Originally published in The Irish Times, August 20th 2010
You must be sick of being asked about it by now, but the three of you were in a band with Justin Vernon (aka Bon Iver) in your native Wisconsin before forming Megafaun…
Yeah, the four of us were in a band together from 1995 until 2006. Over the course of time, it was actually two different bands. Our high school band that we all formed initially had nine members, and when that band broke up a few years later, DeYarmond Edison formed, and that was just the four of us. We still talk to each other on a weekly basis, we all remain best friends.
A lot of people would say that his album kicked down the mainstream door for the folk scene, in a way.
Timing-wise, when it came down to it, I guess the world was just ready for something like that. I don’t think anyone, especially Justin, expected it to be so big.
That breakthrough may have helped your own careers, somewhat – it wasn’t until your second album ‘Gather, Form & Fly’ that people started to sit up and take notice.
We’ve all been in a band since we were 15, and basically, that whole time, we just incubated. We didn’t aggressively try to tour at all. We just rehearsed a lot, played local shows, and recorded. Then when we decided to move to North Carolina to focus on the band, DeYarmond Edison broke up and Megafaun was formed through this kind of momentum that we’d had going. We’d never written songs before, we’d never recorded ourselves before – all that stuff was just totally new to us. With the first record, we were just pumped that a label we liked wanted to put it out. That was the first step. Then ‘Gather, Form & Fly’ being put out by a European label was like, ‘Whoa, holy cow!’. Being able to come over and tour Europe actually felt really natural – if we’d gone over on our first record, we wouldn’t have been nearly ready. I think playing 300 shows really helped us to do things on a bigger scale, play overseas and know more about our gear and playing live, all that stuff.
You’ve been on the road a lot over the past year or two – was it a relief to get back into the studio to record your new mini-album ‘Heretofore’?
Yeah, it was awesome. It was kind of a little hectic, because making a record consumes you, and those who love you have to be very patient with you when you’re making a record, because you forget to do things like deposit a cheque in the bank. I loved making it, though. We actually booked studio time without having written any songs, and it was just really cool to spend much time doing something so spontaneous and instinctual. It was whatever first came to our guts and minds. Listening to the record now, it’s a little more raw, but it was recorded in a studio so it sounds really good. It was a fun experience, it was a literal snapshot of that very brief period in our lives in January.
You played Other Voices in Dingle last December – how was that experience?
That was amazing. I don’t know how anyone can try and top an experience like that; all these old friends who’ve been doing this for years, then they get together once a year and see each other, and the camaraderie is high, and the energy is very positive and ample. What an awesome, awesome experience for us. We were totally on vacation on that day. It was probably the most worthwhile day of our whole touring career, that day.
Finally, you’re a band known for your outstanding facial hair. But who was the first to grow a beard?
Well, I’ll tell you what: the beard situation is in a state of flux right now. Brad’s had some sort of facial hair basically since he was 20, and I think the rest of us all just love having beards, because you don’t have to deal with razors on the road. But I shaved my beard completely off about a month ago; yup, I’m now a completely clean-shaven man! And Joe has trimmed his, so seeing the shape of his face for the first time in 4 years is weird. So it won’t be that unified thing any more. But the beard thing was funny, especially in Europe. ‘Cos let’s face it – Ireland: there are definitely some dudes out in, like, the hills that have got some wicked beards, right? For the most part, in Europe, you do not have beards. If you do, they’re very trim, a two-day growth at most. So to have three dudes with very large beards walking around together someplace, and it just so happens that we’re 6 to 8 inches taller than anyone else around us, it makes us just look so, so strange. And then on top of that, my brother wearing a raccoon-skin cap on his head… we’re really a sight to behold, let me tell you.