From Lithuania to Buellton, Fort Frances comes to rock

Fort Frances Publicity Photographs

Star Report

The band Fort Frances will headline at 7 p.m. Oct. 29 at Standing Sun LIVE in Buellton.

“The band has a personal connection to Buellton. When we played SXSW in 2014, we were honored to play The Outlaw Roadshow. The Roadshow is curated by one of our favorite songwriters, Adam Duritz of the Counting Crows. We didn’t just meet Adam when we were in Austin; we also met John Wright, the owner of Standing Sun. John was one of the sponsors of the Roadshow, and we all had a great hang in Austin fueled by six hours of music and a few bottles of Standing Sun syrah,” said lead singer David McMillin.

Three years ago, the Chicago-based trio parted ways with their indie rock roots to record their own take on the hip-hop classic “Summertime.” The song made the rounds on lists of must-download summer songs and landed the band on Comedy Central’s “Tosh.0.”

But the American reception to the song paled in comparison to an unlikely spot on the map in Lithuania. While the band continued to wage the American DIY-band battle for attention at small club shows around the U.S., the situation was much different in the country that is a former member of the USSR. There, the band had become a household name, and the song’s accompanying video had racked up more than one million views.

“We started to get all these messages from fans in Eastern Europe about how much they loved the song,” McMillin said. “We really didn’t think that we were catching on somewhere halfway around the world.”

In 2015, the U.S. Embassy in Lithuania offered to bring Fort Frances to Vilnius, the Lithuanian capital, to headline one of the city’s biggest summer festivals, Loftas Fest. The lineup included Mercury Prize-winning Young Fathers and XL/Terrible Records rapper Le1f.

“Here we are, this unknown band, with our name alongside some of these huge artists from around the world,” bassist Jeff Piper said. “I didn’t even believe we were going until we were on the plane.”

The band’s name was plastered on billboards and street signs. They appeared on “Good Morning, Lithuania.” They headlined the sold-out opening night of the festival. It was clear the band had found a second home.

When it came time to choose a title for the band’s album, the choice was clear. “Alio” — pronounced ah-low —  is Lithuanian for hello.