Portland-based band Typhoon@@http://musicfestnw.com/lineup/typhoon/@@ kicked off their spring tour with a dynamic show at WOW Hall this past Friday. The Emerald sat down with lead vocalist and founding member Kyle Morton@@http://www.verbicidemagazine.com/2010/06/24/interview-kyle-morton-of-typhoon/@@ to discuss the band’s fame, evolution and how Kyle’s traumatic experience with Lyme disease played a role in the songwriting process.
ODE: I noticed quite a number of fans coming up to you after the show for autographs and photos. Is this a newfound fame?
KM: I’m trying to remember the first time someone asked me for an autograph, and it is always a novelty. I would say it’s all relative. I mean, most of the people just walk out. I think the fact that we played on national television once seemed to boost our profile in the eyes of people who like autographs.
I know that the band formed in Salem, but how has your fan base grown beyond the Portland scene?
We haven’t done a ton of national touring, but the ones we have, I’ve always been surprised that people will actually come out to our shows in Los Angeles or New York or Boulder. It’s always weird because I don’t know any of those people, and somehow they’ve heard our music via the Internet. I blame the Internet.
Your music has been described as a paradox, in that the lyrics are dark while the underlying music remains hopeful. How did this concept develop?
Yeah, I like that paradox. To perform those kinds of songs with the form that matches the content, I don’t think would be really worth performing. It would be kind of a morose thing. And I do like that. A lot of my favorite artists will do something like that, that irony of singing one thing while smiling and playing nicely.
In addition to this tour and the newly released live DVD, does Typhoon have anything else brewing?
We have a body of new music coming, but it wasn’t quite ready to play on this tour for two reasons: The material isn’t quite done yet, and we’re playing it a little differently. We have some new instruments and, as you can imagine, the stage plot and stage requirements that we have right now are already pretty complicated — and to throw that in last-minute would have been a nightmare. So, we need to work a little further on it.
In regard to Typhoon’s migration north, was it a collective decision among the band members to move to Portland?
It’s sort of a trickle effect. I moved up to Portland to go to school in 2004, and Toby and Tyler were in school in Japan for part of that year. Before that, we had a band in Salem, so when they moved back and came back to Portland, we started recording this project. It was sort of a magnetic effect that happens: A lot of our other friends joined, and it snowballed from there.
Was there a point when you realized that Typhoon could successfully sustain itself?
Oh, sure, I mean the first Typhoon record was this thing that we all worked on, and I didn’t ever really understand how it could be performed live, and once we started doing that — it’s always been a precarious situation. Ironically, having this many members keeps everyone tighter, and I always say that the effect of peer pressure is very strong.
What other artists influence the Typhoon sound?
I have a lot of influences that I’m aware of and probably a lot more that I’m not. I’m a big admirer of Sufjan Stevens.@@http://www.sufjan.com/@@ I like how he does his arrangements, and he has this sort of orchestral dynamic thing that he does. I’ve been listening to classical music since I was a kid. I think I have Chopin — all the piano sonatas — in my car right now.
I understand that you had Lyme disease. How has that played a role in writing music?
I definitely had that. I almost can’t even begin to explain that. It’s affected me a lot. It had a very complicated effect on my immune system and my health since I contracted it when I was twelve. I think that’s been an inextricable part of the whole writing process for me — trying to figure out what it means to be sick and what it means to be healthy and really the difference, which anymore I can’t even tell. It comes and goes in waves as far as my general health. Lyme disease is curable, and I was cured in the end of it.
This is really interesting. This is something that fascinates me, and this is kind of going offtrack, but what happened was the Borrelia bacteria@@http://www.borreliainformation.se/lyme_disease_is_caused_by_the_borrelia_bacteria_eng.html@@ — the agent of Lyme disease — what it does is, it starts to mimic your own cells, and so your body goes after it, but then it’s like a little chameleon, and it can’t tell the difference, so it starts going after itself. It basically went after my organs, went after my kidneys, and those failed completely. I had a transplant when I was sixteen — my father’s kidney — and it’s very messy, but it’s had a profound effect on me. It’s had a very devastating effect on me, but I think there’s something to be salvaged in it.