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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Megafaun

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From the moment I heard the name of the North Carolina based Megafaun, I knew I was in for a backwoods treat. Sometimes, just by a name you can conjure up an idea, sometimes this disappoints, but in this case, Megafaun succeeds on all accounts.

This band and their cd Bury the Square was one of the reasons, for not only my hiatus, but for renewing my desire to just touch on music that touches me. I can't write about mindless pop that just passes by on other sites, but have an investment in what I'm hearing. When I heard Bury the Square the first time I was blown away. Enough so, that I had to stop what I was doing to re listen to the amazing music that is created by Brad Cook, Joe Westerlund, and Phil Cook.

It made me realize that I needed to stop and just listen. I feel like I'm a better person because of it and I owe that to Megafaun.

I know that I just put alot on them there, but music speaks differently to everyone and for me and that moment, it said stop and just listen...so I listened. Of course numerous albums, songs, musicians, artists were listened to during the past month, but only Bury the Square can say it caused it, and the track Where We Belong specifically.

Below is an interview with Brad Cook about the band, where they've been and where they are going. Also below is the track Lazy Suicide from Bury the Square...enjoy.

Interview with Brad Cook of Megafaun...

PS: I read somewhere that you moved to North Carolina in 2005 (same as me). Is that correct? Where did you move here from?

BC: Yeah! We came here from a college town in northwest Wisconsin called Eau Claire. It is roughly an hour and a half east of Minneapolis.


PS: Before Megafaun, you where in the band DeYarmond Edison. Tell me about DeYarmond Edison briefly and about the transformation into Megafaun?

BC: DeYarmond Edison was a band that was initially centered around the songwriting of Justin Vernon, a friend that we had all grown up with. My brother, Phil, also in Megafaun, and I had been performing with Justin for about three years prior to moving to North Carolina. We had two other drummers and then enlisted Joe with the move. We spent our first year here redefining our creative process and group dynamic, mainly through an outlet at the Bickett Gallery here in Raleigh. I think we really exhausted our possibilities within that time frame and felt like last August was a good time to move on. Part of that transition was that Phil, Joe and I really discovered a great working relationship during that time. Justin decided to pursue other interests (solo recordings and bands Ticonderoga and The Rosebuds) and we started writing songs together.


PS: Who writes most of the material?

BC: We all do, it is pretty collaborative. Someone usually brings in the majority of an idea and then we put it through the edit process, which for us has really been recording.


PS: I know how you sound to me, and it's stated above, but how would you describe your sound?

BC: I guess I would say we are folk reconstructionalists. We really subscribe to the idea of reconstructing folk songs and folk ideology. We have collectively and individually spent a lot of time studying pre war string bands and depression era folk, simultaneously immersed in 20th century avant-garde composers and a lot of 60’s free jazz. Finding that balance between improvisation and structure. I guess it sounds pretty common these days, but we really try to take it’s understanding serious beyond trend.


PS: Your music seems to be laden with folk and Appalachian influences.
Who/What are some of your / the bands influences?

BC: First and foremost, The Band. I can’t tell you what that group has done for us. We all grew up in Band households and the older we get, the more that takes effect. Older folks like Fred McDowell, Roscoe Holcomb, Reverend Gary Davis and James Booker from New Orleans have been huge. David Tudor, Morton Feldman, Anthony Braxton, Milford Graves, Albert Ayler and Xenakis from the classical/jazz school. Modern folks like Gastr Del Sol and the Akron/Family have been inspiring as well.


PS: Do you feel music should inspire the listener and/or the performer?
Do you think it can be transformational?

BC: God, yes. I don’t think I could tell you how important that is to us. We like pop music and what not, but I just prefer the energy of spontaneity and I love the auditory tradition of folk music. I love feeling like I am learning and involved and Inspired and that has happened to us many times! So it can happen. We try to search it out in artists/performers and we try to reflect that in our music as well.


PS: I want to say once again, if I haven't already that "Bury the
Square" is an outstanding album and tracks like "Where We Belong" are so amazing it's scary. How did you approach that song? It's over 11 minutes and just about in the middle, 5:28 in or so, it switches gears and becomes an intense, yet beautiful journey. I guess what I'm asking is tell me more about this song and how it came about.

BC: I actually wrote that particular piece about a week before DeYarmond Edison parted ways. It is lyrically and musically very much about that transitional process. We really tried to reflect the element of hope in change and moving forward.


PS: Just to lighten it back up a bit, can you name me a band or musician, past or present, who you flat-out love and think more people should be listening to. What's one of your all-time favorite recordings by this band/musician?

BC: Collections of Colonies of Bees. They are flat out incredible! Their last record came out on Polyvinyl, which is awfully surprising on an aesthetic level since they are a heavily improvisational electro-acoutstic quartet! The album is called Customer and it is just plain incredible. Their live show rivals any of the post-rock luminaries as well.


PS: As I was listening to the cd, when I got to Tired and Troubled, I was taken to a strange place. Where did I go?

BC: Joey’s brain! Joey wrote this song that was initially inspired by a cut from the Harry Smith anthology. He spent a lot of time finding the rhythmic identity of the song, than completely recontextualized it as a tape piece ala musique concrete.


PS: I know you just co-founded Burly Time Records with Grayson Currin. How is it running a label?

BC: I love it! It really taps into an energy that isn’t being consumed with trying to promote you own band, which after eight years, can be quite frustrating. Gray and I have very similar approach, yet our differences really keep us from getting lazy. We couldn’t be more excited about the two records we released and the feedback has been very positive!


PS: I think Grayson told me there was a limited run of "Bury the Square".
Will we have a full out re-release on Burly Time? Is there new material that we have to look forward too?

BC: Well, I kind of eluded to this in the last response, but I am reluctant about using Burly Time to release Megafaun at this time. Right now I can put all of my business/cheerleader energy into Bowerbirds and Horseback, which is really nice. Having to share that energy with Megafaun would feel unfair to everyone involved. We would love to find a home for Megafaun most definitely, but I want to keep the two separate for now. I would love to get our own thing going and retire to BTR! As for new material, we are well underway!


PS: What are you up to right now, music-wise? (Current or upcoming recordings, tours, projects, etc).

BC: Megafaun is putting together a fall tour at the moment, which we are really excited for! Joey and I are also doing the long distance recording thing with our other group, Emotional Joystick. EJ is the mastermind of a Minneapolis artist named Tom Wincek. We have been working with him for almost four years. His new record is heavily based on recontextualizing 70’s German minimalism. It is really fun and challenging material!


PS: And finally for some fun, if you could `redeem'' any piece of music,
what song do you feel needs redemption, whether it's by Megafaun or someone else?

BC: Man, good question. Probably a Phish song. We love 80’s Phish and not for irony’s sake!


PS: Thanks for taking the time to sit down with us and we wish you all
the success.

BC: Man, thank you!


Thanks again to Brad Cook for taking the time to talk with us. You can visit Megafaun online and make sure to check out Lazy Suicide below.

mp3
Lazy Suicide

posted by Matt Hayhurst @ 9:10 AM

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