies of our spring EP, Harbour, to give to your friends or family who you think would enjoy our sensitive rock.

It’s called the “We’re Giving You Free CDs for Underneath Your Trees” program, and here’s how it works.

1) RIght now, you should stare at your computer or your phone and think about who among the people on your shopping list would enjoy our three beards and more importantly, the music we play.

2) Once you have those names, you send us a note at with the following info: how many discs you’d like and your mailing address (you’ll need to give these to your friends). Please note that we can only send these within the continental United States.

3) We’ll send you a package that has some kind of hilarious holiday sticker on it. You’ll smile when you receive it and think, “Jeez, those guys in Fort Frances are pretty hilarious.”

4) You give each of the discs to your friends, and voila! You’ve made someone’s holiday a bit happier and hopefully a bit louder while helping spread our music to new corners of the country.

We have a limited number of discs we’ll be able to send, so please send us a note by Saturday if you’re down for the cause. We’ll get them in the mail immediately so you have them in time for the holidays. 

Thanks for all your support this year. We’ll see you in 2014!



Indiana, Indiana, Indiana, We're All For You

We're playing Indianapolis on Saturday, and we hold a deep love in our hearts for the entire state (Aaron and I were both conceived, born and raised in the Crossroads of America). In its honor, we've started a Spotify playlist with a very long name. Click here to celebrate the Hoosier state, and then go right here to get your tickets for this weekend's show. 

-- david

Gentleman Caller - My pal Ryan Newman introduced me to this band many years ago, and I love pretty much every second of Gentleman Caller Vs. The Elephant. Start with “The Locusts” and “Dead Language.”

Jackson 5 - Ever heard of them? Didn’t think so. I wanted to be Michael Jackson when I was in second grade. And third grade. And fourth grade. My parents have a VHS tape floating around somewhere of me  dancing to “Black or White” in an elementary school talent show. 

Murder By Death - One of Bloomington’s finest. We played with this band at a festival in a state park somewhere in Indiana years ago, and I’ve been listening to them ever since.

Margot and the Nuclear So and Sos - Part of this band lives in Chicago now, but they maintain some strong Indiana roots. If you happen to be celebrating New Year’s Eve in Indy this year, you can see them at the Old National Centre.

Husband&Wife - I happened upon this band from Bloomington thanks to our friends at Daytrotter. I think Sean Moeller may be responsible for 80 percent of what I listen to today.

Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band - Bean Blossom, Indiana hosts one of the country’s best bluegrass festivals each year. This band also calls the tucked-away town home. This video is pretty delightful.

Bonesetters - Indy’s man on the musical scene Brett McGrath sent Bonesetters along, and I was hooked on my first listen.

Our Chicago Show Will Be More Than a Concert

It will also be a chance to help a cause we feel really strongly about.

It’s no secret that we have a serious problem with violence in Chicago. There are plenty of days when everyone here wakes up to headlines of a rising crime rate, of neighborhoods torn apart, of children caught in the crossfire of shootings the night before.

Unfortunately, it seems easy to look at those headlines and wonder how you can do anything to prevent the same kind of horrific violence from happening again. As we get ready for a show at Chicago’s Lincoln Hall next Sunday, 11/3, we’re joining with an  organization called CureViolence to prove that we can actually do something to address what’s going on in our hometown.

The people at CureViolence are doing some incredible work. It’s not about sending more police cars and hoping that traditional solutions will be able to make a difference. It’s a new approach to conflict resolution and mediation, and you can learn all about it with this documentary. (It’s about two hours and well worth the time). Like any not-for-profit organization, they need help with funding, so we’re donating $1 from each ticket to CureViolence. 

Click here to get your tickets. You’ll make an impact in the city and be part of a show that we have been looking forward to for a very, very long time!


Home, Sweet Spotify Playlist

As we look forward to our November show at Lincoln Hall in Chicago, we've put together a playlist of some of our favorite songs from artists who call or have called this great city home, too. Click here to listen to the "Home, Sweet Spotify" playlist, and then go here to pick up your tickets to join us for a great celebration on 11/3.

The Kickback - "Sting’s Teachers Years"

These guys have tremendous energy, and this song should be played at a very loud volume.

On and On - "The Hunter", "Every Song" and "Ghosts"

This band used to be called Scattered Trees, and they used to all live in Chicago. While I believe that only one member still calls Chicago home, I love what they’re doing. 

Joe Pug - "Speak Plainly Diana" and "Hymn #101"

Joe doesn’t live in Chicago any more, but he did when he released the stunning Nation of Heat EP. Plenty of magazines have tossed around the “next Bob Dylan” label with too many songwriters. In Joe’s case, however, that comparison is well-deserved. 

Archie Powell & The Exports - "Crazy Pills"

These guys are fellow Outlaw Roadshow alums, and you should get to know them. I’ve never seen them live, but this song makes me want to do just that.

Chance the Rapper - "Family (Blended Babies Remix)", "The Wonder Years" and "Long Night"

This playlist isn’t going to be able to fully introduce you to why you should be listening to Chance the Rapper - because his mix tapes aren’t on Spotify. You should go here to download his buzzed-about mixtape Acid Rap. As I type this, I wish that our band was cool enough to release mixtapes. We are most certainly not.

Wilco - "Heavy Metal Drummer", "California Stars", "A Shot in the Arm" and "She’s A Jar"

There’s a good reason to look up to this band: they’re geniuses. 

Smith Westerns - "All Die Young" and "Weekend"

I think this band is now old enough to legally drink, but I'm not sure. 

R Kelly - "Bump ‘N Grind" and "Step In the Name of Love"

Listen, I know this guy has been surrounded in controversy, but Bump ‘N Grind is the jam of the century. I owned a cassette tape called “Big Phat Ones of Hip Hop: Volume 1” (this is not a joke), and this song closed out side B.

Fort Frances - "Habits", "Habits (JayRy Remix)", "Plastic Hearts" and "City by the Sea"

Maybe you've heard of these guys. 

Kanye West - "On Sight", "Heartless" and "Good Life"

Have you seen this interview with Zane Lowe? If not, it’s well worth your time. All four segments that include ramblings about water bottles and jogging pants. 

Mavis Staples - "You Are Not Alone"

Produced by Jeff Tweedy. Sung with all kinds of soul. I love this woman.

Smashing Pumpkins - "1979", "Disarm" and "Mayonaise"

I hope our band covers 1979. It’s on our list to learn. But that’s also a long list.

Ezra Furman - "My Zero" and "American Soil"

I don’t believe Ezra is currently living in Chicago, but that doesn’t matter. He has lived here before, and his new record is well worth your ears.


the highs and lows: what the outlaw roadshow means to me

When you’re in an emerging independent band, you learn to take the highs with the lows. You walk the line between the joy of celebrating at a crowded hometown show with the utter exhaustion of a playing to eight people in a club in a town where no one knows you. You counter the excitement of a great review from a writer you respect with the frustration of sending countless unanswered emails asking people to listen to your record. It’s that day-to-day balancing act that makes being part of The Outlaw Roadshow at CMJ so special.

I should rewind a bit. 

It was the summer of 2000. I was 16, and my friends and I went to see the Counting Crows at what was then called Deer Creek Amphitheater just outside of Indianapolis. They had become one of my favorite bands after the release of “This Desert Life.” With three years of playing my old Fender acoustic DG-7 under my belt, I had just begun attempting to understand what it meant to be a songwriter, and the Counting Crows helped give me a definition. Their songs weren’t grounded in a general setting and a general feeling that could apply to the lowest common denominator of a listener. They were about people like Maria in places like California in the mid-afternoon when it was raining. I listened to their songs with the volume knob turned up in my maroon 1994 Buick Century. 

At the show, in between learning the art of paying older, cooler concertgoers to buy us beer, I learned a lot more from what the band was doing on stage. The entire evening - and the many Crows shows I’ve seen since - served as another lesson: songs are never finished. They evolve to keep pace with the person or people who wrote them. 

For every person who wants to sing along with a song exactly as they’ve heard it in their cars, there’s another person who wants to be caught off guard, who wants a new turn in the arc of the song, who wants to be part of a performance that will only happen once. It’s a moment in time - not a reproduction of a memory you already know. Adam Duritz and the Counting Crows are a band that knows the importance of capturing those moments.

Since that show, I’ve been chasing after a career as a songwriter. I’ve been in and out of bands. I’ve spent summers driving around America, playing shows and sustaining my existence on bean burritos and coffee. Soon enough, I’ll be at a point when I’ll be twice as old as the 16-year-old kid who stood on the lawn at Deer Creek. 

There is a piece of me that grew pretty fucking terrified while typing that sentence.

After all these years, a lot has changed in the music business. It’s an uncertain time that leaves me never quite sure of what our band should do next. There are plenty of pieces that I haven’t figured out, and I don’t expect to figure them out anytime soon. But with all those questions still looming, the Outlaw Roadshow has given me and my bandmates the kind of hope, excitement and energy that’s essential to overlooking the fact that those answers are hard to find. It’s safe to say that Ryan Spaulding and Adam Duritz have done the same for many of the other bands that will be on the stage at Bowery Electric, too.

So tomorrow night in New York is much more than a date on a calendar for me. It’s a sign that if you can manage to make the moments really count, the highs will start to outweigh all those lows. 



Aaron's I Don't Want to Work, I Just Want to Bang on the Drum All Day Playlist

Today at Spotify, you'll find a collection of tracks whose drumming/drummers helped shape me into the drummer I am today. This collection is by no means a "BEST EVER MELT YOUR FACE/EXPLODE YOUR FACE/DESTROY YOUR FACE DRUMMING OF ALL TIME" collection. But there's some darn good drumming in every one of these songs, that I still learn something from when I hear them.

Click here to enjoy!

In The Meantime - Helmet

This was the first 'real' song I ever learned. I was twelve years old and wanted to rock out!!! This one fit the bill, and wasn't too intimidating for a rookie like me.

Siva - The Smashing Pumpkins

Jimmy Chamberlin is a force/beast/hurricane in the world of rock drumming. In my constant attempt as a young drummer to learn as many Smashing Pumpkins songs as possible, I found myself coming back to this one the most. For further proof of just how incredible Chamberlin is, click here. Probably in my Top 5 of the best things ever played live.

Battery - Metallica

There was probably a good two- or three-year stretch where I pretty much listened to Metallica exclusively. While Lars Ulrich certainly is not the best heavy metal drummer, he did lay down some pretty significant groundwork. Songs like 'Battery' helped me burn more calories than any amount of running would have ever done (because running gave me side cramps and I was a wuss).  

Sweet Willy Rollbar -> Revolve - The Melvins

Technically, these are two tracks…..but really they're kind of one. One of the many things I love about Dale Crover's work is his use of different sounds. Seriously, what is that thing he's hitting in Revolve? It's not a hi-hat….It's not a cymbal… just sounds bad-ass. Crover plays hard rock/metal in a pretty unconventional way, and it gets me excited every time.

Where Did You Sleep Last Night (MTV Unplugged) - Nirvana

Can you tell I'm a child of the 80's and 90's yet? Over time, more often than not, I've found that less-is-more when it comes to drumming. In this particular performance, their MTV Unplugged concert, Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl really drives this point home.  Laying down a low key, solid beat, never getting in the way of an incredibly emotional performance, is something that every drummer can learn from.

Soul Sacrifice (Woodstock) - Santana

I remember watching the Woodstock concert (on VHS of course) with my dad and brother when I was about 13 years old, and this performance blew me away. The solo is so wild. Michael Shrieve was 20 years old when he played at Woodstock with Santana.  I remember thinking "There is no way I will ever able to do that, especially not in 7 years."

Afro Blue (Live at Birdland) - John Coltrane

As far as I'm concerned, this is heavy metal jazz. Elvin Jones just sounds like he's having a blast when he's playing. In a world where jazz is often seen as light/dainty music, this is proof that jazz can get dirty. At the 4:30 mark, it gets serious.

Chameleon - Herbie Hancock

This is an incredibly humbling track. Maybe the smoothest beat of all time. If there's ever a time I feel like I'm playing really well, or come up with something funky, it will never come close to this. Such a simple beat. Played so ridiculously well. 

Cissy Strut - The Meters

If Chameleon has the smoothest beat of all time, this one is the funkiest. The drummer's name is Zigaboo for-cryin'-out-loud. Jeepers, listen to that beat!

Habits - FF

This drummer's kind of a hack…

50 Ways to Leave Your Lover - Paul Simon

Steve Gadd. I should just end this description with that. When I first heard Gadd, it was my introduction to what's called 'linear drumming'. Gadd is the master of this. He may have even created it, I don't know. Pretty much everyone has heard this song and it's iconic drum intro. The beat actually isn't as complicated as it sounds, but Gadd's touch is something special.  

Lenore - Chick Corea

More Steve Gadd. More of the best possible thing.

Limb By Limb - Phish

I could do an entire list about Jon Fishman alone. Maybe 5 lists. Probably more. In trying to pick which Phish song to add to the list, I chose this one because I will never forget the first time I heard it. I think my head exploded when I first heard Jon come in on this track. I had never heard anything like it, at the time. Fishman's use of polyrhythms is insane, but he knows when to be flashy and when not to be. To me, he is the True-Phunk-Soldier.

Holocene - Bon Iver

Bon Iver's use of percussion has shaped what a lot of musicians/drummers are doing these days, myself included. Whether it's sparse, or wildly frantic, it's always appropriate for the track. It's pretty much impossible to not feel good when you listen to this song.  To me, this is some of the most emotional drumming I've ever heard.

(Untitled) 8 - Sigur Ros

Speaking of emotional drumming….

-- AJK


David's Places and Faces Spotify Playlist

I just created a new playlist for Spotify, and it all centers on the places and faces we'll be seeing this fall while we're on the road. Click here to go listen to 15 of my favorite songs.

And while you're listening, here's some reading material on each of these tunes and why they're here.

New York, NY - CMJ - 10/17 - 10/19 

Hotel Chelsea Nights - Ryan Adams

When I first started writing songs, I was fascinated by the legendary subject of this song. You can no longer stay at the Hotel Chelsea (maybe it will actually finish its renovation at some point), but the history is alive and well here. The hotel hosted everyone from Leonard Cohen to Jack Kerouac to Tom Waits.

New York, New York - Tha Dogg Pound

Oh, you thought it would be another song titled “New York, New York”? Not today, friends. I owned this cassette tape. I hope that fact still gives me street cred like I had in seventh grade.

Madison, WI - 11/1 

Only Happy When It Rains - Garbage

You didn’t know that Garbage was from Madison? That makes two of us - - until now.

Milwaukee, WI - 11/2 

Milwaukee Man - Hugh Bob and the Hustle

We played with Hugh Bob and the Hustle earlier this year in what’s become one of my favorite places in the Midwest, Green Bay, Wisconsin. Hugh is a tremendous songwriter, and I’m happy he and his band will join us for our Chicago date this fall.

I Am Not Waiting Anymore - Field Report

Chris Porterfield writes songs that lift souls. You should listen to his whole debut record.

Chicago, IL - 11/3 

City by the Sea - FF

I’ve never heard of this band. They paid me to place their song here.

I Am Trying to Break Your Heart - Wilco

One word: geniuses. 

Grinnell, IA - 11/15 

Atlantic City - Bruce Springsteen

Darkness on the Edge of Town - Bruce Springsteen

No, Bruce Springsteen is not from Grinnell, Iowa. He did not write a song about this small town tucked a few miles off of Interstate 80, either. However, Grinnell did host the Boss when Born to Run came out in 1975, and the stories behind this show are truly amazing. You can read them here - - I highly recommend “The Spaghetti Story.”

Side note: we played Grinnell about a year and a half ago, and the students there are amazing. We’re psyched to return this fall.

Indianapolis, IN - 11/16 

Broadripple is Burning - Margot

I grew up 45 minutes south of Indianapolis, and my heart has a soft spot for everything related to Indiana. Listening to Richard Edwards from Margot and the Nuclear So and So’s helped me figure out how to write lyrics. 

Devil We Know - Lily and Madeleine

I stumbled upon Lily and Madeleine just a short time ago thanks to Dodge at My Old Kentucky Blog. They are destined for insanely good things. One listen, and I believe you’ll agree.

Minneapolis, MN - 11/22 

Nothing Compares 2 U - Prince

One of my favorite songs of all time. The Sinead O’Connor version was #1 around the time I was in third grade, and my alarm clock was set to a radio station that played this song each morning when I woke for school. 

Atmosphere - Smart Went Crazy

Slug from Atmosphere is one of the most talented lyricists around, and he put the Minneapolis hip hop scene on the map for everyone. 

Eau Claire, WI - 11/23 

Beth/Rest - Bon Iver

Say what you want about this Bruce Hornsby-inspired jam at the end of the most recent Bon Iver record. I think it’s brilliant, and I also think Justin Vernon’s decision to put it on this record proves what a badass he is.

Alaskans - Volcano Choir

Justin Vernon has like 5 bands. This just happens to be my second favorite.

Breathing room

Some very exciting news - we're releasing new music this fall!

Click here to watch a video about what we've been doing, where we'll be going and what it all sounds like. See you on the road soon! 

A year later...

It’s taken about a year to write this post.

Well, it’s taken about a year to have a reason to write
this post. When we started recording the five songs
that make up Harbour at the beginning of 2012,
none of us really expected it to take this long to
finish an EP. A lot can change in a year, though,
and that’s certainly been the case with our band.
Some of our families have grown. Some of us
have moved. And regardless of what life puts in the
way, writing, arranging and recording songs always
means more time, more frustrations and more
uncertainties than you expect.

There’s a common misconception that it’s “easy”
to release records today. Some might say that
recording music is something that anyone with a
laptop, a keyboard and some software can do.
It’s hard to argue with that. However, writing
music hasn’t changed. It still requires heart, and
we hope that heart shines through when you
listen to this new collection of songs. 

Thank you all for your ears and for your continued
support. We wouldn’t be a band without you.



Download via iTunes

Download via Bandcamp

Listen on Spotify