“Botany Camp” by Fortnight | CD Review

by Cory Kibler

We can't get away with that anymore; we're all grown up, and we should know better.

On its one-sheet, Fortnight lists one of its "compared-to" bands as The Get-Up Kids. I can kind of see this on Botany Camp, the band's debut EP. But an extremely more apt comparison would be onetime Get-Up Kids label-mates The Anniversary, for a number of reasons. Vocalist Corey Degner sounds a little like the dude from The Anniversary, what with his scratchy tenor vocals (especially on the lead track, "Oh, Audra").  Both bands feature a combination of male and female lead vocals. Both bands feature interesting pop melodies, rhythms and synth sounds. And both bands place an emphasis on honest, emotionally ragged lyrics.
Even so, it doesn't seem that Fortnight is trying to sound like The Anniversary or any other specific band. The band is simply exorcising its frustrations through up-tempo synth-pop music that's heavily influenced by killer college rock from the late 1990s/early 2000s. This is refreshing, especially in Nebraska, where the number of honest-to-goodness pop bands seems to pale in comparison to the number of bands in other genres.
Botany Camp features downright honest production. By that, I mean the band executes its songs extremely well, but didn't doctor the takes with tons of overdubs or heavy-handed effects.  Performance-wise, this could be a super-solid live recording. The band isn’t doing anything that can't be done in the flesh, and Fortnight sounds as genuine as possible — raw vocals and all.
The band really hits its stride on track four, "Recycled Lions."  This is my favorite track of the record. On it, they combine everything about the band that makes it fun to listen to, and then a little something extra is added to make Fortnight stand apart from other similar bands. Maybe it's the weirdly-appropriate trumpet patch that keyboardist/vocalist Jenn Bernard uses. Maybe it's the group-lead-vocals during the breakdown. But a big reason why this song (and much of Botany Camp) is so engaging is that its themes and lyrics deal with something that everyone in their 20s and 30s can relate to. Namely, feeling like your lifestyle and outlook haven't yet caught up to your actual age. The band sings what every other person in their age-range is thinking: "I'm probably too old to be doing this kind of shit anymore, but everything else in my life isn't how I imagined, so I guess I don't give a fuck." 
At times, the lyrics can get overly allegorical and a little schlocky (I'll be your Boomer-Sooner, you be my Cornhusker from "Younger For Longer"; Welcome back from your fake war; how many fictional lives did you take? from "Welcome Band, Bond"), but that's what happens when a band like Fortnight decides to be brutally honest in its music and words. They lay it all out on the line, for better or for worse. And because the band is a group of talented songwriters and musicians, its risks have paid off.
This band is relatively new, and while this record would please your average indie-pop-rock fan, what will be most exciting is seeing where the band heads next. On this 6-song EP, Fortnight has touched on some incredibly unique aspects that separates it from the pack. And I can only assume that the band will continue to carve out a unique place for itself in the future.