April 29, 2009 12:00

Atlanta power trio brings back the mullet


The Yoder twins have bell-shaped mullets and are easily distinguished only by a quantity of facial hair: beard or scruff. Graham and Josh both work at a Starbuck’s in Atlanta and they play together in a band.

“We’ve been hanging out since the womb,” said Graham Yoder, the bearded one. The 26-year-old brothers, who have played in bands since junior high, formed Jungol in 2003.

They started off playing complex progressive rock, with Graham on guitar, Josh on bass and vocals, Jason Monseur on drums and Zack Varner on keyboard, saxophone and guitar. Over time they adopted elements of electronica, inspired by bands like Radiohead, Bjrk and Beirut, and began to use synthesizers at live shows. Jungol’s sound continued to evolve: Graham experimented with nature samplings, such as the sound of wind over fallen leaves; Josh gained confidence in his songwriting, leading to shorter and more structured songs; Varner left the band. “[The new sound] is stuff I dreamed about making,” Graham said. The band arrived in Winston-Salem in the early afternoon, coming from Wilmington on a three-night tour through North Carolina. Downtown Camel City was deserted, so they decided to pack into a Starbucks for a few hours. A GPS search led them to the suburban sanctuary at the intersection of Peace Haven and Robinhood Road. Around 7:30 p.m., they returned downtown to Elliott’s Revue, where they performed a soundcheck and then sat around for a few more hours, sipping PBRs and coffee.

There were about 13 people in the bar when the show began, and more trickled in. No one paid much attention to the music, even though it was loud — and good. Jungol immediately sounds like Radiohead. Monseur tapped techno patterns on the snare drum and cymbal, followed by looped guitar riffs from Graham and moaning lyrics and coming from Josh. The Yoders played with heads down and looked like two skinny cavemen, although Josh occasionally looked up, danced or banged his head. Josh is seen, the brothers explain, as the “high-strung” twin, while Graham is “laid back.” Graham tends to zone out on stage, whereas Josh either zones out or stares into the crowd. “I can’t do that,” Graham said. The brothers enjoy working at Starbucks for similar reasons: “You can zone out while you’re there,” Graham said. Between sets, the Yoders and Monseur sat at a table looking bummed.

“Everyone was distracted by ‘South Park,’” Monseur said, referring to a TV playing Comedy Central on mute. “The bar we played at last night also had ‘South Park’ on.” Jungol’s second set contained more progressive rock — dizzying guitar riffs and hard drums. The crowd, which had swelled and then shrunken to a latenight core, dug it. Tattooed girls and stray guys clapped and hooted. “Progressive rock,” of course, is more conservative than “experimental rock.” Jungol’s experimental sound — synthesizers and distortion — is limited to ethereal moments of whirring and loops, stretched out between songs.

But the closing song was brand new, said Josh, which is right at home for a band that thrives on evolution. “We like brand new!” shouted a girl at the pool table.

“Of course it’s all brand new to you,” Josh responded in a low voice. The song began with a spacey ambiance: light drums followed by repetitions of a synthesized organ. Monseur hit weird sounds on percussion. Josh sang in a deep, sneering voice, while Graham faced the wall and toyed with his star machine.

Then both brothers sang. It was almost unintelligible and stunning, for moments, like the secret languages of twins.

The Yoder twins make up two-thirds of Jungol, out of Atlanta. Josh, left, and Graham, right, with drummer Jason Monser work the stage at Elliott’s Revue after making a Starbuck’s connection with a reporter. (photo by Gus Lubin)

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