Within the local music scene, there have always been bands that musically define a generation.
Within the local music scene, there have always been bands that musically define a generation. As of late, Typhoon appears to be filling this role, but for a band that seems so quintessentially Portland, it’s funny to think that it got its start in Oregon’s sleepy state capital of Salem.
“We all played, all the original members, in various bands in high school in Salem,” said multi-instrumentalist Devin Gallagher. “In 2005, after most of us had graduated, and some of the ones like myself were still graduating, we decided to join up and form a big super group to execute this album that Kyle [Morton] had written, basically.”
Gallagher, who has been with the band from its conception, is also the owner of High Scores and Records, a local label that has been instrumental in some of the top electronic releases to come out recently in the Portland area.
“Tyler [Ferrin], Toby [Tanabe] and Kyle [Morton] kind of brainstormed the whole idea while they were in Tokyo doing this post-graduation trip,” Gallagher. “[They] came back and we recorded all summer long and all throughout fall pretty much…and then spent the last three years trying to make it into some sort of band that worked.”
Morton has been a driving force behind the machine that is Typhoon, acting as primary songwriter for the band since its formation.
“As far as Kyle being the songwriter behind all of it, it was just really natural because out of the whole scene of all our bands, it was kind of obvious that he was the one that all us other songwriters were looking up to and following and stuff,” Gallagher said. “But then I think it worked out really well because…working with such a large pallet of players and instruments is great for him as far as composing songs.”
Over the years, Typhoon has blossomed into a dynamic force, possessing a unique sound and an explosive energy in its live performances. This, however, wasn’t always the case for the group.
“Basically, the foundation of Typhoon has always been a lot of really good musicianship, but that’s also kind of secondary,” Morton said. “It’s like we’re all friends that play music together and in doing a recording project, it’s really fun to have all your friends on it and that’s kind of how it started out without really giving a lot of thought to how that was going to work in a sustainable manner as a band.”
The band’s music has been compared to many other acts, but, in the end, it stands alone as a unique sensory experience. Lush guitar riffs, a dynamic horn and string section and multiple percussionists give their instumentation an orchestral feel. Throw in Morton’s heartfelt lyrics and soulful voice and the finished product is enough to knock even the coldest audience off their feet.
Typhoon’s size has always been something that has made the band stand out. With members frequently fluctuating, the current lineup comes to a fairly consistent 11. This has certainly contributed to the depth of the group’s sound, but has also caused complications for the band in its day-to-day functions.
Morton would be the first to say, however, that the group has been a welcome companion for him on stage. The songwriter, who is known for his soulful crooning and thoughtful lyrics, has always felt more at home with a stage of full of friends.
“I really hate playing by myself,” Morton said. “I just get really uncomfortable and I become really self-conscious. When it’s all my friends up there it doesn’t have to be so much a focus on what the spectacle is. It can feel more like I’m just playing music with my friends and…it kind of takes the pressure off that way.”
Much like the band itself, Morton’s songwriting has evolved over the years. Starting out as more of a storyteller, his writing has morphed into something more akin to an emotional outpouring, with less of a focus on the narrative and more attention being given to the feelings behind the music.
“To me, it’s more philosophical,” Morton said. “I kind of stopped trying to tell a nice poignant story. It’s more just to me trying to be able to explain things. With the old songs I could tell a story, but I don’t really know what truth there is to those stories. They’re just stories.”
Up until recently, Typhoon seemed to be more legend than reality, largely in part to a yearlong hiatus that the band took in early 2009. This much needed break allowed the band of friends to recoup and refocus after several years of hard work that led to what some might describe as musical burnout.
“I think it came down to Kyle just kind of getting a little jaded about why he was doing it,” Gallagher said. “I remember for awhile, he just wasn’t really into it. He took a lot of time off, wrote a lot of new songs and came back and now he has more fun than I’ve seen him have at shows…at least since high school.”
Regrouped and revamped, Typhoon was ready to unleash its latest recording, Hunger and Thirst. This new album, which is being released on local label Tender Loving Empire, demonstrates a new level of maturity for the group in both its composition and execution. Past recordings had been executed in more of a do-it-yourself manner, with the band self-recording a lot of things. With Hunger and Thirst, the group had access to new resources which allowed it to polish and hone its sound.
“Working with [Tender Loving Empire] has been great,” Morton said. “They’re kind of the ones that catalyzed the whole process…We’d probably still be dinking around at the house, working on demos and things if we hadn’t had an excuse to like make a full-length record.”
Morton also credits the work of Paul Laxer with the band’s newer sound and more professional presentation.
“[Paul] really knew what he was doing mixing, and Typhoon never had that kind of treatment, sound-engineer wise,” Morton said. “It was really cool to see—like he could kind of bring out our strengths and things.”
In addition to putting out this new album, the band garnered a coveted West Coast tour spot with legendary French musician Yann Tiersen in mid-April.
“The tour was awesome,” Morton said. “It was basically going to be the test to see if this is sustainable.”
The band was also recently voted number two on Willamette Week‘s “Best New Band” list. With this tour finished, a new album out and plans for a 7″ and more touring on the horizon, Typhoon is well on its way to growing into a legendary force in the Portland music community.