Let’s get indulgent for a second and take a look at the Venn Diagram crossover territory between rock music and weather. While there’s no shortage of feelgood summertime jams in the cultural archives, things arguably only get really interesting when we look at the tunes that focus on the stormier side of things.
Dylan’s ‘Blowin’ In The Wind’ reflected massive social upheaval. Springsteen’s ‘Thunder Road’ encapsulates the feeling of youthful unrest and yearning better than anything pre-Smiths. Creedance Clearwater Revival’s ‘Bad Moon Rising’ is just brimming over with foreboding sky-predictions, while ‘Riders On The Storm’ (as well as having the honor of being the last song The Doors recorded together) contains as much brooding menace as a wall of rolling clouds on the horizon.
Still – these are all mere song titles. To go the whole hog and name your band after some extreme weather madness … well, then, you’d better make sure that the band in question is something very, very special indeed.
Thankfully, Typhoon – a veritable army of musicians who fuse indie rock instrumentals and vocals with violins, percussion, hand claps, xylophone, horns and a choir of other instruments – are great enough to merit such a bombastic name. Combining the bombast and drive of Arcade Fire with the communal energy of The Polyphonic Spree, anyone who has been watching this exciting act since their inception will know that the forecast has always been good.
And if you’re brand new to Typhoon? Join us right now as we delve into their meteorological history …
That Polyphonic Spree comparison we made isn’t just an aesthetic one, by the way. Just as Tim DeLaughter’s soulful pop collective has a member count way into double figures, Typhoon’s line-up is similarly expansive. Right now the band consists of (deep breath) … Kyle Morton (lead vocals, guitar), Toby Tanabe (bass, vocals), Dave Hall (guitar, vocals), Pieter Hilton (drums, vocals), Alex Fitch (drums, vocals), Tyler Ferrin (horns, vocals), Ryan McAlpin (trumpet, vocals), Eric Stipe (trumpet, vocals), Devin Gallagher (percussion, ukulele, vocals), Shannon Steele (violin, vocals) and Jen Hufnagel (violin, vocals). They’re also bolstered by an alumni of previous members, including Jordan Bagnall (viola, accordion, keyboard, vocals), Casey O’Brien (drums), Conlan Murphy (guitar, percussion, banjo, vocals), Paige Morton (violin, vocals), Samantha Kushnick (cello, vocals) and Nora Zimmerly (vocals, piano).
Yet while this massive membership might make Secret Santa a bit of a logistical nightmare, it’s a perfect fit with the ambitious, all-encompassing sound they make. The very first incarnation of Typhoon came from Salem, Oregon (and there’s a display of willpower for you – surely the temptation to name a Salem band after something witch-related must be MASSIVE).
It’s clear that Typhoon prefer to let their music speak for itself – and it does indeed speak volumes. Frontman Kyle will offer up some biographical details, however. “I initiated a recording project in 2005 with all of our musically-inclined friends,” he reflects on their origins. “It sort of snowballed from there.”
What sort of sound were they looking to create? Something “very loud … then very quiet” Kyle enigmatically states, also adding that their collective influences were “Moms and Dads … and each other.” As for the individual elements brought along by each member of the Typhoon army … well, that’s something no-one has the time to explore fully without venturing into Epic Read territory. “Ha!” Kyle laughs when the question is raised. “Someday I’ll write a memoir about it. With a large ensemble it’s always an exercise in applied restraint. With the current democratization of music, I feel like everyone is a contemporary. And that’s not necessarily a good thing. I’ve always preferred distant admiration over proximal contempt.”
We look forward to that memoir – but in the meantime, we’ve got another area of Typhoon’s backstory to look at. Let’s explore the thing that matters the most: their music.
We’re not just singing the praises of some brand new overnight sensation when we talk about Typhoon. On their climb to craft-honed success, they’ve released three full-length albums (including this year’s ‘White Lighter’ – more on that soon), two EPs, the compilation album ‘From Boy Gorilla And Beyond’ and a split 7” release with Olympian indie-rockers Lake (below).
It almost goes without saying: a band whose remit is so expansive is really best represented on their full-length works. While 2005’s self-released ‘Typhoon’ undoubtedly bolstered their fanbase somewhat, the real waves of attention only starting crashing against the shore with 2010’s ‘Hunger And Thirst’ – and it became immediately evident that Typhoon’s creative trajectory had been building towards this triumph.
“Typhoon have managed to deliver an album that takes their sound to a fresh place and captures the intensity and feeling that made people love them in the first place,” enthused Daniel Landolt-Hoene of Oregon Music News. “They open up to share their journey, to offer us a point of reflection for our own process of growth. Hunger and Thirst is a personal house show for your speakers, a sense of community for your headphones, and a spark of truth for your heart.”
Jeremy Alder of Popcrunch was even more excited. “It is hard to find anything critical to say about Hunger and Thirst,” he said. “Of greater concern than whatever flaws there may be in the album is that the superficial and over-processed diet fed to consumers of popular culture in America might render us incapable of recognizing and appreciating something of true depth and beauty when it comes along. Perhaps it was something akin to grace that brought this album to my attention and kept me listening long enough to realize it was exactly what I was hungering and thirsting for. Maybe it was just the really great music. Whatever it was, it came unexpectedly and undeserved. The only response that feels appropriate is gratitude.”
Whem someone claims that an album has changed their worldview, it only seems polite to sit up and pay attention. Yet those people who didn’t pay attention to ‘Hunger And Thirst’ (and we can assure you they were missing out) had better strap back their ears in preparation for Typhoon’s upcoming ‘White Lighter’, due to hit the shelves – physical and virtual – on August 20th.
Rumblings of excitement have been emerging all over the place, not least from the band themselves, whose release statement – penned by Kyle – takes on the unmistakable manifesto of a group exploring bold new territory. “Without my friends in Typhoon this music would have never reached your ears,” he explains. “It is thanks to them that these songs are songs and not just a bunch of quasi-apocalyptic ramblings. We recorded them on a farm in Happy Valley, OR while we lived there for a short, utopian six weeks in the spring and summer of 2012. The record is a collection of seminal life moments, in more or less chronological order, glimpsed backwards in the pale light of certain death, brought to life by a remarkable group of people who hold as I do that the work is somehow important. When we started working on White Lighter, I had reason to believe that it would be the last thing I ever did. It is now six months since we finished. I’m still here and there’s still work to be done.”
Typhoon have most certainly earned the hype that surrounds their upcoming release. While touring can’t exactly be the easiest proposition – getting all those people together would be tough enough for one night, never mind a travelling stint – their live reputation is a stellar one.
Want proof? Performer were wowed by the band’s “tight yet flawless” stage presence, insisting that they are a “must-see” for anyone who loves live music. Patrick Dehler of Bridgetown Sound went one step further, raving that “after the first blast of sound from all 10 members of Typhoon at once, I knew there was nowhere in the world I would rather be. Last night’s show at the Crystal Ballroom was the greatest I have been to and I didn’t come expecting it to be. I’ve lost track how many times I have seen Typhoon live (maybe 6 or 7 times by now) but this show blew away the rest.”
Then – of course – there’s their performances with BAMM.tv, as part of our now-legendary SXSW showcases in 2011. “I loved it!” Kyle reminisces. “I also had the pleasure of seeing Thao & The Get Down Stay Down [incidentally, a previous Artist Of The Month of ours] for the first time at your showcase and I was blown away.”
This is all the distilled essence though. The band had have plenty of live high points – “our proudest moment was sharing the stage with heroes like Yann Tiersen, Built to Spill, Explosions in the Sky, while out weakest moment was playing a bar at SXSW alongside a giant wood cut-out of a milkmaid being molested by a clearly un-neutered bulldog” – and still have a hankering to play alongside Sufjan Stevens “anywhere”.
Most interesting of all, perhaps, is Kyle’s karaoke ambitions. “I don’t normally do karaoke,” he admits, “but one day I will attempt Springsteen’s “Thunder Road”. So that would be the same ‘Thunder Road’ we mentioned in the opening paragraph then? Wow. We knew that whole ‘weather/Typhoon’ ramble was more than just a cliché …
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