Dana and Alden McWayne

Jazzy Brothers

The Eugene jazz scene’s influence is still felt in the music of Dana and Alden McWayne

Dana and Alden McWayne grew up in a musical family in Eugene. Alden says he remembers having a toddler drum set in their kitchen. Dana says that he was a “soccer kid,” but their mom made him start playing the clarinet. 

“You threw a tantrum,” Alden says to Dana, remembering and laughing. 

But Dana, 24, quickly grew to love the instrument, and Alden, 21, soon followed in his footsteps. The two have since moved on from playing the clarinet — Dana is a saxophonist, which he took on because of the way instruments were divvied out in middle school, and a keyboardist. Alden has returned to the drums — which he went back to after playing first clarinet in eighth grade, and trying out the saxophone, of course, because Dana played the saxophone. Alden says he woke up one day with an “inkling in his body that he needed to return to drums.” 

Their take to these instruments has resulted in their having a future in music. The brothers have music on all major streaming services under the name “Dana and Alden.” They describe their songs as having a “warm, vintage sound with big horns.” 

When Dana was 11 years old, he remembers walking into The Jazz Station in downtown Eugene, shortly after he started playing the saxophone. Young Dana shyly sat in the very back row, and hid his saxophone under his seat. Kenny Reed, who would soon become one of the brothers’ biggest inspirations and mentors with their music, called him up to play. Dana eventually joined his band Kenny Reed and Stone Cold Jazz. Reed was also Alden’s first drum teacher, and the two credit him for really getting them started in music.

Reed passed away in November 2019, and Dana and Alden dedicated the song “Ancestors” on their first EP, Brothers, to him.

Dana just moved to Durham, North Carolina, from Eugene and will continue working as an organic farm inspector, and Alden is finishing his senior year in Boston at Berklee College of Music. The two say that they spend summers and Christmases together in Oregon, and they are able to record and play together while they’re here. When they’re apart, they release songs, or communicate about their next idea. Dana says he does the composing of the song melodically and harmonically, and then Alden takes the idea and turns it into something they both love.

“I feel like my strength is my ears,” Alden says. “Dana and I grew up listening to the same music, and we’ve played so much together, that when I hear one of his ideas I can just follow it.” 

And now that they’re both on the East Coast, they plan to play shows out there. They played their first New York City show a couple of months ago. They say that performing is a space for them to reflect on how fun their music is, and that their music is inspired by weirdness, and the two have fun being “dorky” on stage. They do Wim Hof breathing, a method of deep breathing designed to reduce stress, enhance creativity, and improve focus and mental clarity, as a backstage ritual; they say performing is a “big dopamine rush.” Dana notes that Alden pulled off the first crowd surf stage dive at a jazz concert in 2019 at the WOW Hall. 

Performances in Eugene and the Eugene music scene in general will always be meaningful for the two. They say they always felt supported growing up in the Eugene jazz scene. In addition to Reed, the two give a shout out to guitarist Don Latarski. 

They grew up two doors down from Latarski, and their parents bought all of his CDs. 

“I was listening to him in the womb,” Dana says. “He’s really a legend in our eyes.” 

Latarski recorded, produced and played on their first EP. They say it was special to record two doors down from their childhood home. He’s their go-to guitarist in Eugene. Alden says, “He’s the GOAT.”

“Everyone in the Eugene jazz community wanted to see us have success and would come to our shows and help us get better,” Dana says. “We’re so privileged to grow up with the jazz scene that we had, and then go to South Eugene High School, where there was a passionate jazz program, and then have the University of Oregon summer camp where we met quickly, quickly, who produced and was on ‘Coconut Water.’ The jazz community cradled and nurtured us.” quickly, quickly, aka Graham Jonson, is a Portland-based musical artist.

“Coconut Water” was released July 15, and it is the song Dana and Alden say they’re most proud of. They say they “just wanted to make a summer banger,” and “Coconut Water” makes them both happy. 

“A lot of times I can’t listen to myself drum because I’m such a critic,” Alden says. “But with ‘Coconut Water,’ I listen to it a lot. It’s kind of embarrassing, like my roommates will catch me listening to it.” 

Aside from music, Alden posts comedy on TikTok under the username @gucci_pineapple. His TikTok account has opened doors for music opportunities, and he posts music content as well as comedy. He credits TikTok for helping the brothers find their sound in a way. He says he plans to stay active with comedy and music, and is excited to see where it takes him — especially with his brother. 

“There’s no one I’d rather make music with,” Alden says. “We just have this chemistry together.” 

The two plan to record their first full-length album in Portland over winter break. They say they’ve “got some bangers cooking up — not yet boiling but simmering.”

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