Normally when a band picks up and relocates to another city they’re in pursuit of a bigger and better artistic community, a place of endless opportunity, or even a change of pace. When the three members of Megafaun left their hometown of Eau Claire, Wis., for Durham, N.C., they had something else in mind.
“If I were to tell you our mindset when we decided to move I would tell you that we just wanted a bit of a change from the harsh winter,” joked Phil Cook from his new home. “It’s all very superficial.”
It’s also worth mentioning that Cook, along with his brother Brad and fellow Megafaun bandmate, Joe Westerlund, felt that Durham would offer a change of pace from the smaller town life of Eau Claire but not be too large to swallow up the band. North Carolina stuck a chord with the band because it boasted mountains and an oceanside coastline &- something the Wisconsinites had never had the chance to experience. Throw in the rich musical past of American roots that calls North Carolina home and it becomes a natural fit.
“It was great because I’m closer to the source of a lot of what I’ve listened to my whole life. Suddenly I was in this region that it was made in and it’s exciting,” said Cook. “It’s now my home.”
When listening to Megafaun’s last release, Gather, Form and Fly, it’s not hard to imagine the heavily-bearded folk trio fitting in with the rugged North Carolina countryside. There’s always an underlying thread of folk woven throughout the album, be it the agile plucking of a banjo or the skillful vocal harmonies. The album also shows Megafaun exploring folk-rock and even psychedelia without reservation.
Now the band is set to release what Cook describes as a “mini-album,” as a follow-up to Gather, Form and Fly. Entitled Heretofore, meaning “up until now,” Cook explained that it would feature six songs and run 36 minutes. Expectations are high for Heretofore and Cook believes it will deliver.
“I think it’s just going to keep people guessing. Anyone that heard our first album and listened to Gather, Form and Fly really noticed a difference in confidence and the overall concept of the album. I think that were even more confident and it’s even more of a seamless project,” said Cook. “We’re really proud of it.”
Before their current incarnation as Megafaun, the Cook brothers and Westerlund played in the band DeYarmond Edison with long-time friend Justin Vernon. After some success in both Eau Claire and Durham, the band eventually parted ways and Vernon returned to Wisconsin to begin writing material for his current project, Bon Iver. Vernon went on to release the critically acclaimed album For Emma, Forever Ago as Bon Iver. When most people would hold some hard feelings or even be jealous, there’s no hint of malice when Cook speaks about Vernon. Cook still believes ending DeYarmond Edison was the right, but difficult, choice to make.
“The hard thing was growing up all together and thinking, “If we’re going to make it, we’re all going to make it together.’ It’s like breaking up with a girl that you’ve been with for a long time. After the breakup, pretty quickly afterwards, you realize this person is too tied to you to let anything come in-between. In the wake of his successes it’s been amazing to see that both our band and him have seen more success after the breakup than we ever experienced in 10 years of playing together,” explained Cook. “It was the right thing.”