Typhoon grew because Kyle Morton can’t say no

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Judging by the sheer size of Kyle Morton’s band, the Portland, Oregon–based singer-guitarist has wide-screen ambitions. Typhoon’s touring configuration involves 11 musicians plus an in-house sound engineer, and with string and horn players bolstering two drummers and an array of guitarists, the group does seem to be turning into some kind of amped-up orchestra. Examine the band’s history, though, and it seems more likely that Morton’s just a boy who can’t say no.

“Typhoon is large because I have a hard time not wanting to include everybody,” he allows, on the line from his home after a long day spent ironing out last-minute tour details. “The band sort of started with this tacit ethos that anybody who wanted to play in it who was in our friend group and played some kind of instrument could join. Or even if they didn’t play: in our first incarnation we actually had two members who had never played any kind of music before, and we were teaching them how to play the drums.”

Morton laughs, recalling the ramshackle results, and continues: “Of course, I also just really like the big orchestral sound. I like the kind of noise you can make with this many people.”

As much as the singer treasures the blare of his indie-rock big band, however, prior to the release of Typhoon’s fourth and latest long-player, White Lighter, there were disturbing signs that the group was not long for this world. Morton had been heard saying this was the last record he’d make, and while the implication was that he’d simply move on to other things, darker speculations were also afoot.

The singer, you see, has been battling Lyme disease—a tick-borne degenerative affliction that saps sufferers’ will to live along with their physical strength—since his teens. Coupled with the often dark tone of Morton’s new songs, many of which deal in themes of survival and disaster, the prognosis was not good. In conversation, though, Morton reveals that he was simply concerned that he’d run out of things to say and interesting ways to say them—and even that worry, he now contends, was unfounded.

“I never really set out to make pop songs in the sense of, you know, ‘I’m going to make a record now, and then another one will come,’ ” he explains. “Instead, I’ve always felt like I was chopping away at one big piece of granite and trying to make it into something, and this last record was going to be it. But at the end of it I decided that I hadn’t quite gotten it completely right, so I want to keep making music; I think I have a couple of other things to add.

“Actually, I’m excited by the idea that there’s perhaps one more, on which I’ll finally get it right,” he adds, laughing. “But I don’t know what will happen after that.”

It’s possible, Morton suggests, that he’ll simply find another hobby. But this seems unlikely: if it’s hard to say no to your friends, it’s harder still to say no to your muse.

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