Spitfire vocals and serpentine blues guitar riffs combine with tight bass and drums on Portland/Corvallis band The Macks’ new studio EP Happy Camper, released Aug. 20. Guitarist Ben Windheim’s allegiance to Jimmy Page is evident in the high-energy guitar solos on tracks like “Love Inflation” and standout “Diana.”
The Macks formed in February 2015 when brothers Ben and Joe Windheim joined forces with vocalist Sam Fulwiler and recorded the Nightcrawler EP. Bassist Bailey Sauls joined the group immediately after, and The Macks embarked on an ambitious performance schedule, playing tens of shows in Portland, Corvallis, and Eugene. In March 2016 they recorded a followup to Nightcrawler, an EP quixotically titled Cha Bunky.
With Happy Camper, The Macks had access to professional equipment for the first time. Rerecorded tracks like “Nightcrawler” and “Buffalo” benefit greatly from the added studio shine.
Prior to forming The Macks, the Windheim brothers played together in a blues-rock band called Stack Lee, named after the St. Louis gangster whose story is told in the classic Black Keys track “Stack Shot Billy.” Not coincidentally, Stack’s gang was called The Macks.
The arrangements on Happy Camper are clearly influenced by the Black Keys, particularly the album Rubber Factory. Many songs are built around catchy blues guitar riffs that follow the melody closely. “Diana” bears more than a passing resemblance to the high-octane blues of IV-era Led Zeppelin. Sam Fulwiler’s vocals on brand new track “Love Inflation” are heavily influenced by Cage the Elephant. The band also cites Ty Segall and Hanni El Khatib as inspirations.
Check out The Macks’ new album Happy Camper if you’re into blues-influenced, guitar-heavy modern alternative rock. They’ll be playing at Interzone on Saturday, Oct. 8 and at Cloud & Kelly’s on Saturday, Oct. 22, or if you’re impatient you can go to one of their many Portland shows in the meantime.
By Daniel Watkins
(Photo credit: Angie Windheim)