Fort Frances
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Fort Frances

Chicago, Illinois, United States | SELF

Chicago, Illinois, United States | SELF
Band Alternative Folk


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



"Fort Frances Added to The Outlaw Roadshow"

This is Music with Heart. The first time I listened to Chicago's FORT FRANCES was during the artist selection process for the Outlaw Roadshow. Putting together a really amazing lineup is like making a mix tape. I was at a juncture where I need a spirited fun act, a tight band that can really blow people's minds - but with their ability, not their volume. I got that and far more with this band. I listened to Fort Frances for just about 20 minutes and I found myself thinking about those songs all day long!

What Speaks to Me. The three-part harmonies are beautiful! And the use of additional and unanticipated instrumentation (a full choir in one instance) help bring real energy to these records. (One in particular "White Roses" was quite haunting.) There's a lot more ahead. Fort Frances is David McMillin, Jeffrey Piper, Aaron Kiser. They are definitely One to Watch in 2013.

Fort Frances plays The Outlaw Roadshow on Saturday, March 9. The show is free to attend with advanced RSVP. I will be parked right up front for this. - Ryan's Smashing Life

"My Morning Download: I Had Love"

The Chicago indie rock band Fort Frances released its debut album, The Atlas, in early 2011. The band releases a new EP, Harbour, today. After the band released its debut, they found two quick fans in Counting Crows’ Adam Durwitz and Ryan Spaulding of the prestigious and popular RSL Music Blog (Ryan’s Smashing Life.) and they invited Fort Frances to perform at their Outlaw Roadshow at this year’s SXSW.

Fronted by lead vocalist David McMillin, Fort Frances have a warm, melodic and versatile sound, filled with gorgeous songs that vary in dynamics. There’s a little bit of a Wilco vibe, a little bit of David Gray, a little bit of roots and rock and roll. You definitely want to keep your eyes on this band. Below, download a new song, “I Had Love.” - WXPN

"New and Notable Artist - Noisetrade"

Fort Frances is an official "new and notable" artist on for March 2013. -

"Fort Frances - Falling Down"

14 May 2011
Fort Frances – Falling Down
posted by: Lydia New Music Daily

Hearing that an album was recorded in a farmhouse in the foothills of the White Mountains in Maine immediately gives it a good score in my book. You know, it’s funny – I try my best every day to keep an open mind about my surroundings, particularly the company around me. I think I do a pretty good job of it. But when it comes to music, right off the bat I’m a pretty harsh critic. I consider it part of my job as a music blogger – otherwise what credibility would I have when I share music with all of you?

Anyway, today I came across music by a band out of Chicago called Fort Frances. Like I said, they recorded this album in Maine, where I’ve spent about 50% of my life. The best of the 50 states, if I may say so myself. Their music matches the sheer beauty of Maine. It sounds natural, soft, smooth, and it’s something you’ll want to return to after one visit. They say they’re inspired by fellow Chicagoans, Wilco, which doesn’t surprise me one bit. This is an album I’m going to keep on rotation a lot this month, I can tell you that right from the get-go. - Sunset in the Rearview

"50 Great Bands You Should Know in 2011"

The Atlas - Chicago-based indie-rock three-piece Fort Frances recorded their debut album, The Atlas, in a farmhouse in Maine. If you listen closely, you can hear a trumpet echo off the corners of New England.

Other bands include Smith Westerns, Dawes, Toro Y Moi and more.

"Album Review - The Atlas"

It’s been a crazy few days for me and I really needed to listen to some mellow, well written music. Fortunately for me Fort Frances got in touch with us and suggested we take a listen to their debut album, “The Atlas”, and it was exactly what I was looking for.

Hailing from Chicago, Fort Frances started out as a solo project for singer/songwriter David McMillin. Gradually, though, it transformed into a 3 piece with the addition of Jeffrey Piper on bass/vocals and Aaron Kiser on drums/vocals and for the last 2 years they’ve been on a musical exploration. McMillin has a strange fascination with maps and atlases (hence the title) and the album is meant to connect in similar fashion to an actual atlas with songs that lead to different places in time and different people that helped shape the songs.

I’m a sucker for the unusual so when I read that the album was recorded in a farmhouse in the middle of nowhere and careful listening would uncover such delights as trumpets in the open New England air, lampshades substituted for drums and dog barks I knew this was one I’d have to get the headphones out for.

From the opener, “Eyes Of The War”, that starts off like a radio being tuned in before turning into a military drum backed song about leaving things behind, to the closing, anthemic “Cities In Dust”, it’s a multi layered, beautifully crafted piece of work. With hints of The Beatles here and there, McMillin’s songwriting talents mean that there are no fillers on the album, each track easily deserving of more than one listen.

I’ve included my own particular favourite “More” as it highlights McMillin’s vocals over a simple guitar but builds into one of those immense crescendo finishes that always gets to me. I’ve also added one of McMillin’s favourites, “If The Ocean Runs Dry”. You can download the entire album from their Facebook page for free and I thoroughly recommend it. - Listen Before You Buy

"Live at Schubas - Fort Frances Review"

On the last Tuesday of June, the buzz of summer was alive on the streets of Belmont – and also inside the beloved walls of Schubas. Indie rock trio Fort Frances took stage to play songs from their debut record, Atlas. Admittedly, covering local bands can be a grab bag at times, but this was a show worth attending.

Shaggy-haired singer and songwriter David McMillin is the band’s frontman, joined by Jeffrey Piper on bass and Aaron Kiser on drums. Their musical versatility was appreciated. Both McMillin and Piper took turns behind the keys and switched guitars; Piper and Kiser regularly chimed in for harmonized vocals; and in a move that would make Tom Petty proud, McMillin broke out the harmonica for a song.

With musical influences ranging from The Beatles to Josh Ritter and Margot and the Nuclear So and Sos, it was evident that McMillin has a keen talent for interpreting inspiration into new music with memorable hooks. Lyrics were always heart felt, often textured with just a tinge of twang. Transitions into and out of the bridge of songs are very well written on this record, and shined in live performance.

There were moments when Fort Frances showed colors of being a newer band; like when McMillin admitted to being out of tune on a song when more than half the crowd likely couldn’t tell. While the band frontman was the most present on stage, he did not often make eye contact, which was a missed opportunity to connect to people more. There was also a pattern in the structure of many songs; a slow start begins at a simmer, then evolves into a well composed chorus that builds to a boil by song’s end. Nothing wrong with a formula that works, though frequent use of that approach invites predictability.

On “Hard Earned Heart” McMillin delivered the lyrics with just the right balance of angst and composure. “Everywhere I turn. Everything I burn. All that I need and I know I can’t have. Breakin’ like a sun, sleeping like a gun, waiting to go off on my past…” This treasure of well paced lyrics is buried nearly 2 minutes into the track and only lasts about 20 seconds, yet defines the impact of the song’s message. It felt like a tease of impassioned greatness among the sea of a gloomy and repetitive refrain that would be appropriate for wallowing.

That said, there was an overflowing handful of shining moments that stood out among any less refined edges. The band’s rousing cover of Paul Simon’s “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover” can’t go unmentioned, but their original songs are most noteworthy. “The Ghosts of California” sounds like something crafted by the able hands of Jakob Dylan. McMillin sang the lyrics, “It’s a good year for leaving. It’s a good year for letting go,” with the maturity of a seasoned performer. ”If the Ocean Runs Dry” comes out the gate with a solid pairing of guitar chords and percussion that sets the tone for the repeat-worthy song it proves to be. In “Cities to Dust” – a track with drums that enthrall and a piano ending that would tie the song up with a neat bow if it could – McMillin sings, “All of us love to cover cities in the dust of all we’ve done wrong. Come on, let’s give history something to say about when we’re long gone.” On a new track, apparently not on this record, McMillin had moments that evoked the gentle magic in David Gray’s vocals. As further evidence of poetic lyrics, he sang, “We were always good at falling into pieces.”

Beautiful lyrics, impressive arrangements, artful musicians and a soulful performance. With more practice and time, Fort Frances has real potential to craft songs that will connect with a wide audience on a meaningful level.

- Lost In Concert

"Fort Frances - Best Albums So Far 2011"

The Atlas clocks in at #7 on Music Defined's Top 10 So Far of 2011, including The Decemberists, Okkervil River, Smith Westerns and others. - Music Defined

"Fort Frances Voted Runners-Up for Best New Band"


Fort Frances
Smith Westerns - Chicago Reader

"Popstache Featured MP3 of the Day"

Here’s a track from the Chicago band Fort Frances. This track debuted on our second mixtape, Stubble vol. II, and has gotten a positive reaction. So, we thought we’d highlight it again for anyone that may have missed it. - Popstache

"Chicago's New Band to Watch!"

On a raining Sunday night in February here in Chicago, Fort Frances played to a sold out crowd at Schubas. I was delighted when David (leader singer) reached out to me a few weeks before. I heard the song "Falling Down" (which you can listen to above), and I knew I had to go check them out live. They are such an amazing band to say the least, I actually went ahead and shared their music with friends one saying "these guys should be on the radio."

The passion really breaks through in every song, you listen to every song, and are nearly sitting on your seat waiting to hear the next which comes up and seems to be just as good as the one before.

Fort Frances is a band located right here and Chicago, and has shows coming up, Stic readers, you should all go check them out! These guys are going places! -

"Fort Frances at Schubas 2.20.2011"

fort frances at schubas // 2.20.2011

by bla on February 22, 2011 in fort frances

so J and i had a great time sunday night at fort frances’ album release show, a celebration of the trio dropping a fantastic full-length entitled the atlas. we got there slightly late, completely missed the openers (the welcome) and had to post-up just about as far back as we could be (conveniently located next to the bar). luckily, schubas chicago is just about the greatest small venue on the planet, and there isn’t a bad spot in the room.

the indie-rock band was playing to a sold-out, home town crowd (two of the guys live a few short blocks from the venue), and you could certainly tell that they had a lot of big supporters in attendance…lively, singing along, dancing and having a generally grand ol’ time. david mcmillin, jeffrey piper and aaron kiser played the the atlas all the way through, as well as a great tune not found on the album (for that one, they hopped off the stage and played amongst the crowd). you never really know what a freshly discovered band will sound like live, and fort frances did not disappoint. the rhythms were tight, and the lead vocals and harmonies were spot on.

best of all, the guys gladly accepted the round of rolling rocks i had promised and were happy to chat for a few minutes after the set. great fellas making great music.

my introduction to fort frances was made possible by ian over at 1146miles, so please head over here to read his review of the album. for your enjoyment, below are a few sample tracks for streaming. if you like what you hear, the atlas is available for purchase on iTunes, and you can grab a free track on their website… -

"1146 Miles Reviews The Atlas"

[Album Review] Fort Frances – The Atlas
By Ian on Feb. 14, 2011

Fort Frances - The Atlas

Do you remember the choose your adventure books from childhood? I always loved how you got to decide the fate of the story–not how it would start, but where it went, and how ended it. It was a novel idea when you’re a kid, but I have to admit it’s been awhile since I chose my last adventure. It’s not that I think I’ve outgrown those books or the idea of choosing the ending. Hardly. Those books serve as a preface to many of the realities of life. I believe that you get to choose what you make of life and in one particular arena of life, love. I believe that you get to choose the ending in love. Some people will be cruel and choose this Valentine’s Day to end it and others will choose for it to never end. Some will end it with an argument full of fireworks that rival the greatest New Year’s celebration and others will end it over the phone from over a thousand miles away.

Life and love would be easier with a guide or map or atlas. Something to give a sense of direction. I know I’m searching for someone, something. I also know I’m not alone in my search. David McMillan of Fort Frances sent over an album inspired by the same sentiments and it expressed a lot of what I would love to say in a beautiful collection of songs. Joining David, Aaron Kiser and Jeff Piper complete the band’s lineup (for more information, check out their website and Facebook).

The Atlas is an album where the songs are meant to serve like pages in an atlas to show different places and different ways to get there, which is in and of itself is a neat concept. The reason I chose to highlight the debut album of Fort Frances was the music though.

The Chicago band was undoubtedly influenced by love, the search for direction, the atlas concept, and hometown heroes Wilco. I like to call it a collection of songs because it fits the atlas concept and the music. The songs are related and tied together like a string binding a stack of maps together but they don’t always flow smoothly into one and another. The connections are disjointed at times but that doesn’t deny that there is a connection. The plot sometimes turns in stories and the mood sometimes swings in relationships. That’s certainly the case in love, where the emotion can swing wildly and freely. And that’s certainly the case in stories where you get to choose the ending.

That’s why I connected to the songs and the album. I got the sense that I’m getting to decide which of the directions The Atlas lays out to go. Practically, every song has a stand out line that resonates with the listener and provides direction.

It all starts with Eyes of the War. The introductory song creates a high expectation of lyricism thoughout the album once you sit there and listen to lines like “Watch your life play like a movie, that won’t make the big screen, but you’re every critic’s darling, on the cover of magazines.” Coupled with the broken up, repeating sections of “Everybody wants to know how everything will be easily left behind,” the lyrics of first song stood out to me. Sung over a slightly atmospheric sound, my pensiveness set in, as is the case with other albums that I label as good. The second song is Falling Down. I’ve attached it below. It was the song originally sent to me and I loved it so much that I went out to listen to more on my own. If I like song so much that I’m going out to look for more, there’s a good chance that I’m going to post a rambling tribute in album review format. I mean it as one of the highest honors I can give. Where Falling Down started to gain my affection, The Ghost of California clinched it. My favorite song on the album sees another round of excellent lines starting with “Tell me, what it takes to remember” and ending with “It’s a good year for leaving, it’s a good year for letting go” sung in a slightly raspy voice that could not sound better to me. The latter lyric highlights the choice the listener has in deciding fate. Is the song about being the ones to leave or being the ones left? Even after all these listens, I waffle on the answer. The album transitions to White Roses, a fittingly elegiac song. Almost immediately, I decided that it would be the song to send to someone particular if I ever should send anything. From there it was onto Hard Earned Heart and the line “Everyone I know looks for love to feel young again” that simply gave me the chills. More is the one song on the album where the lyrics could be gibberish and I’d still love it. It builds incredibly over the last two minutes. The album concludes with Cities in Dust. Be ready to prepare yourself and to turn up the speakers. Taking elements that I love from The Ghosts of California and More and the other songs as well, Cities in Dust answers what the album’s about from the onset with the ending line: “Come on, let’s give history something to sing about when we’re long gone.”

As you listen, you get the sense that you’re getting to decide which ending is for your adventure. For me, it’s probably some projection of love and love lost that I hear in the music. But I get to choose how it ends as I listen. And so do you. -

"Introducing Fort Frances"

Fort Frances (the town) is situated in very Western Ontario, up around International Falls, Minnesota, about 11 hours or so from Chicago, where Fort Frances (the band) is from. And though its unclear how one might influence the other directly, the act of traveling undoubtedly influenced The Atlas, the band’s first LP, which was released a couple of weeks ago.

Despite the album’s travel ambiance, traces of their hometown are evident throughout it. Wilco is an easy comparison to make here, and it’s an apt one; there are times during The Atlas when David McMillin sounds as if he’s channelled Jeff Tweedy. Their music shares Wilco’s alternative country/folk rock vibe.

There is something unmistakably scenic about the entire affair, like watching the world pass by through the car window, taking in nameless towns on the way to a destination. This is an album about those places – the towns that fill in the route from Point A to Point B, whether that’s Chicago, or Fort Frances, or heading back to wherever you call home.


"Those Who Dig - Diggity Damn Good Tracks Feature"

You know, the reason I got into blogging was to introduce all of you to great tunes. I never really anticipated how great having a blog would be for my own musical discovery. The tight-knit community of blogbros means that great tracks and bands get passed around from band to blog to readers to blogs to blogs to readers to bands and back to blogs. Today's example is the lads of Chicago's Fort Frances and their album The Atlas, which I've been devouring for a week.

You know how whenever you have a choice presented to you, you end up having a bias towards the first one you saw? That same thing tends to happen with music. I usually fall for the first song I hear from an album. Even if the album is stellar, that one track always jumps out and tackles me like a giant German Shepherd who smells drugs.

I first came across Fort Frances when Ben of Vocal Nerd Rodeo recommended they to reach out to me. Since Ben is a very trusted musical source, I immediately Bandcamp'd them suckers. I should really set the scene for you. It was a Friday night. I had just had the week from hell at work. I was enjoying some tasty brews (probably a few too many) and jamming out when my inbox sounded.

The first track I happened to listen to was "Falling Down". It struck to the core. I love having those moments where emotional disposition, environment, and expectation all manifest themselves in the perfect track. And this was it.

The track starts simply enough with some reverbed cooing and strummed chords. But as the tension builds, the song breaks into a bouncy, off-kilter rhythm that drags you into the song kicking and screaming (well, more like clapping and humming). The slightly gravely, heartfelt vocals mesh into the soundscape, becoming another instrument. These beautiful sonics continue for nearly three minutes and you think to yourself "this is a great tune, it could end here and I'd be happy".

And then the boys kick it up a notch. The percussion gets harder and and the vocals louder and angrier. The song evolves into what it was always meant to be: a write-off of a lost love. Or a soundtrack to my drunken Friday. Eye of the beholder, eh? -

"Chicago Tunes Reviews The Atlas"

I said in a post recently that I find it funny when a band or artist sends in their material for review (which I am grateful for) and leaves a note saying that they’re this or that. I like it best when a band says that they’re big influences were majorly epic records. With Fort Frances, and their new record The Atlas, that influence was Wilco, with an emphasis on Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.

It’s way funnier when a band is way off. On The Atlas, Fort Frances does make a real connection with some aspects of YHF. Mainly I find it in the quiet spaces between the folk-pop verses and somewhat Beatles-esque refrains. There’s a good deal of sonic dissonance at work in the background almost always.

With Sam Kassirer behind the knobs and the keys, it’s no surprise that a lot of the songs keep in line with the folkiness of Sam’s major collaborator (and one of my personal favorites of all-time) Josh Ritter. There’s even a moment during “If The Ocean Runs Dry” that reminds me so much of Ritter’s “Wait For Love” that I forgot which album I was hearing.

That combination of Wilco and Josh Ritter actually reminds me of another band, one that I think is a more fitting comparison to Fort Frances. Minneapolis-based alt-country legends The Jayhawks perfected a lot of what this album shoots for years ago with their album Rainy Day Music (a perfect fit for the weather as I write this).

The Atlas is definitely more pop than Rainy Day, but I think they share a lot of common musical influences. Fort Frances singer David McMillin has a voice that isn’t entirely reminiscent of Gary Louris or Mark Olson, but in the harmonies and overdubs, there’s definitely a sonic similarity.

I’ve listened to The Atlas a bunch of times now, and my overall impression is that I like it. There’s a lot going on at every turn it takes, eventually leading each song to the same point. Aaron Kiser does a great job of keeping everything moving forward, and Jeff Piper on bass is on point in every song.

Standout songs from the record are “The Ghosts of California” and “Falling Down.”

“Ghosts” is, perhaps, the simplest song on The Atlas. But, in it’s simplicity, it also contains a lot of honesty and longing:

Build us a home made for heroes

Build us a boat to find the stars

Watch the hillsides burn, the saddest kind of sunset

Now the tide is crying, now we can’t escape these scars

“Falling Down” would be the most radio-friendly song on the album. It’s kind of a hybrid of the better stuff Coldplay does and David Gray. If you download and dig the album, this track would make a good introduction to play for your friends.

If The Atlas is anything, it’s a piece to be shared. It’s supposed to act as an actual atlas, with each song pointing to places that share a common directional threat. For what it’s worth, you don’t have to be conscious of this fact while you’re listening. The album works perfectly well on the surface. But, if you want to go deeper, you will be rewarded for paying attention. -


The Atlas (2011)
Harbour (4/23/2013)



Maine to record their debut album with Sam Kassirer (Josh Ritter, Langhorne Slim), the three voices behind Fort Frances found themselves on-stage at festivals around the country, on- screen at Tosh.0 and on the road for tens of thousands of miles.

“Harbour” brings the band back home. Recorded in downtown Chicago, the new release echoes with the inspiration the band took from a winter next to Lake Michigan. But this was not a winter of hibernating; this was a season of exploring the band’s all- instruments-onboard playground. In the months typically marked by the nothingness of a Midwestern winter, the band approached writing and recording with a new energy fueled by the steady pace of the city.

From the opening pulse of “City by the Sea” to the jubilant stomp of “I Had Love”, “Harbour” is grounded in traffic jams and bus rides, towering skyscrapers and frozen sidewalks. It’s an ambitious collection of songs - - songs that are bound to make the next year just as blurry as the last.