Lead Off: Houndmouth
New Albany quartet Houndmouth manage to conjure a classic harmony-driven 60s sound that is neither contrived nor cliche. Not only is this an impressive feat in itself, the outcome is an extremely appealing one. Drawing on blues-inspired Americana bands such as The Band, Houndmouth manage to reinvent a classic American sound to great effect. Their debut EP, released on the esteemed Rough Trade Records, helped to propel the band's distinctive, Southern sound beyond their hometown of New Albany and saw a string of tour dates and critical acclaim.
Here the band share their experiences of being an emerging band in the twenty-teens, the influence of their rural background and their picks of local bands to look out for. With an album due in early Spring and in a string of live dates this month, Houndmouth are certainly a band to watch carefully.
Could you start off by giving us some background about Houndmouth?
Matt Myers: We all grew up in the southern Indiana area, right by Louisville, KY. Met each other during our high school years through friends, friends of friends, underage gambling rings, promiscuous sex and what not…you know…the usual. I’ve been playing in bands with Zak since I was a teenager, mostly blues and Motown. Katie and I played a lot of folk and bluegrass when I was finishing up college, which was just about the same time Shane showed up in town. Turns out we all had a passion for the same music, and subsequently a lot of free time. So, we started playing and writing.
Zak Appleby: We got together in late 2011 after Shane had moved back from New York. Matt got in touch with Shane - they practiced together a few times at Shane's place (The Green House) and then Katie and I were asked to come by and check it out. Katie quickly learned organ and I picked up the bass and we started to make the kind of music that we liked to listen to. We hadn't really thought about being a band and playing shows until our friend (now manager) Chris Thomas came by and heard us. He spread a song we recorded for fun (“Penitentiary”) and got us on a show. And that was the start of our band.
What are some of your influences (music or otherwise)?
Matt Myers: I grew up on James Brown and Randy Newman. I was eight years old when I found out Randy Newman was white...I still have a hard time accepting that. I've always been a fan of soulful music regardless of genre. I always fall for melodies and words that evoke emotions that can only be had in a specific instance...then they're gone. Bob Dylan does that to me the most. So powerful. A lot of people compare our music to The Band, which is a sexy compliment. The truth is, I didn't fully get into The Band until I read the comparisons. I mean, I always liked them, but damn they have some lively tunes.
Katie Toupin: There is definitely a cultural influence going on in our music. People say, "Oh, they sound like so and so..” We really just sound exactly the way we do. The "southern" sound of our music isn't something intentional, we just can't help it. We’re influenced by the music we were raised on and the people we grew up with.
Shane Cody: Two of my biggest influences as a drummer are Mitch Mitchell and Levon Helm. Levon was so loose in his beats and that definitely shows with what I try to do. Mitchell had the best fills and will always blow me away.
What do you see as being the advantages and disadvantages of being an emerging band today?
Zak Appleby: Well, today’s advantages of the internet are enormous. Being able to get your music out there has never been easier. Getting people to listen and care is a completely different animal of course.
Matt Myers: Usually, emerging bands get their drinks half price. The down side is that you can drink twice as many on the initial budget, and the performance suffers.
How has your hometown influenced your sound or ethos?
Shane Cody: Our hometown of New Albany has a lot of history and I think our sound and lyrics are directly influenced by it. We practice in my grandparents old house (built in 1834) and it still has most of the original art, books, and furniture, so we are constantly in a time machine down here with no TV or internet.
Zak Appleby: We are considered southerners by everyone north of us and northerners by everyone south.
Matt Myers: Traveling northwestward will take you to the rural farmlands, and southeastward will take you to the city (Louisville). We are just kind of stuck in between. Barn parties or hipster taprooms… best of both worlds I guess. Meshing the country with the city just seems right for some reason. It makes for more experiences to draw from, characters to meet, and settings to introduce.
Do you think there is a pressure for bands to move to larger cities known for their music scenes?
Matt Myers: Yeah. Studies show that there are more live show playin’ places and music listenin’ folk in large cities.
Zak Appleby: Despite big cities having more venues and more people, I think with everything you can do online or with technology now-a-days that it isn't as necessary as it once was.
Shane Cody: I don’t think bands need to move just to "make it". This whole Internet thing is really catching on, and I think it's gonna stick around. Do something different. Make your own music scene in your community. New Albany is really growing and our first dedicated venue just opened up.
Katie Toupin: I see why big music cities make sense also because relationships are such a huge part of the what people perceive as “success” for a band. Personal relationships in music can make a lot happen. And we had none. Luckily we have Louisville right across the river from us, which has WFPK, Forecastle Festival, a wonderful network of musicians, and, most important, a lot of great music fans who like to go to shows. So while Louisville may not be as "known” for their music scene as say Nashville or Austin, our band may have easily been pushed aside and forgotten in one of those larger scenes. Louisville is a wonderful city for aspiring musicians. They are welcomed with open arms.
What new bands from that area should we be looking out for?
Zak Appleby: We just went to a show at the new venue near where we practice, Dillinger’s, and saw a band named Ranger. They were great live. I took their tape cassette EP home, and it was just as nice.
Katie Toupin: Ranger is awesome. Ben Traughber is great, too. Another New Albanian.
You’re currently signed to Rough Trade, a label with a strong backcatalogue of artists, what bearing has that had on Houndmouth?
Katie Toupin: Rough Trade has been great. They believed in our music from the very beginning and that has given us a degree of credibility and confidence, not just to others but personally as well.
What’s next for Houndmouth? Can we expect an album in 2013?
Matt Myers: Fur Sure.
Zak Appleby: We just finished up our album and it should be coming out early this spring. We are leaving in the very near future to go play a few show with Lucero and then we meet up with The Drive By Truckers to play a few shows. We are really excited to be a part of both of those lineups. After that we head to Europe for a month a so, and since Katie is the only one of us who has ever been, we are super excited to finally go "across the pond" as the kids say.
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