Federale’s “Reverb & Seduction” Is a Genre Expansion and a Marker of Two Decades of Bucking Trends

Band leader Collin Hegna conjures up a cinematic musical universe of his own making.

Federale Federale press portrait, February 2024. Photo by Jason Quigley. (Jason Quigley)

“I showed up one day, and over half of my prized possessions were gone.”

Back in March, Collin Hegna had a major problem. His Northeast Portland studio had been broken into, with an estimated $12,000 worth of gear looted. This wasn’t the first time the musician had been burgled. In fact, it happened twice with the most famous band he is associated with—psych-rock revivalists The Brian Jonestown Massacre—in New York City in 2006 and right here in Portland just before a show in 2022.

Fortunately, Hegna was able to recover most of his gear. While he optimistically points out that “people can steal your shit, but they can’t take your creativity away,” the incident threatened to at least momentarily derail a busy career that currently finds him celebrating the 20th anniversary of his band Federale and the release of their new album, Reverb & Seduction, on Jealous Butcher Records, with a release show at Mississippi Studios on July 12.

Reverb & Seduction marks the culmination of Hegna’s journey of conjuring up a cinematic musical universe of his own making. Though he has never strayed fully away from the Ennio Morricone-scored, spaghetti Western-meets-psych-rock vision he shared with best friend and bandmate Ryan Sumner, who tragically died before they ever recorded and released a record, the Federale sound has evolved into something more expansive.

“When we first started, it was a very different concept,” Hegna says. “We had a band called Cocaine Unicorn, and that was more of a ‘60s revivalist Velvet Underground sort of thing. That band broke up, and from its ashes, Federale was born. It was inspired by film. Then, over time, I started incorporating different genres. It sort of expanded bit by bit.”

That expansion has been honed through various iterations of the band over the past two decades and can be heard all over Reverb & Seduction. This time around, Hegna layers in more of his brooding and feisty baritone, channeling crooners like Lee Hazlewood, Nick Cave and Orville Peck. As frontman, Hegna revels in morphing into different musical personas and styles throughout the album.

The band’s signature surf rock-Western-psychedelia is very much intact on Reverb & Seduction, but he also works in a heavy New Wave sound with ‘80s-style vocals reminiscent of acts like Depeche Mode and Tears for Fears. Hegna cites influences ranging from the film Drive and its soundtrack of retro-sounding electronic music to ‘80s slasher flicks and John Carpenter scores.

“It felt strange to keep doing the same thing over and over, so at a certain point, I decided there were no boundaries,” Hegna says. “I think the original seed idea still exists in the new stuff we do.”

This even comes down to the lyrics, with Hegna looking outward toward films he loves instead of mining his own emotions. “Sometimes I’ll mash up in my brain like a ‘60s giallo film and an ‘80s slasher film and think, wouldn’t that be cool to see what these would sound like? That kind of takes me to different areas than I would get to if I was just sitting down with a guitar telling you about my feelings.”

Despite these new sounds, even longtime Federale fans will find plenty of cinematic imagery evoking the gothic West sprinkled throughout Reverb & Seduction.

Much like the sprawling films he draws musical inspiration from, Hegna once again cast an ensemble of Portland talent to join him on the album. It features members of well-known local bands The Shivas, Roselit Bone, Dandy Warhols, Rogue Wave and Delines.

“I love that there’s so many creative folks in Portland doing a lot of really cool stuff. I’ve been to a lot of different places, and Portland has one of the most vibrant art and music scenes,” Hegna says.

He cites this collaborative approach as well as the fact that Federale has never been pigeonholed into one genre as key factors to the band’s longevity and their ability to pull a crowd two decades in. Maybe it’s this sense of optimism that has allowed Hegna to persevere through the ups and downs of life as a working musician and ultimately make Reverb & Seduction his band’s finest work yet.

“When you have a band that’s never been a trendy genre band for 20 years, you’re not really doing it because you’re trying to get popular,” Hegna says “I think it’s funny how trends come and go, but we’ve never been in step with what’s going on.”

SEE IT: Federale plays at Mississippi Studios, 3939 N Mississippi Ave., 503-288-3895, mississippistudios.com. 8:30 pm Friday, July 12. $18. 21+.

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