The best-known success story of that region recently is Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, who played in the band DeYarmond Edison, a group whose sum proved greater than its parts. Megafaun has held their own since then with an earthy Americana sound and theatrical instrumentation.They've got that Springsteen/Petty/Grateful Dead era perfected, three records deep. Vernon's wild success hasn't impeded their success either -- they've played countless shows together, and there seems to be remnants of brotherhood since their earlier days. Vernon even let the band record at his studio in Wisconsin.
The three-piece Megafuan is made up of Brad Cook, Phil Cook and Joe Westerlund. They're the kind of band that is constantly evolving -- more ambitious songwriting, delving into various genres spanning from Southern rock to jazz -- displaying their versatility as musicians. However, at times the freak folk sound has been tamed and traded for more introspective bittersweet ballads like "You Are the Light" or the Neil Young-inspired "State Meant," and tracks like "These Words" sound more spaced out and tropical, similar to fellow the North Carolina-based Annuals. This is expected from producer B. J Burton, who has produced the likes of Annuals and the Love Language. Tracks like "Scorned" blur field recordings with that vintage '70s sound, eliciting the feeling that you're in the desert with the tumbleweeds and gunslinging bad guys; there's a feeling of desolation. "Serene Return" layers electronic noises, a la Animal Collective, and "Isadora" is a cacophony of sounds, featuring bass trombone, sax, violin and woodwinds.
The best part about Megafaun is that they always seem to escape definition. Each track is its own entity, each album captures a different line in their progression. But it's always a pleasure to watch, seeing great artists come into their own. Megafaun (self-titled) was released on Sept. 20 via Hometapes, so it will be exciting to find out how well such a textured record translates live. See for yourself on Oct. 10, wheny they will perform at the Casbah on the same bill with Hi Ho Silver.