In the depths of 2020’s live music shutdown, all of Eugene’s concert venues were quiet, save one: WOW Hall, where the long-running Eugene instrumental rock quartet Egotones recorded their brand-new full-length release, Geodesic Dome, in the empty space, with no audience attending.
The album is out now on CD and cassette from the Egotones’ website and Bandcamp page, as well as available for streaming. On Jan. 7, Egotones play an album release concert, also at WOW Hall, performing the nine songs on the new record front to back. It will be the band’s first live show in two years.
Egotones guitarist and keyboard player, who identifies only as Krispy, says the band chose to record its new album at the venerable venue for the natural reverb created in the decades-old building. It’s also a comfortable space for the band members, who’ve played there many times since the original lineup formed back in ’08. Alongside Krispy, there’s Austin Armijo on guitar, Davis Koier on bass and Jarryd Bishop on drums.
After recording the majority of the new music live, with some additional tracking at WOW Hall and in the Egotones’ home studio, the album was mastered by Eddie Brnabic in Portland, from the ascendant Portland hard rock band Hippie Death Cult. Brnabic’s band joins Egotones at the show. Rounding out the bands on the bill is Fashion Dirt from Eugene.
Playing together now for more than a decade, Egotones came up in all-ages venues like WOW and the now defunct The Boreal, as well as DIY concert venues like the Lazarus Pit. The band gelled under duress and under the tutelage of much heavier bands, with whom they tended to get booked — gear got stomped on by members of the audiences; the power went out.
Egotones quickly got tagged with the surf rock label, leaning into the sound while pursuing eclectic, surf-related recording projects, covering Neil Young’s “Like a Hurricane” in a surf rock style, as well as Ennio Morricone’s theme “Titoli” from the movie Fistful of Dollars.
No matter the style, whenever Egotones writes new material, it seeks to stretch themselves musically, rather than serving one overriding concept. Once it’s all sewn together, there’s often a “a stream of consciousness to it,” Krispy says. “There’s a certain amount of magic between us. We all hear the same thing.”
In truth, Krispy and Armijo — the songwriting core of the group — bonded over broader-ranging psychedelic rock from the ’60s and ’70s. Lately, they’ve moved away from playing just surf. This is reflected on their new album, with added flourishes of spaghetti Western movie music and even moods and atmospheres from the underground Cambodian rock scene of the ’60s and ’70s.
There was no specific decision to keep the music instrumental, according to Krispy.
“It’s always intended to have vocals,” he says, but it never did. “As the songs became more intricate, I don’t even know how you could put vocals to it.”
There’s a beneficial aspect to instrumental music, Krispy says; it’s “a theater of the mind,” where everybody hears their own story.” It’s not just a song about love or war, he says. “It’s whatever you want it to be.”
Egotones celebrate the release of Geodesic Dome with Hippie Death Cult and Fashion Dirt 8 pm Friday, Jan. 7, at WOW Hall; $8 advance, $10 doors, all ages. Masking and proof of vaccination required.