We’ve written before about our love for New Albany-based band Houndmouth. We were early adopters, both discovering them in the summer of 2012 before their EP dropped, and between us we’ve been to 10 of their shows since. It took us four months to make a playlist that did not include one of their songs.
This week, after two long years of waiting, they finally released their second full-length album. Little Neon Limelight came out yesterday, and went straight to the top of my March playlist (my favorite tracks so far: Sedona, My Cousin Greg, Gasoline, and By God, already a hit from their live shows). In honor of the new album, the band’s third if you include their under-appreciated EP, these are the top five reasons I love Houndmouth. While you read, you can listen to Sedona, which has been stuck in my head ever since the California dreamy music video dropped.
- Hometown Pride: So I have to admit right off the bat that I’m a bit biased when it comes to these guys. While they technically hail from the New Albany side of the Ohio (and most of them have the Indiana tattoos to prove it), Louisville is happy to claim them as our own. The band itself credits the Ville’s music scene with helping them get their start, and really nothing compares to seeing them on home turf. Scout and I have both seen them a lot — as of this moment, we’re at 8 and 7 times respectively, with another to be added April 1st — so we have a lot of data for comparison. I’ve seen them on two continents, in three different cities, indoors and out, and hands down the best was a late night show on the Belle of Louisville during Forecastle 2013 (yes, we are in that video). That weekend marked the first time they’d played in the Ville since their album release, and the vibe in that small room was electric. Scout and I ended up in the front row through a combination of squeezing and making friends with the bouncer, and watching the delighted looks on the band’s faces as the entire room sang along was incredible. We of course knew every word.
- Live in Living Color: This brings me to the second reason I love them. There are some bands whose concerts sound note for note like listening to their album, just with the volume way up and an overpriced beer in your hand. There are others who seem almost offended that the crowd is there, keeping to themselves apart from the odd mumbled title of a song, and not interacting with the audience at all. Houdmouth is neither of those things. Their shows are playful and electric. With every squiggle of Matt Myers’s hips or bounce of Zak Appleby’s bass, whenever Katie Toupin flips her hair or Shane Cody makes a crack at the crowd, you can feel how much fun they’re having. These are four people who seem to genuinely enjoy hanging out together on a stage, doing what they love, and finding new ways to play with their material (which sometimes involves the removal of various articles of clothing, usually by Matt).
- Anything You Can Do, I Can Do, Too: If I didn’t love all four members of Houndmouth so much, I would be murderously jealous over how unfairly talented they all are. Not only do they all write their own music. Not only do they all sing. But they also have a penchant for mixing things up, literally, during their shows and swapping instruments for a song or two. I have seen every member of the group play guitar, bass, keyboards, and drums (Katie delved into that last one at the aforementioned Belle show, and her excitement would rival the most enthusiastic kid on Christmas morning). The band also likes to mix up material, and their covers and mash-ups are some of my favorite things to see them do live.
- First, A Story: I mentioned before that each member of the group contributes to the songwriting, with Matt doing the biggest share, followed by Katie. Their sound gets them compared on a nearly hourly basis to the Band, and it taps into a particular brand of folk-rock Americana that I have a soft spot for (also popularized by outfits like Mumford & Sons, The Head and the Heart, The Avett Brothers, etc.). The smart composition of their music is not to be overlooked, from the frequent four-part harmonies to Shane’s metal-influenced drum kicks. But what really hooks me is the writing itself. Houndmouth are first and foremost storytellers, and they can ricochet between poetry and whiskey with ease. The narratives they spin are sweet and gritty and heartfelt and down to earth, with small town roots and a vivid imagination.
- Generally Awesome Humans: I would love Houndmouth if they just made great music, or if they just wrote beautiful lyrics, or if they just put on infectiously fun shows for affordable prices. But the thing that takes them over the edge for me, that turns them from “I could listen to this all day” to “I want to be your best friend,” is how approachable and down to earth they all are, despite their oft talked about rapid rise to success. All of the members of the band are active on social media, and they share freely of their lives with the unjaded perspective of people who still seem genuinely delighted and undeniably lucky to be living their dreams. Whether they’re recording at Electric Lady Studios, playing Letterman, or taking the mast stage at Forecastle just one year after rocking the small stage, they are having a damn good time. And I’m happy to be along for the ride.
You can find all four members of the band, as well as their tour manager, on social media. Check out their website, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram for updates on tour dates and the band’s adventures. They’re even on Snapchat now! And be sure to pick up a copy of Little Neon Limelight, available on iTunes and in stores!