IT'S BEEN a hell of a month for Old Junior.
To start with, drummer Ben Muha is about to move to Seattle for work, and while the three-piece is definitely not calling it quits, it's realistic to assume there will be fewer Old Junior shows from now on. Meanwhile, bassist Cory Decaire is recovering after a sneaker wave came out of nowhere and sucked him out to sea while he was walking his dog on the Oregon Coast. There was a log floating in that wave, too, and it banged Decaire up pretty bad; he's got a broken leg and some serious open wounds that are too big to stitch up. (Don't worry, the dog is fine.) And guitarist John Magnifico just got back from a month-long drive across the country following the sudden death of his father. Magnifico went down to Florida for the funeral, and after spending time with his family, he took his old man's truck and hit the road, taking his sweet time driving back to Oregon, stopping in Marfa, White Sands, Canyonlands—sleeping under the stars and trying not to freeze too badly.
These unexpected developments have obviously put a damper on what was supposed to be a more productive month for Old Junior. They were hoping to perform a few more shows before Muha left Portland for good, and they've got a brand-new EP, Crossbars, that they're releasing at this Friday's show. It's more of the same from Old Junior—that is to say, it's roaring, brilliant rock, played plainly and simply and loudly, in the vein of Crazy Horse or Skynyrd or the Stooges.
I met up with Magnifico—yes, that is his real name—just as he got back to Portland, and he tells me about his trip, understandably a little dazed. "I just feel bad for Ben, because we were supposed to be playing all this month before he leaves," he says of Friday's send-off. "After everything that's happened—sneaker waves, deaths, Ben moving—we're just like, fuck it, let's have fun. Everyone's reuniting, getting back together, we're having a bunch of friends' bands play. Let's just have a good time."
A little history here: Old Junior is the spinoff band of Old Growth, the trio of Magnifico, Muha, and bassist Luke Clements that released three marvelous full-lengths of majestic, clanging fuzz-rock. When Clements moved to LA, Magnifico and Muha started playing with Decaire, a longtime fan of Old Growth. Friends took to calling the revised trio "Old Growth Jr.," and the name eventually took hold as Old Junior. If I had to pinpoint a difference between the two bands, I'd venture that Old Junior is maybe a little burlier and surlier, with longer songs and a rawer sound, although that may be due to the decision to record their two excellent EPs outside of conventional studios.
Now Clements has returned to Portland, and the original Old Growth will play a set on Friday as well. It's the first proper Old Growth show in two years, and it's likely they'll play last, to close out the night. Even though it's Old Junior's EP release—are you still following all this?—Old Junior's set will likely be a mellower affair, played sitting down, campfire-style, as Decaire's leg is in a cast and still has some serious healing to do. (Clements' other band Science of Yabra will also reunite for a couple tunes.)
With Muha leaving, the futures of both Old Growth and Old Junior are up in the air—Magnifico mentions an album's worth of material that Old Junior hasn't recorded yet, but that they might quickly try to get on tape before Muha leaves for good. As far as making music in the future on a regular basis, Magnifico says that he and Decaire might play a little with Danava drummer Matt Oliver, who Magnifico grew up with in Florida, and played with in the band Twelve Hour Turn. "We're definitely gonna keep something going in one way, shape, or form. And yeah, it'll probably still be the same, three-chord, dirge-y, gritty, grungy rock."