Never saying no: The Macks discuss opportunity, inspiration and location
The Macks have made a point of never saying never. Anything is on the table for the Portland, Oregon-based rock band composed of frontman Sam Fulwiler, guitarist Ben Windheim, drummer Joe Windheim and bassist Bailey Sauls.
The Macks’ latest EP, “Happy Camper,” combines blues riffs and grunge style, creating a sound that has an upbeat grit. Catchy recordings combined with wild, ever-dynamic live performances make The Macks an up-and-coming player to watch in Oregon’s local music scene.
The band’s discography — which currently consists of three EPs — draws heavy influences from popular alternative rock bands like Cage the Elephant and The Black Keys, as well as classic rock idols like Led Zeppelin.
With alternative licks derivative of blues and garage rock, the four-piece posse puts on energetic and unpredictable performances anywhere between Portland, Corvallis and Eugene. They light up the stage everywhere from theaters to lounges and cafeterias to triathlons.
“Our thing was just not saying ‘no’ to shows,” Fulwiler said in an interview with the Emerald.
The Macks throw everything and the kitchen sink at their crowd, and it’s not uncommon to see Windheim beat his guitar with a violin bow alongside Fulwiler’s erratic and energetic dancing style. The frontman can often be found thrashing on stage and writhing around on the ground while his band members are soloing.
The band’s collective charisma and unpredictable energy in-part stems from the fact that the band members are scattered throughout Oregon and rarely practice, which “brings an interesting dynamic,” according to Sauls.
“Every show is different just because we haven’t seen each other since the last show, so we don’t know what we’ve been up to,” Fulwiler said. Despite this, the group’s kinetic stage presence remains surprisingly cohesive.
Although they now attend different universities, the band members are long-time friends and grew up together surrounded by sports and music. Sauls and the Windheims have played music all their lives, according to Fulwiler, who didn’t get his start until 18. For Fulwiler, the idea of a band “just kind of clicked.”
The Macks played their first show in their high school’s lunchroom. “People were eating peanut butter and jelly, and I was screaming at them,” said Fulwiler. “So that was probably terrible.” The band gained footing by playing a multitude of shows, no matter how obscure the occasion. “We played as much as we could, wherever we could,” Sauls said.
The band now plays venues like Portland’s Hawthorne Theatre and Sam Bond’s Garage in Eugene’s Whiteaker neighborhood, but its name can sometimes still be spotted on lineups within Eugene’s flourishing house show scene.
The band’s members are easily identified by their quirky baseball caps that read “Camp Poppa,” — two words that have become closely associated with The Macks.
“Anybody wearing the hat knows me, or knows us,” Fulwiler said. The frontman explained that Camp Poppa started as a bonding experience for himself, his cousins and their grandfather. Fulwiler’s grandfather made “merch” and continued Camp Poppa as a summer tradition.
“I got the hat when I was around thirteen or fourteen and I thought, ‘This is silly,’” Fulwiler said. “Then in high school, I started wearing it every day and it became my thing. And now, it’s tattooed on my chest.”
For The Macks, Camp Poppa has evolved from Fulwiler’s family tradition to a sentimental way of connecting with their friends and fans. The band members and their close friends each have their own “Camp Poppa” hat, but Fulwiler wants the band’s fans to have them too. “We want people to have them,” said Fulwiler. “We want them to be a part of our family.”
The Macks are lining up gigs, with dates booked at a Portland house show on Nov. 5, The Secret Society in Portland on Nov. 25 and Silverlake Lounge on Los Angeles’ Sunset Boulevard later in December. The band’s first full-length record is fully recorded and set to be released this winter.
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