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Megafaun fly to Europe, critical acclaim

 As their stunning album Gather, Form & Fly accrued critical praise nationwide this summer, Durham freak-folk trio Megafaun was in a familiar situation—on the road.

Phil Cook, the man behind those freaky banjo sounds, enjoyed the recognition from the likes of music titans Rolling Stone and Pitchfork.

“We were still on tour when the press was coming in, and it definitely added an excitement, a feeling of validation,” he said. “Validation is always a nice thing,” 

Gather, Form & Fly crystallizes the unique sound Phil, his brother Brad and Joe Westerlund have been shaping since their days in DeYarmond Edison, a group that included fellow Wisconsin native Justin Vernon of Bon Iver. Megafaun blends traditional Americana and folk concepts in a crock pot of electronic and natural sounds. 

“Darkest Hour,” for example, features pulsating African drums amidst sounds of falling rain and chirping birds. This leads into a three-part gospel harmony that surges through a barrage of distortion toward the glorious final lyric: “Over years I had yearned for your light within/peeking the kin/and bury whenever I falter.” Epic doesn’t quite do justice to this music.

Cook said this nuanced, dynamic sound is the product of the band’s work ethic.

“All three of us need to make a record that is an honest and thoughtful statement,” he said. “If a song is missing something, we usually find a way to balance it out.”

DeYarmond Edison saw them move from their native Eau Claire, Wisc. to the heart of North Carolina: the Triangle. Cook says the Piedmont’s musical heritage had attracted him for years.

“A lot of the music we fell in love with in Wisconsin was made in the South,” Cook said. “This area still resonates with such force.... We’re surrounded by so many good musicians. It’s so inspiring and makes you want to be better. There’s not a specific sound, but there’s such a scene here.”

The musical scene—as well as the supportive local community—have made Durham Megafaun’s home base, although touring frequently draws them away from the Bull City. The band’s first jaunt across the pond starts Nov. 13 in Paris. Luckily, Cook noted, they will share the stage with Akron/Family and the Dodos.

“We get to hang out with our really good friends in a faraway place, which is always exciting,” he said

Cook said the band is excited to play the Troika Festival this evening, even though their current American tour draws them away only hours after leaving the stage.

“We have to leave right after the show to get to Connecticut, so we’re going to miss everyone, which blows!”

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