In late 2011, Matt Myers, Zak Appleby and Shane Cody started playing music together in a historic home in New Albany, Indiana dubbed "The Green House." Its rooms were adorned with relics from times past, so it was no surprise that songs such as “Penitentiary” bounced off the walls. Nostalgic sounds from their first album seemed to serve as a welcome escape for listeners from the relentless demands of the digital age. But if you asked any one of the guys, they were 'just having fun.'
Houndmouth signed with legendary indie label Rough Trade Records in 2012. From The Hills Below The City landed them on several world-famous platforms such as fellow lovable Hoosier, David Letterman's stage. When vocalist, guitarist, and songwriter Matt Myers first spoke with big-name producer Dave Cobb prior to working together on their sophomore LP Little Neon Limelight, the two laughingly agreed to “not make another fucking boring Americana record.” A natural sounding album captured in a familiar fashion came together, except this time with a #1 adult alternative radio single in “Sedona.” “I never once thought of us as an Americana band,” says drummer Shane Cody. “The four of us were just a rock band, but some of us had Southern accents,” he laughs.
The group find themselves on their third full length album, Golden Age, set for an August 3, 2018 release via Reprise Records, now with four new touring band members (Caleb Hickman, Drew Miller, Graeme Gardiner, and Aaron Craker - after Katie Toupin’s departure). Although there is no doubt that their perceived public identity is founded on roots and Americana, Houndmouth nevertheless created a concept album around a nostalgic future - and the sound will certainly reflect its message. The credits for Golden Age only begin to hint at the lengths they went to in order to find the sound of their nostalgic future — vintage Voxes, Vocoders and Moogs, modern programming, strings, tympani, baritone sax, live drums, Linn drums, unvarnished pianos and very distorted guitars. “What's happening with humans and technology right now was on my mind really heavily,” says Myers, “and we naturally went that way with the music too. Using synthesizers and drum pads just kind of felt right. I feel like we went into it being like, ‘Yeah, let’s do a Bruce Springsteen/Daft Punk record’.” Myers goes on to explain, “I think the human aspects are still paramount, even though it may sound a bit more bizarre. There's some part of Tom Petty, Randy Newman and the Band that I can’t get away from, and I wanted to keep that untouched, I guess. It’s not about trying to emulate what’s on the radio, it’s combining and messing with sounds to try to make something that seems very familiar but doesn't actually sound like anything you've ever heard before."
Houndmouth knew they wanted to work with producers who would be open to embracing a restless inventor’s spirit, but they had no idea just how inventive things would get until they hooked up with the team of Jonathan Rado, best known as a member of the celebrated indie band Foxygen, and Shawn Everett, who as a producer, engineer and mixer has been a primary collaborator on records from artists as diverse as Alabama Shakes, The Killers, The War on Drugs, Kesha, Kacey Musgraves and John Legend. In fact, the first single, “This Party,” bears a credit for “bucket and rubber band bass,” which turns out to be a literal rendering of just how they got the critical ingredient: by putting actual rubber bands around a bucket and pitching the plucking up or down in tone until they had the faux boomy bass-synth sound of everyone’s dreams. For another song, they cut up an analog tape loop and dragged it behind a truck in the desert outside of El Paso; when they ran it back through the machine, somehow the abuse had caused a spooky hi-hat sound to appear on the tape, which turned out to be just perfect for “World Leader.” As for the jaguars credited on “Black Jaguar”? They’re real — both the car and the animal. “There’s no denying that with the previous records, we weren't hip to all the stuff at our fingertips,” says bassist, vocalist, and songwriter Zak Appleby. “This time it was a completely different vibe — like, ‘Okay so we've got the skeleton for the song, now let's put the meat on it.’ I think experimental is exactly the right word. We still had boundaries to draw; they just didn’t have to do with how we got to the sounds. Shawn and Jonathan said, ‘Hey, any sound that you hear in your head — that you can hum, that you can imagine — we can create that here.’ That was day one, and that led the album in this awesome direction of anything being possible.”
On “Coast to Coast,” Myers sings, “Do you ever feel like a ghost when you’re staring into your phone?” Despite the holy-shit-far-outside-the-box recording style, the songs on this concept album touch more on the prison many humans find themselves in daily - one based around staring into the little electronic box we carry, or our “digital comfort zones” as the band describes them.
Knee-jerk reactions may define Golden Age as a metamorphosis, but it is in actuality a catharsis. Uploading one’s thoughts on life is easier than ever, but Houndmouth took a painstakingly unique route to creatively craft their purge of emotions. This album tackles the issues of identity and self in the digital epoch of romance.
Perhaps the perceived 'escape' or break in time provided by Houndmouth's initial sound was enough to fight off the modern plight for some time, but members and listeners are awarded now with true sight and perspective into the world as it currently stands. In the words of an author you probably quoted to some girl in college to sound interesting, "I think novels that leave out technology misrepresent life as badly as Victorians misrepresented life by leaving out sex," via Vonnegut.
"By the time he was 27, Philippe Bronchtein had logged several hundred thousand miles in on the road, crossing and recrossing the US and the Atlantic. In a few short years, he had quickly become one of Portland's most well-loved, consummate road-warriors, cherished by fans of songcraft, other songwriters, and the bandleaders who, over and over, invited him to join them on tour. Still a young man, he'd released three LPs, numerous splits, 7"s EPs, and singles under the moniker Hip Hatchet and toured as a multi-instrumentalist for the likes of Esme Patterson, The War & Treaty, Quiet Life, and others. He relocated to Nashville in 2017 to continue working as a touring musician. But the endless cycle of barely-occupied sublet apartments, ephemeral friendships, and might-have-beens left him drained, burnt out, longing for some semblance of stability or a connection that remained always tantalizingly out of reach.
"I keep telling myself this is the life that I chose," he sings on album’s title track Me and the Moon, a reflection on the solitutde of traveling alone. Me and the Moon holds, at its core, a fundamental question - if you devote your life to labor, what is left to go home to?
It's a tender, restrained record, distilling and developing his previous work with a confident stylistic voice; his vocal naked and close, the arrangements uncluttered and deliberate - a brushstroke of pedal-steel crying in the left ear, a faint swell of a synthesizer somewhere through a highway tunnel, the deft chiming of fingerpicked guitar melodies. The writing is unhurried and poignant, each story linked by a wistful kindness - for both the author and the characters that drift in and out of his life. As weary as Philippe clearly is by the end of side B, he never comes across as bitter, rather, he delivers his words with an obvious empathy that is much better felt than described."
Jonny Shane was born and raised in the small coastal town of Darien, Connecticut. At the age of 13, he formed his first band with the late Greg Hillman. Amidst a slew of homemade albums and gigs on the eastern seaboard, the two teenagers dreamt of moving to the far off land of California to pursue a life of music and surfing. Before the pair could make that move, Hillman began to suffer from mental illness and tragically took his own life in 2009.
As the clouds of mourning lifted, the only thing left for Jonny to do was fulfill his teenage promise and drive cross-country to the city of angels. By 2012, Jonny was ensconced in his own flavor of Venice living; Surf when you want to, work a shitty job when you have to, make music all night. New jams led to the formation of Blue Blazer, a quintet that became a local favorite up and down the Sunset strip.
Blue Blazer eventually called it quits in 2015 as Jonny began exploring a more direct, autobiographical way of writing. The artist confronted his conflicted upbringing of perfect-lawn America and the glossy one-percent, juxtaposed by his dad’s teachings of humility and hard work. This is when Modern Love Child was born.
In 2016, MLC caught the ear of various UK-based music biz vets, so Jonny caught a plane to London. He began sleeping on couches and working odd jobs in order to continue his music dreams until he inked his first record deal with Believe.
One day in 2017, Jonny was walking down Abbott Kinney in Venice, CA, and thought he saw one of his musical idols out the corner of his eye. Sure enough it was indie-icon, Ben Kweller. Without hesitation, Jonny introduced himself and expressed his administration. The two chatted for a few minutes and went their separate ways. Six months later Jonny was back east visiting his folks in Connecticut. While standing in line at a local coffee shop, he couldn’t believe his eyes. Once again, Ben f***in’ Kweller was waiting in line too! After this serendipitous bi-coastal encounter, the two felt a need to explore this cosmic connection.
“I kept running into Jonny in the most random places,” Kweller says. “It was like the universe was speaking to us. As soon as Jonny sent me those original work tapes, it was clear what the universe was trying to say.”
Within the month, Jonny was on a plane to Texas to join BK at his ranch outside of Austin.
“I knew if I sent Ben some of my music he would dig it, because I learned how to write songs by listening to his records”, Jonny says, “He was one of my favorite artists growing up, so the whole thing freaked me out in the best possible way.”
The two artists worked non-stop for days, writing and recording demos of what would become Modern Love Child’s debut album, MLC. Once the album was written and ready to be made, Jonny enlisted acclaimed producer/mixer, Charlie Russell (Alt-J, Passenger, OK Go) to record the final product.
“I wanted to hop back over to the UK to record the album”, Jonny says. London’s a special place for me cuz the music community embraced me early on when I had nothing going on. I have major respect for Charlie cuz he knows how to center me in the studio and has this overall, rad way with sonics and making a track pop out of the speakers.
Charlie had similar feelings working with the young artist. “Making MLC with Jonny was incredible. Not only is he a great songwriter and artist he's one of the most joyous and positive people I’ve ever met. I love what Jonny's about, I love the confidence he has in himself, I love how he positively affects the people around him, and I especially love the album he’s made.”
Modern Love Child’s debut album, MLC, is set for release in 2019, via Believe Digital.