In the ever evolving landscape that is contemporary music, careening between sing-along dance pop, your favorite sub-genre of alternative rock, or the swelling commercialism of EDM, there is a vanguard for what some might consider a cliché in rock music, progressive rock. But you’d be wrong. Queue Megafauna.
The Austin-based progressive-rock trio that unabashedly uses their musicianship to create a driven, complex yet mindful, musical statement in the name of rock and roll. Lead by singer-guitar slinger Dani Neff, and anchored by the heavy rhythms of drummer Zack Humphrey and bassist Greg Yancey, Megafauna returns to unleash their music on Portland, October 30, at the High Water Mark Lounge, and at PAL’s Clubhouse for a Halloween house-party extravaganza.
On their second release Maxmalist, the band zigs and zags through the rock landscape and unearths it own variety of intricate rhythms, time signatures, and musical jams. Neff not only uses her musicianship to guide the sonic assault, she counters with a slightly reserved but powerful vocal delivery, and lets the band’s musicianship take care of the rest.
In a recent Q&A with Neff she provided brief and succinct replies to what makes Megafauna fly. With their tight playing and production evident from the first track Eggs, the roller-coaster ride that is Maximalist immediately projects the edgy, progressive style to their playing. Asked to elaborate on the band’s influences Neff responded, “We’re influenced by so much! We’re influenced by every experience we’ve ever had, every impactful album we’ve heard, every insightful piece of writing, film, or artwork we’ve been exposed to.” This is no exaggeration, the proof is in their record.
With a literal and figurative progressive approach to music, Megafauna plays with exacting control, which is not to say the band isn’t on the verge of letting loose. From the straight-ahead power of Touch The Lion, to the duality of Two Headed Girl, and on to the melodic-prog of Haunted Factory, Neff and Company pull out all the stops, showcasing the adventuresome energy of the band. But does Neff ever want to break out and exercise her chops, a la the classic rock five-plus minute guitar solo? “I do want to and occasionally do. Epic solos are a beautiful thing.” All hail the beauty of epic guitar solos.
Inquiring further as to her choice on venturing into the progressive vein musically and why more women haven’t explored, embraced, or championed the progressive element in a male-dominated genre Neff explains, “My inspiration was playing music I loved. I didn’t ever think that I was strange for wanting to shred on guitar. I think a lot women just don’t know that playing electric guitar is a possibility for them. Things are changing though, with rock stars like St. Vincent and movements like Girls Rock Camp.”
On the sonically charged Maximalist, with all the ingredients in the hard rock/progressive/metal sound, is an oasis of solitude. Not quite Americana or folk, Carnie Girl is sung and played like a sleepy lullaby surrounded by towering walls of sound of the other tracks. And what was the inspiration for this humble gem? Neff simply stated, “It’s about living on the road.”
Behind every title is a story. In an interview with Bearded Gentleman Music Neff described a Maximalist as “someone who can find a path through all that and even thrive and be happy in it.” And on the other side, how is that done musically? Efficiently Neff offers, “Our music mirrors that in the way that it winds and unfolds through wild changes.”
Portland is known for many things, whether culturally, politically or musically, so it wasn’t surprise when asked by Bearded Gentle Music what the band’s most weirdest experience in their use of couchsurfing.com while on tour, it was “piling onto the floor of a Philosopher’s apartment in Portland”. What could be more Portlandia? And what else comes to mind about having visited and played in Portland? Neff excitedly responds, “Portland is awesome. We played a fantastic house show space, PALS Clubhouse (June 13), last time and will be playing a Halloween show there on the 31st.”
Don’t say you could have seen them since you’ll have two opportunities. First show is October 30 at High Water Mark October 30, and will easily be Portland’s best bang and band for the buck. Tickets are $5, show starts at 9pm. 21 and over. Opening for Megafauna will be Sad Horse and Last Giant. The Halloween show is at PALS Clubhouse with Ghost Fog and Talkative. This is an all ages house show. Get dressed and pick your pleasure!