The Macks. Photo by Ian Enger

Macks Rock

Eugene quartet updates classic rock for Zoomers

Yup, the brand-new album from The Macks, asserts with confidence that, at least for this young Eugene quartet, classic rock still holds sway.  

“Beatles, Cream or Zeppelin,” Macks guitarist Ben Windheim tells me, speaking to his band’s vintage rock influences. “I can’t think of any better sounding records.” 

The night before we spoke, Windheim and his band opened for The Classic Crime at a sold-out show in Portland. On Feb. 13, The Macks will join Candy Picnic, Under The Clothesline and Dead Chemist at Eugene LIVE!, a series of local music showcases presented at WOW Hall. 

The Macks are also slated to open for indie rockers Saintseneca later in February at Sam Bond’s. All this is making The Macks one of Eugene’s busiest and most promising new bands.

“Eugene is pretty supportive. We get the most people here yelling lyrics back at us,” Windheim says.

The band recorded Yup at Windheim’s parents’ Portland-area home. “We did it all ourselves,” Windheim says, with engineering help from friends. “We set up in the foyer.”

Alternating from garage punk tracks like “King Hell Freaks” to British invasion blues rock on “My Release” and a Zeppelin-esque, riff-heavy groove on songs like “Boulder,” Yup pays tribute to the Dionysian excess necessary in rock music of yore. Windheim’s guitar work ranges from low-end fuzz to the helium squeal of Jack White.

Windheim and singer Sam Fulwiler have been playing together since they were boys, bonding over a shared interest in bluesy garage-punk duo The Black Keys.

Windheim developed his guitar skills playing blues jams in the Portland area, but Fulwiler, a natural rock vocalist, was not a musician of any sort until he started putting words and vocal melody over Windheim’s blues-influenced music.

“It was kind of loose and not really planned. The first song turned out OK. It turned into another ten, and now we have 35,” Windheim says.

After expanding to a four-piece, The Macks’ songwriting process shifted.

“Our best songs come from when we take three different ideas from three different people and squish them together,” Windheim says.

While Fulwiler is a natural performer — his rock star charisma comes through even on a recording — Windheim had to grow into his stage presence. Early on, he stared at his feet, but now he tries to connect to the audience to “just engage,” he says.

While currently based in Eugene, The Macks are really from all over the I-5 corridor, the band gathering here while Fulwiler and drummer Josef Windheim, Ben’s brother, finish school at the University of Oregon. Bailey Sauls fills out the lineup on bass.

The Macks built their following in Eugene primarily through house shows. The availability of space for underage musicians and audiences is a metric by which Windheim judges the health of any music scene.  

“Kids kind of drive music,” he says.

The Macks hope one day to turn their band into a full-time job. “We’re grasping at opportunities,” Windheim says. “We’d like to see that trend continue.” 

The Macks play Eugene LIVE! 8:30 pm Thursday, Feb. 13, at WOW Hall, 291 W. 8th Ave.; $8, all-ages.

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