Megafaun now Back in Madison

Jacob Ennis, Arts and Culture Editor

Folk-rock band, Megafaun first met at a jazz camp before they could even legally drive. Brothers, Phil (vocals and keyboard) and Brad Cook (vocals and guitar) grew up in Chippewa Falls, while Joe Westerlund (vocals and percussion) grew up in Eau Claire. While they played together in different forms for years it wasn’t until 2007 that Megafaun was formed. They will be coming to the High Noon Saloon on March 23.

Their singer-songwriter left in 2007 to make them a three-piece band. They decided that they enjoyed playing as just the three of them and loved North Carolina so much that they booked a tour right away and formed the current band. This tour took them throughout the Midwest over several months.

“We booked a tour before we even had written any songs,” Phil Cook said.

Before the formation of Megafaun, they didn’t write songs and did very little singing, but had been playing music together and with others for years.

With a tour coming quickly and no songs written, their experience with music helped them get everything together in time for their shows.

“We wrote three songs just in time for the tour to start,” Phil Cook said. They were able to stretch them out and play with them enough to make the three songs sound different every night.

The name Megafaun comes from the word “megafauna,” which are large prehistoric mammals like the wooly mammoth.

“When we started the band Brad and I both had these really long beards and weighed about 100 pounds more than we do now, so it just kind of fit,” Phil Cook said.

Though a lot of people don’t recognize the original meaning behind the name, it’s fitting in the sense that they really don’t want their name to describe their music. They want the music to speak for itself, and it does.

Westerlund was the only one in the band’s first video, “Carolina Days,” since he had just moved to California were the video was being shot.

From their self-titled album “Megafaun,” the song “Hope You Know” has a piano hook that reminds Phil Cook about his youth in Wisconsin and how he really got started with the piano, and the influence that one of his favorite musicians had on him.

“’Bruce Hornsby and the Range,’ and that record “The Way It Is” just really brought the piano into a whole new light for me,” Phil Cook said.

Hornsby opened up a lot of doors to him as a piano player who wrote songs that weren’t typical classical music.

Phil Cook played Hornsby’s “The Way It Is” at his seventh grade talent show, and at the age of 14 was able to meet him. They sat down and had a long conversation where Hornsby tipped him off to other piano players to check out.

All of the band members share in the songwriting and the lead vocals. Whoever is the lead singer usually is the one who wrote the song, Phil Cook said.

“These Words,” another song from “Megafaun,” was written by Westerlund as a tribute to a trip to Indonesia on his honeymoon.

“He’s a profound musician in the way he hears music and his focus in attention to detail with music really give Megafaun a lot of their sound on our records,” Phil Cook said.

Westerlund always has a recorder with him and he records anything he hears that is inspirational, from trains going by to a field of cicadas.

“Pretty much every one of our records has a piece that Joe assembled out of a whole bunch of field recordings,” Phil Cook said.

The future of Megafaun sees them collaborating with a lot of musicians that they really respect a lot within the next two years, with performances and recordings already planned out.