An Interview with Trevor Tunison & Nyna Nelson of Fort Vine

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Fort Vine are an Indie Folk/Pop duo which consists of Trevor Tunison and Nyna Nelson. Together, they create beautiful, joyful and carefully crafted Folk music, which is filled with whimsical hooks and delicate melodies. Think late 60s meets today. The band itself is nothing if not quirky, but in all the best ways. Named after a secret tree fort which Trevor and Nyna built in a park in Manhattan, their music inspires feelings of joy and happiness. In short, it’s like coming home to a warm hug after being out in a cold snow storm. Trevor and Nyna have a new album out, which is called Primordial Mirror of Cosmic Reflection. If you’re interesting in giving it a listen, head over to Fort Vine’s website here. In the meantime, enjoy getting to know two of the more genuine people in music today. Enjoy.

Andrew:
Trevor & Nyna, thank you for taking the time to speak with us. It’s been a really weird year, hasn’t it? What have you been doing to pass the time?

Nyna:
It has been a really weird year, indeed. After our 2020 Vision Tour got cancelled, we spent our Spring/Summer quarantine in Arizona, recording our new album, Primordial Mirror of Cosmic Reflection in our homemade studio at my folks’ house.

Trevor:
We also adopted a 7 week old rescue puppy, Barracuda, so she has kept us in bright spirits despite the circumstances.

Nyna:
Cuda’s the best. At the end of the summer, we drove from Arizona to upstate New York to spend time with Trevor’s family, and on the way, we stopped one night in Oklahoma and found a poor little stray kitten, crying in the rain. She was malnourished, and looked to be only a few weeks old, so we took her in and bottle-fed her back to health and named her Oklahoma.

Trevor:
She’s awesome. Now with two fur babies, we have plenty of entertainment to help us pass the time. We also have plans to record a new record this winter… so we’re looking forward to that.

Andrew:
Tell us a little about your backstory? Where are you guys from? How did you get into music? What was your musical gateway
?

Trevor:
Both of us had been very involved with music at young ages. Nyna grew up in Eastern Washington State and myself in the Catskill Mountains of upstate New York. We both sang in church choir, in school and community musicals, which was the gateway for both of us. We took piano lessons at an early age and funny enough, we also both played percussion in our school bands.

Andrew:
My understanding is there is an interesting origin story when it comes to the band’s name. Can you tell us more about it?

Trevor:
Sure! Fort Vine is the name of a secret tree fort we built in Manhattan. We hopped the fence on 147th Street and Riverside Drive and walked down the slope of the undeveloped land next to where the Amtrak train wizzes by. We found a tree that had fallen over half-way and started thatching vines over the trunk, creating somewhat of a vine hut. It had a swing, a ladder to the upper level and a nice rope bench seat.

Nyna:
It still exists, so if you find it, take a pic and send it to us!

Trevor:
When it came time to pick a band name for our music project, we decided to pay homage to our little tree fort.

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Andrew:
Tell us how Fort Vine came to be. How did you two meet?

Nyna:
We met in 2011 on the front stoop of the apartment building I was moving into on the northeast corner of 149th and Broadway. I was with my friend, Natalie Colvin, at the time and we were trying to get ahold of Wesley (our new friend who was subletting his room to me) so he could buzz us into the building and give us a tour of his place for the first time. Wes wasn’t answering his phone, so Natalie and I were just standing outside for a few minutes, waiting and calling and waiting some more. When the first person walked up to the building and pulled out a set of keys to open the door, I thought to myself, “Maybe they know how to get ahold of Wesley…” So, I took a chance and said (rather loudly) “Wesley, answer your phone!” And, sure enough, Trevor turned around, with his key still in the door, and he said, “Wesley Tunison?” I nodded. “That’s my brother,” he said, “I live with him. You’re trying to get ahold of him?” I smiled. “Hi, I’m Nyna. I’m your new roommate.”

Trevor:
Wes didn’t warn anyone in the apartment that she was moving in, so this was a surprise to me, but I invited her and Natalie up to the apartment anyway, and the rest is history.

Nyna:
That was a pivotal moment in my life, for sure.

Trevor:
The band formed when my friend, Luke Markham, moved down to the city. He drummed in my college band, Little Do I Know.

Nyna:
Then in 2013, Kenny Johnson joined as our bass guitarist. Trevor and I miss playing with them now that we don’t live in the city anymore. We’ve been touring in our sprinter van, Gypsee Bungalow, as a duo since 2018, bringing Kenny along for a couple months in 2019.

Andrew:
Your music is truly beautiful and singular, filled with subtle, classic Folk touches, and gorgeous harmonies. How did you develop your signature sound?

Nyna:
Well, thank you very much. We’ve been writing music together for almost a decade, so I guess that has a lot to do with developing our sound. Lots and lots of practice.

Trevor:
We challenged ourselves to a project called “A Song a Day in the Month of May,” where we rapidly wrote, recorded, and filmed a music video for an original song, from scratch, every single day. We did that project two years in a row! So, that exercise definitely helped us hone our sound.

Andrew:
If I am not mistaken, Trevor has NY origins, right? I’m from NY, so I always love to see Indie artists from here do well. How have your NY roots influenced your music?

Trevor:
I grew up in New York but it’s hard for me to say how living here actually shaped my writing style. I was sort of a loner in high school and would spend most of my time in my room writing music. I was very into the Screamo/Hardcore scene in high school, but that quickly changed after I was exposed to more imaginative bands like Modest Mouse and Bright Eyes in my senior year. There could be some remnants of that Hardcore influence in my earlier writing, but not so much these days.

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Andrew:
Who are some of the bands greatest influences?

Trevor:
I listened to a lot of Classical symphonies and piano compositions from Tchaikovsky, Bach and Beethoven. I also enjoyed The Beach Boys, Bob Marley and Peter and the Wolf while I was growing up. 

Nyna:
I listened to a lot of Supertramp, Styx, and Queen. More recently, we’ve been listening to a lot of Fleet Foxes, The Beatles, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, Nathaniel Rateliff, Phosphorescent, and Rayland Baxter.

Andrew:
The way I became familiar with your work was through Matt at Too Many Records. My understanding is he had a hand in getting your album Stay Magical pressed to vinyl. Great record. Can you tell us more about that?

Nyna:
Sure! Thank you. Matt is incredible. He was absolutely essential in the process of getting our music pressed to vinyl. He is our vinyl guru and we are so lucky to be his friend. He approached us one day about his idea for starting a new curated record label of sorts, and of course we said yes when he asked us if Stay Magical could be his first pressing. He used the site Qrates.com to handle the pre-orders and manufacturing.

Trevor:
The records turned out way more beautiful than we could have ever imagined, and the sound quality is fantastic. It’s a double LP splatter vinyl, pressed at 45rpm.

Andrew:
You’ve got a new record out, right? Can you tell us more about it?

Trevor:
Yeah! Our new album is called Primordial Mirror of Cosmic Reflection and it’s digitally available now on all streaming platforms, or you can download it or order a CD straight from our website (www.fortvine.com) if you’re into that sort of thing. We had a sold out limited vinyl pressing of 300 copies come out this past December (also on Matt’s Too Many Records label).

Nyna:
Trevor designed the cover art, like he has for all of our albums, but this one is definitely my favorite. We recorded this album in Arizona during the height of the Coronavirus lockdown. Even though our epic 44-show tour was cancelled, we were very fortunate to be quarantined at my parents’ house, where we built a home-made recording studio space. We got pretty deep into the spiritual, meditative, psychedelic side of things with this record. Our song, “Mind’s Eye,” was inspired by the book DMT: The Spirit Molecule about dimethyltryptamine.

Trevor:
The title track, “Primordial Mirror of Cosmic Reflection” was inspired by Chögyam Trungpa’s book, Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior. It’s a hopeful anthem, ringing in the age of enlightenment and peace.

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Andrew:
Shifting gears here. To my knowledge, you are still unsigned by any major label, which I feel is criminal. Do you prefer to stay independent, or are you hoping to garner major label attention?

Nyna:
At the moment, we are loving our independence. We’ve been able to tour both domestically and internationally and release our music the way we want to, on our terms. That kind of freedom is priceless to us. That being said, we aren’t opposed to signing with a major label someday, but we are having the time of our lives making music and touring independently for now.

Andrew:
Are you into vinyl? Tapes? CDs? Or are you all digital now? Where do you like to shop for music?

Trevor:
We live in our tour van, Gypsee Bungalow, so we don’t really have the space to collect things. Although, we have started a small vinyl collection that we keep at my mom’s house in Upstate New York. When we have a house of our own someday, I’m sure our record collection will grow.

Andrew:
What are some albums that remain special to you for any reason?

Nyna:
Supertramp’s Crime of the Century is my favorite album of all time because it reminds me of really happy memories from my childhood.

Trevor:
One of my favorite albums is Smile Sessions by The Beach Boys, which you can only hear on Spotify I believe. It reminds me of my time in the desert and it really opened my mind about how an album can be created.

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Andrew:
2020 was a weird year, but we still saw a lot of fantastic music released. What were some of your “must have” albums of 2020?

Trevor:
Fleet Foxes’ new album, Shore, is on constant rotation here (albeit digitally until the vinyl arrives in the mail), as is Nathaniel Rateliff’s new release, And It’s Still Alright. Those are “must have” albums for sure.

Andrew:
Once COVID-19 calms down, what is next for Fort Vine?

Nyna:
Once COVID calms down, we’d love to get back to playing live shows again. We really miss it. We have also been dreaming about starting a homestead somewhere on the West Coast and building a stage on our future property so we can host summer music festivals. We’ll probably start looking for some land to buy next Spring. If anyone has any land in Southern Oregon or Northern California they want to sell to us…feel free to reach out!

Andrew:
You’ve embraced the DIY work ethic and ethos, which I love. What advice would you have for any other artists who are just starting out?

Nyna:
If you have a vision, a dream that makes you excited to get up in the morning, then you’ve found your calling. That calling is a gift, and you’ll be making the world a better place by following your heart and pursuing your calling. If you put your dream out there, the universe will conspire to make it happen. Ask for help when you need it and educate yourself as much as you can.

Trevor:
Heck, we learned how to do our DIY van renovation by watching YouTube tutorials…so if we can do it, so can you.

Andrew:
Last question. Is there anything else you would like us all to know?

Nyna:
If you’d like to follow our #vanlife adventures, you can find us on Instagram (@fortvine) and Facebook.

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Interested in diving deeper into the work of Fort Vine? Check out the link below:

Dig this interview? Check out the full archives of Vinyl Writer Interviews, by Andrew Daly, here: www.vinylwritermusic.com/interview

About Post Author

Andrew Daly

Since he was a young child growing up on Long Island, NY, Andrew has always loved writing and collecting physical music. Present-day, Andrew is proud to share his love of music with the world through his writing, and the result is nothing short of beautiful: articles and interviews written by a music addict for fellow music addicts. Andrew lives on Long Island and works as a Horticultural Operations Manager by day and runs the Vinyl Writer Music website by night.
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