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January 17, 2014 at 10:00 AM

There’s no “I” in Typhoon | Concert preview


Eleven-piece Portland band Typhoon plays The Neptune Sunday. Photo by Jaclyn Campanaro.

The group performing at The Neptune Sunday consists of 11 people — just like that other team playing CenturyLink Field earlier in the afternoon — plus a “12th Man,” its sound guy.

That’s about where the similarities between Portland’s Typhoon and Seattle’s Seahawks end.

“There are no alpha males in Typhoon,” singer-songwriter-guitarist Kyle Morton says of his many-tentacled orchestral pop ensemble — one of the Rose City’s biggest bands, both in number and stature.

Music collectives can be insular, even cult-like — Montreal’s Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Dallas’ Polyphonic Spree, for example — but Typhoon isn’t. The band’s egalitarian spirit — Morton prefers “band” to “collective” — is its driving force.

“Years ago,” the 28-year-old frontman remembers, “we were asked to play with one of our favorite Northwest bands, Quasi, at [Portland’s] Hawthorne Theater. So many people we knew wanted to go, but we only had a limited guestlist. We already had a reputation for being a big band, so we told [the venue] we had 20 members. We brought all our friends, and they played various [percussion]… we had two, maybe three bass players that night. It was kind of absurd.

“To be honest, this band was more of a mess back then. We didn’t have as much direction.”

They do now. Their fourth LP together, 2013’s “White Lighter,” is impressive for the meticulous ways in which it incorporates their instrumental arsenal — guitar, bass, string and brass sections, and two drummers — without cluttering the arrangements, or obscuring the message.

Beneath Typhoon’s twee surface — live-sounding recordings, hand-painted artwork, a love of all things K Records and, by extension, Olympia — lies deep, dark emotion. Morton’s lyrics explore themes of illness, mortality and persevering in spite of it all. Rousing group harmonies — everyone sings — turn his words to rallying cries.

Success has been a steady climb for Typhoon, which formed in 2005, graduated the basement-show circuit around 2008, and was officially promoted to the big-leagues last year — Roll Call, a Warner Brothers subsidiary, released “White Lighter.”

As the band’s popularity increases, so do the stakes. Morton explains.

“If we were a four-piece, playing the kinds of higher-level shows and festivals we are now, we could quit our jobs and call ourselves professional musicians. But because there’s 12 of us and we split everything equally, the return isn’t something we’re banking on seeing anytime soon. I often wonder if, at any point, this is going to stop working.

“That said, with this many people, you have that many more heads to tackle problems.”

Spoken like a true team player.

Typhoon, Ages and Ages
8 p.m. Sunday at The Neptune, 1303 NE 45th St, Seattle; $16.50-18 (877-784-4849 or

Comments | More in Rock/Pop | Topics: Portland, The Neptune, Typhoon


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