Federale: Indie rockers with a helping of spaghetti western

by DGO Web Administrator

Ennio Morricone likely had no idea that he was going to be influential in the world of indie-rock when first asked to score films. The Italian composer responsible for the soundtrack heard in Sergio Leone’s spaghetti westerns, or films like “The Thing” and “The Untouchables,” and, more recently, Quentin Tarantino’s “The Hateful Eight” has produced some of the most recognizable pieces of music heard in film; its music that’s just as timeless as it is badass.

It’s also music that has influenced surf-rock, cosmic-country and psychedelic rock since the mid-’60s. Get into some serious music discussions with members of Calexico, the Good brothers from the Sadies, myself or members of Portland rock band Federale and you’ll likely have all of us gushing at how hauntingly beautiful, defiantly independent and punk-rock all of those mysterious and symphonic, sweeping audio-scapes really are.

Federale, students of the soundtrack work of Ennio Morricone and labeled Portland’s “Spaghetti Western Ensemble” will be in Durango on Sunday, playing at The Ranch.

Formed by Collin Hegna, who may be best known for his work in The Brian Jonestown Massacre, Federale is a decade-old band identifying as both rock band and film-score outfit.

“We love the music of Ennio Morricone,” said drummer Brian Gardiner. “We’ve wanted to make music like that, but more in a rock-band context. That’s how it began, and it’s evolved to the point where we were just doing instrumentals and songs that could wind up in a film here and there.”

The band is out on the road supporting its brand new release, “All the Colours of the Dark,” its first proper label offering out the Death Waltz record label. The independent label specializes in releasing film and television soundtracks, which could be anything from independent and obscure films to the reissue of the soundtrack from the television show “Twin Peaks.”

“All the Colours of the Dark” is a record with subtle explorations of bleak western twang. Take the reverb guitar found in traditional surf music, throw in some haunting vocals and classic gothic whistling found in this spaghetti westerns, and mash that in with the music of 16 Horsepower or The Handsome Family and you’re getting close.

“This new record has really been a little bit of a departure,” said Gardiner. “There are a lot of vocals. It still remains the original aesthetic of the spaghetti-western vibe, but has gone in the direction of Nick Cave-like vocals and musical textures.”

Audiences can be fickle, if not needy, searching for something or someone in a rock band to truly grab onto to provide the full concert experience. This is a band that doesn’t offer chant-along anthems and other theatrics, and that’s good. It’s intelligent music being played live that’s not spoon-fed to a mindless audience, requiring some open ears and your attention. It truly is a show for people w like and want to experience the music.

“Not all of it really translates very well to a live setting. A lot of the stuff we’ve recorded over the years is quite sparse. It’s not head-banging music,” said Gardiner. “But we do challenge audiences from time to time in terms of presenting some of the more atmospheric music. We want to sprinkle that in there because it’s good to have contrast in a live set. But yeah, it errs more on the side of the rock-band side.”

Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. [email protected].

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