The adjective used most often to describe the Portland band Typhoon is “big.” That is true, factually–it looked like a parade when the whole eleven-plus member troupe made their way into Studio 1A for their set yesterday. But with the band’s physical bigness and lush, almost orchestral, arrangements, one can sometimes overlook that, at its core, Typhoon is a band capable of spinning songs full of startling intimacy.
Kyle Morton, the group’s frontman and main songwriter, founded the group back in 2005. But they weren’t destined to be your average four-piece. “I’ve always really liked collaboration,” said Morton to our own Jay Trachtenberg in the band’s 1A session. “Typhoon started out as a conglomeration of a bunch of high school bands we were in. We all had musical backgrounds, we had all done music in the schools. We all knew people who played viola and cello and trumpet, so I thought, ‘Why don’t we expand the scope a little bit?'”
And expand they did. The group spent its first half-decade or so building a fan-base in Portland playing clubs and D.I.Y. house party shows. In 2010 they released their first full-length Hunger and Thirst. By 2011, Typhoon was getting some national attention, thanks to warm praise from outlets like Paste and an appearance on David Letterman’s Late Show.
That same year they released a follow-up EP called A New Kind of House. Morton, always an autobiographical songwriter, delved even deeper into his own experience, calling upon an adolescent brush with death from an undiagnosed case of Lyme Disease, for material on the band’s latest record White Lighter. “The illness itself offers a tempting narrative hook, but while it is romantic to dwell on the individual suffering, what matters is the universal implication: Once on the other side one finds that there are no sides, that there exists no great partition between sickness and health, only various stages of dying and various ways of surviving that death,” he wrote in an open letter to fans about the new record. “The record is a collection of seminal life moments,” he continues, “glimpsed backwards in the pale light of certain death, brought to life by a remarkable group of people who hold as I do that the work is somehow important.”
The result of Morton’s reflection are songs like “Dreams of Cannibalism,” which Typhoon performed before a live Studio 1A audience. Instruments to come in and out, and the song rises and falls in movements. The song takes you on a journey from triumph to defeat and back again. The band may be big, but its bigness lets them tell stories, large and small, that make us who we are.
You can catch Typhoon at ACL Fest 2013:
Sun, Oct. 13 at 12:45 – 1:30 p.m. on the Honda Stage