By Jack Besterman | November 15, 2021
The Campus Center around the Orb stage is sparsely populated as Trevor Tunison and Nyna Nelson warm up and tune their instruments. If anyone is paying attention, it is only peripherally as they go about their normal conversations. As the show starts, their gentle melodies clash with the Bruno Mars song blasting from Baba’s Pizza. Their first few songs are met with scatters of applause. But as the show progresses, the fluorescent lights go down, highlighting the string lights hanging from the ceiling. The crowd grows as more people come to see the source of the voices singing in beautiful two-part harmony.
Their sound is relaxed and uplifting. It’s a perfect fit for the atmosphere of the Campus Center: engaging enough for those there to see the show, but soft enough to add background music to students going about their evening. By the time they finish their set, a small group of students has gathered around to appreciate the indie folk stylings of Fort Vine.
The band was invited to play two shows on the 10th and the 11th of November by Karla Jaime-Benitez, the Director for Campus Center Management, who went to UAlbany with Trevor’s sister and has gone camping with them before. The timing aligned perfectly with other shows they were set to play in the area. Before their first show, I got a chance to sit down with the band. Our interview only lasted 45 minutes, but the topics ranged from everything to drugs to spirituality to family.
One major theme in the band’s music is nature.
“I grew up in the Catskills with like 27 acres of woods. My younger brother and my sister and I spent a lot of time in the woods building forts and having fun so I basically grew up in the woods,” Trevor says. “I didn’t have a neighborhood of kids so I would just go out in the woods all the time. I feel very comfortable in the woods and they’re very inspiring to me. They’re almost sacred to me. I feel like there’s a sacred spirit of nature in the woods.”
Nyna grew up in Washington state in a more residential area, but also loved to build tree forts, which ended up being a major point of bonding for the two. They met in New York City. Nyna was pursuing a career in musical theatre when she met Trevor’s brother, who was looking for a roommate. Trevor was also living there, trying to start a band. He and Nyna instantly connected over songwriting.
Feeling cut off from nature, the two found a small patch of undeveloped land in Manhattan where they made a small fort from a fallen tree, some woven vines, and materials they bought from a hardware store. They hung a sign on it that said, “Fort Vine. All are welcome.”
Spirituality plays a big part in the band’s music and in Trevor and Nyna’s life. Their latest album, “Primordial Mirror Of Cosmic Reflection” is a synthesis of their connection with nature and their journey of spiritual growth.
Trevor: “We take the essence of religion and that’s kind of what we’re inspired by. Not necessarily Christianity or Buddhism or any of the religions, just the ideas of religion like you should love everyone and be compassionate and forgive. There’s all these golden points that religion comes to. And also the meditation and going inwardly and watching your thoughts and trying to be aware and grounded within the moment.”
Nyna: “Really it’s all about the quest of being the best version of ourselves that we can be and growing as much spiritually in this one life that we’re gifted, because it really is a gift. We’re trying to do the most with it that we can and grow the most that we can.”
Trevor: “The songs are all inspired by our own journeys. When you’ve got choice A or choice B and usually there’s a righteous choice and maybe more of a self-fulfilling choice. It’s all about the struggle. Do I smoke weed or do I quit weed? Do I stop drinking alcohol because it’s a more pure path? There’s a song on the album called ‘At The Crossroads’ that’s all about the decisions that we make.”
The most interesting thing about the band is their nomadic lifestyle traveling the country living out of their van. After spending the pandemic in Arizona, they’re now back on the road, touring the country and bringing music wherever they go.
Trevor: “Right when everything shut down. We had a 44 show tour planned for the summer of 2020 and all of that got canceled. So we had to regroup and Nyna got kind of down.”
Nyna: “So we adopted a puppy.”
They tour with their dog, Barracuda, and their cat, Oklahoma, who they rescued as a kitten from a Walmart parking lot.
Nyna and Trevor hope to soon buy some land, build a house there with a garden and some chickens, and start a family. They have plans for a children’s album, which they say they want to develop after the birth of their first child. For them, it’s part of their goal to release an album every year as a musical diary of their lives.
Fort Vine’s music is relaxing, uplifting, and peaceful. They see their audience as people “on a spiritual journey,” and their music comes to life as the background track for personal reflection.