On a typical day, Trevor Tunison and Nyna Nelson, the folk duo that goes by the moniker Fort Vine, can usually be found cruising along the open road somewhere in the United States. “My favorite part of living out of the Gypsee Bungalow is the camping,” says Tunison of the converted van they use to traverse the nation. “When we’re in California, we’ll back it up right to the ocean, light a fire on the beach and spend the night with a waterfront view. There’s nothing like it.”
After launching their project in 2013, it wasn’t until about three years ago when the duo, then living in Harlem, New York, got the itch to break out of urban life and its negative trappings (see: exorbitantly high rents, lack of nature and general congestion), and yearn for something else. “It really stemmed from thinking of ways to play shows outside of New York and going on tour,” says Nelson, who noticed the act reached the limit of their audience potential due to performing in a single region. “I began to wonder if we bought a vehicle, maybe it was worth it to invest in a huge one and not have to deal with the hotels. Our main goal was to get out of the city as much as possible.” A movement bolstered and well-documented across social media dubbed #VanLife inspired the two to purchase a sprinter sight-unseen, spending a year to save up to eventually gut and customize their future home on wheels.
“I drew up so many different blueprints of what our layout could be,” says Nelson who relished the extensive research the quest demanded. “Our needs were also different than other people who do #VanLife because we have a ton of instruments and gear we needed to store, from PAs to guitars and our keyboard.” Picking up tips from Instagram and Pinterest, Nelson and Tunison installed everything from a comfortable bed with plenty of storage underneath, to an actual kitchen with a sink outfitted with a foot-powered pump, and a home away from home was born.
Serving as the key that unlocked the freedom to traverse the country freely, the two soon disembarked on what has been essentially a road trip with no end in sight, exploring the majority of the contiguous United States. “The van has been absolutely everywhere,” says Tunison, pointing out the expansiveness of the Mojave desert and the stunning beauty of Redwoods National Park, as well as the normalcy of suburban America, all chronicled across their social media accounts. “One drive we love is to go from Colorado to Washington. To make that trip through the mountains is incredible.” Sometimes utilizing the application iOverlander (which points users towards nearby places to park for the night), the two have found multiple spots off the beaten trail that they’ve come to treasure. “That app has been a lifesaver on many occasions. One of our favorite overnight places is a secluded spot we found near Vail and Breckenridge, Colorado that’s completely surrounded by trees and mountains and is right off the highway.” The connection to nature also heavily inspires the music and basic thesis of Fort Vine. “The morning light is shining through your window,” their groovy song “Rise and Shine” joyfully exclaims. “Outside life becomes your inside imagination.”
Meanwhile, an overarching virtue for the two is the locals they’ve encountered along the way. “One of the things I’ve learned from this experience is that there are incredible people all over this country,” says Nelson. “We’ve been so blessed to meet so many who have genuinely become our friends we would have never met otherwise.” For Fort Vine, it all adds to the magic of the lifestyle they chose that also boasts two albums, as well as a bevy of singles and career coups (including a track used for an Apple campaign) under their belts. “Nothing ever feels like work, which makes us think we’ve made the right decision.”