Local band The Macks move to Eugene, release second album, 'Yup'
When we last visited The Macks, they had just wrapped up "Happy Camper," a 5-song EP that found the formally Sherwood-based band finishing up college, playing local venues and generally trying to find their niche in the Portland-area rock 'n' roll scene.
Fast forward three years later and several of the members now have those degrees, have all moved to Eugene, took a cross-country tour last summer and have just released their sophomore album, "Yup," available on most up loadable digital providers (and on vinyl).
The band consists of Sam Fulwiler on vocals, Ben Windheim on guitar, Josef Windheim on drums and until recently, Bailey Sauls on bass. (Sauls plays on "Yup" but bassist Payden Sternkopf is now touring and writing with the group.)
Ben Windheim, 22, said the band moved to Eugene several months ago, where they have found lots of support for their band, which takes its name from a turn-of-the century criminal, Stack Lee, whose gang was known as The Macks.
"It's a cool spot for music," Windheim said the Eugene club scene, noting that some of their past shows there have been nothing less than "incredible." "It was a toss-up between Portland and Eugene -- where we all lived -- and eventually we'd like to live in Portland again but our drummer is still in school at the U of O…"
(For the record, Windheim graduated from Oregon State University with a computer science degree and Fulwiler received a degree in general social sciences from the University of Oregon.)
While Windheim said Eugene is rooted in what some might call the stereotypical Oregon Country Fair jam-type of music, there's also an active blues, punk, heady jazz and straight up rock 'n' roll scene as well. Windheim said what he believes gives them an edge is that they have a little more bite to their sound, a bite based on attitude that has become a little more jaded with time.
"Our sound is a little sharper in that it cuts through more," Windheim said in explaining the band's style of music. "It's a little (more) heavier-hitting. We change up our rhythms all the time so we keep it pretty exciting I would say."
At the same time, Windheim, who formed the band while still a student at Sherwood High School, has praise for the maturing vocals of bandmate Fulwiler.
"As we get better as a band, he gets better as a singer and better as a writer for himself," he said. "He's never had a problem with being an honest, interesting writer."
Fulwiler admits words have always been important to him, especially words put together in the form of poetry.
"Poetry was actually how I got into music. I didn't start playing an instrument … until I was 18," said Fulwiler. "Throughout high school I was really into writing but I don't have the attention span for you know, an essay or a novel or anything. I like poems because they get to the point and they can be whatever you want them to be."
Those poems -- or lyrics as it were -- are noticeable on such "Yup," cuts as "Sick Exotic Bird Parade," a tune that takes its name from a Conan O'Brien sketch from the 1990s. Windheim said his direction to Fulwiler was simply to come up with a song that had those words in the title.
Fulwiler did, using numerous bird puns.
Musically, the song reflects the band's bluesy roots as well.
"You know you can hear that in all the guitar licks but the beat is driving the riff. It's very circular," said Windheim, calling it definitely an identity piece for the band.
Fulwiler said on an average it takes him two days to write the lyrics. And more often than not, the vocalist comes up with some compelling lyrics.
Take "King Hell Freaks."
"That one I actually worked on (during) a family trip," said Fulwiler.
Having already had the music recorded to his smartphone, he penned it while driving through rural New York.
"We drove through this small town of Richmanville and it just had some odd characters doing some odd stuff out there," recalled Fulwiler. "I think I just started writing about that. I actually picked four different characters and each verse, each section is dedicated to a specific character that live in this town."
"Punch drunk, it's that blonde desire tirefire,Burning her belongings in a dumpster with a Bic lighter,She smiles and waves,Her .22 at me,I run and duck for cover before I catch a bullet' between the cheeks,I'm on the run, leave me alone."
There's also the song "Boulder," a piece about a former landlord that Fulwiler did not have the best relationship with.
Guitarist Windheim said "Yup" was recorded in Sherwood at his parent's home where they set up Josef Windheim's drums in a foyer that had tall ceilings
"We spent a lot of time just … making sure the drums sounded the way we wanted because there was a very particular vision," said Windheim. That vision included putting microphones on the floor to create the exact sound the band was looking for.
But the album isn't the only feather in the Macks' hats of late.
Last summer, they toured the country, playing everywhere from Utah to New York and then back West to Montana.
"We played something like 30 shows in 40 days, I think," said Windheim. "It was awesome and gnarly and we lost two vans along the way."
One of those vans was Windheim's beloved Volkswagen camper, which made it 200 miles before a valve head blew. That was followed by the purchase of a Honda Odyessy, whose transmission died approximately 10 minutes after heading down the highway. They got their money back on that vehicle and finished the trip aboard a Pontiac Montana minivan.)
Windheim said he was impressed with the band's performances in New York City, New Orleans and Grand Rapids, Michigan.
"I mean, the entire country is much more beautiful than I would expect," he said
Fulwiler was impressed with the tour as well, all 8,000 miles of it.
"It was incredible. Even if I stop playing music right now, it's something that I'll always look back on fondly. You know, just seeing every part of the United States really, all corners of it, except for Florida."
And would they like to play music full-time?
"I think everyone of us would give a resounding 'yes'!" said Windheim. "There's nothing better than touring and playing shows and recording."
Fulwiler agreed, saying he has plans to quit his current job for life on the road and in the recording studio.
"I really want to give this a whirl," he said.
Visit The Macks on Facebook for information on upcoming club dates.
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