Live Concert Photography: Typhoon with Bad Bad Hats and Sunbathe at Music Hall of Williamsburg 1/27/18
Currently comprised of Kyle Morton (vocals, piano, guitar), Tony Tanabe (bass, vocals), Dave Hall (guitar, vocals), Shannon Steele (violin, vocals), Jef Hufnagel (violin, vocals), Pieter Hilton (drums, vocals), Alex Fitch (drums, vocals), Tyler Ferrin (horns, guitar, piano, vocals), Ryan McAlpin (trumpet, vocals), Eric Stipe (trumpet, vocals) and Devin Gallagher (percussion, ukelele, vocals), the 11 member Portland, OR-based indie act Typhoon has received attention for a sound that meshes elements of indie rock, baroque pop and orchestral pop with their material generally centered around complex arrangements, lush orchestration and a penchant for restless experimentation with various styles, including classic sea shanties, Country and Western, Eastern European folk and others. And as a result, unsurprisingly, the members of Typhoon have been compared to other large, genre-defying ensembles including Frightened Rabbit, Bright Eyes, Beirut and Arcade Fire among others.
However, with the release of Hunger & Thirst and A New Kind of House EP, the collective began to increasingly focus their songwriting on a consistent overall sound with a greater attention on crafting a thematic through-line throughout; in fact, much of the band’s material thematically speaking reveals an preoccupation with mortality, centered around and referencing Morton’s childhood struggles with Lyme Disease.
Adding to a rapidly growing local and national profile, they’ve had their music appear on SyFy’s Being Human, NBC’s Chuck and the major motion picture Veronica Mars, and they’ve opened for the likes of The Thermals, Quasi, Yann Tiersen, Explosions in the Sky, The Decemberists, Belle and Sebastian and The Shins and have toured with Lady Lamb the Bee Keeper, Portugal, the Man and Grouplove. Thanks in part to the success of album single “The Honest Truth,” which was ranked #3 in Paste Magazine‘s Top 50 Songs of 2011 List, and 2013’s White Lighter, which reached #105 on the Billboard 200, #2 on the Heatseekers and was 37 on Paste’s Best Albums list, the members of the collective played sets at 2014’s Lollapalooza and Outside Lands.
After the release of 2015’s live album, Live at Crystal Ballroom, which features the band playing material from off Hunger & Thirst and White Lighter, Morton released his solo debut What Will Destroy You — and during that time, the members of the collective spent time working on the material, which would comprise their fourth album Offerings, which was released earlier this year. Thematically, the album is centered on a fictional man, who is losing his memory — and in turn, his sense of self. “I’ve always been preoccupied with memory, losing memory, and trying to recapture memory. I wanted to explore the questions: What does a person become if they don’t know where they came from? What is the essential quality of the person if you strip away all memory?” explains singer/songwriter Kyle Morton in press notes.
As the story goes, motivated by his own preoccupation with “losing it,” Morton was inspired by the films of David Lynch, Christopher Nolan’s Memento and Fellini’s 8 1/2, as well as several different books on his nightstand, including Samuel Beckett’s famed Three Novels — in particular, Malloy. “It made it a much darker album for sure,” Morton says in press notes. Structurally, the album is divided into four different movements — Floodplains, Flood, Reckoning and Afterparty — meant to represent each of the four mental phases the main character goes through when he first realizes that something is wrong, then struggles through the chaos of his situation, and finally moves into acceptance before succumbing to a terrible and unimaginable fate.
Musically, the band evokes an impending doom and chaos that’s supposed to mirror the main character’s sense of fear and anxiety. And to set the set the tone, Morton and company decided to write the material with much more guitar than horns and string arrangements. “I wanted it to be a darker, more intense rock record, so it’s very guitar-based. It’s going back to my rock roots before Typhoon,” says Morton. But along with that, the material parallels the contemporary world. “I was also reading historian Timothy Snyder and was inspired by his take on how America is at risk of losing their sense of history. If we haven’t learned the lessons of our past, historically, we can’t recognize when elements come back to haunt us, which is what’s happening right now,” Morton adds.