Autumn Walker is a rock’n’roll band. Their guitar-dominated sound compliments their strong melodies, insightful lyrics and expansive sonic structure, but they’re rockers at their core. On stage, and in the studio, they deliver uplifting music that gets bodies and hearts moving with a relentless energy and rousing exuberance. “Our goal is to let the song take us where it will,” says Lodin Fortenberry, the band’s lead singer and guitarist. “Since we don’t have a specific genre or sound we’re aiming at, we just let the music happen.”
Fortenberry and his compatriots in Autumn Walker – drummer and harmony vocalist, Dan Flynn; second guitarist, Cameron Barber and bass player, Mitchell Meitler– work as a collective, constantly refining their songs, making sure every note mirrors the confidence and enthusiasm they put into the music. “We took our time with this record,” Fortenberry says. “We wanted to make sure everything we played captured the original inspiration as closely as possible.”
The band came together in San Marcos, Texas, a college town just south of Austin. It’s a good place to start a band, with nightly parties and a lively club scene that allowed them ample opportunities to play live and refine their approach. “We have fun on stage,” Fortenberry says, “but concentrate on connecting with the audience and playing with the same edge we bring to our songwriting and recording.”
Daydreamer, the band’s debut album,was recorded at Firefly Sound Studio, with producer Asher Zeitschik, who played synthesizer and added the atmospheric effects that give the album its larger than life aura. “Asher brought the sound of this record to a new level,” Fortenberry says. “He helped us polish our performance and get the sound we’d envisioned when we were writing the songs.”
The album opens with “Step Back,” a mid tempo rocker based on a simple three chord progression. Fortenberry and Barber play inventive guitar lines that embroider the melody, layering intertwining leads into the backbeat generated by Flynn’s drumming and a subtle bass guitar pulse. It invites us to be conscious of the little moments that make every day special. Fortenberry’s melancholy vocal adds another rhythmic element to the mix.
Barber came up with the chiming chords that open “Andre,” an introspective ballad. The song was inspired by a visit to a convenience store and observing people, which led Fortenberry and Barber to an investigation of their own behavior. The quiet verses describe the other shoppers in the store, contrasting neatly with the loud cacophony of choruses full of self-doubt and jumbled emotion. “Barking at the Buddha” alternates Fortenberry’s restrained, multi-tracked vocals with the harsh, desolate attack of the band. The tension between the understated musing of the verses and the band’s aural assault creates a feeling of nervous apprehension.
Other standouts include “NSOR,” a blistering punk tune that speaks to the random way that music, friends and inspiration can drift in and out of our lives; “Time in Haste,” a slow, moody examination of the fragile state of human civilization and the title track, a song about people sleepwalking through their lives, delivered with a hint of funk lurking in the background.
There are minimal guitar solos on Daydreamer. Flynn’s drums and the twin guitar tapestries woven by Fortenberry and Barber are the dominant sounds, complimented by the wide-open special effects Zeitschick added to the mix. “The overall texture of the song is more important than any individual part, including my singing,” Fortenberry says. “The focus is on feeling and melody, hence the lack of solos and jamming.” The band’s influences cover the entire spectrum of today’s music, including punk, rock, new wave and traces of hip-hop, but their sound is their own, a dense, rhythmic blend that produces anthemic tunes that illuminate the struggles of modern life.
Autumn Walker is the fruit of the ongoing collaboration between Lodin Fortenberry, the band’s singer and guitarist and Cameron Barber, the band’s second lead guitar player. “We met in my freshman year in high school,” Fortenberry recalls. “We had a mutual friend who played drums. The first time the three of us got together to jam, I felt a click with Cameron. We lived in Wimberley, a small town heavily into sports, especially football. We loved music and bonded because our interests were outside the norm.”
Fortenberry was whistling tunes before he could talk and started on guitar when he was five. “My parents love music. They got me guitar and drum lessons before I started grammar school and bought me my first instruments.” Fortenberry dabbled with electric bass, but it was the guitar and songwriting that drew him into music. “I listened to everything. The Clash, Ramones, Minor Threat – every band I listened to made me want to play more music.”
Like Fortenberry, Barber picked up the guitar at an early age. He started out playing “Wild Thing” and “Iron Man,” but was soon composing melodies and adding his own guitar parts to the classic rock songs he was learning. He’d been in several bands, but was getting tired of long jams and reggae. “I wanted to be in a band that played real rock music and put on a show,” Barber says. Fortenberry had the same idea, so they began putting groups together to play house parties and open mics. After a few shifts in personnel, they found drummer Dan Flynn and started working on the songs that would become the basis for Autumn Walker.
Flynn grew up in New Jersey, pounding on pots and pans with wooden spoons. He played in bands during high school, worked in a music store and went to school to learn audio engineering. “I met my wife Kelleigh in school and, after we graduated, we moved back to her home in Texas.” Flynn began performing in metal bands, switching up to work with fiends in hip-hop outfits. “I developed a driving, groove based approach, with a lot of syncopation. I like to keep the drums interesting, because they’re the backbone of the music, but if there’s too much going on, it takes away from the song. I don’t put anything too fancy or syncopated into an arrangement unless it fits.”
The trio began honing their approach and building a local following. With the help of Rich Cresenti, they produced a six track EP called Conversations, in 2016. It was well received and playing the songs live helped them refine the arrangements and build a devoted local following. “After I agreed to work with them, I went to a gig with my notepad in hand,” says Michael Ramos, the band’s manager. “I was going to write down the things they had to work on, but I didn’t put down a single word. They were poised and professional, with strong melodies and a great stage presence. I’ve been touring and playing in bands my whole life, and they have the drive and ambition that you see in all great bands. They work hard and have fun. It’s a winning combination.”