Houndmouth

Sold Out: Houndmouth

Clear Plastic Masks

Wed. June 10, 2015

Doors: 7:00 pm / Show: 8:00 pm

Saturn

$14.00 - $16.00

This event is 18 and over

Houndmouth
Houndmouth
In the last four years, Houndmouth have learned what it means to be a band. On their second album, Little Neon Limelight, they wear that wisdom like a badge of honor.

Less than a half-decade ago in the small Indiana city of New Albany, four pals were crafting tunes on their own, with few ambitions of turning those songs into a spectacle. That all changed when these friends crossed paths, and joined forces. Matt Myers, Shane Cody, Katie Toupin, and Zak Appleby became the drums and keys, guitars and harmonies of Houndmouth, and those personal numbers became the irrepressible core of an outfit turned magnetic.

In 2012, the group issued a self-titled EP on Rough Trade Records, the legendary imprint that signed them after seeing a single gig. One of 2013’s most incandescent debuts, their From the Hills Below the City LP affirmed what label owner Geoff Travis had heard: the sounds of Americana, renewed by the youthful glow of songwriters, musicians and pals unafraid to both celebrate and desecrate them.

Others noticed, too. The Guardian noted that, with From the Hills, “reservations fade,” while Rolling Stone’s David Fricke lauded the “earthy melancholy with a rude garage-rock streak.” Treks with the Drive-by Truckers and the Alabama Shakes followed, plus performances at the Newport Folk Festival, Lollapalooza and Bonnaroo. In cramped clubs and big theaters alike, Houndmouth earned a reputation as a must-see act, their hooks, energy and charisma making them feel like a lifelong friend you’d just met.
That success, though, turned what had started as fun into something closer to work. Houndmouth learned that being full-time musicians required much more than the nine-to-five endeavors they had left behind in Indiana. But they grew into the role and grew from it. Experiences accumulated; perspectives expanded. Relationships stalled; others progressed.

“We’re not in party mode all the time anymore,” says Myers. “We’re refining how we write songs, writing about people we love, more important things than just nonsensical stuff.” If that was the charge, then Little Neon Limelight is an unapologetic success. These eleven songs sparkle, fade, and sparkle again, mixing innocence and experience, acceptance and aspiration, horror and hope.

Recorded by Dave Cobb in Nashville, Little Neon Limelight pairs the energy and nerves of raw first takes with the accents and moods of a more contemplative, thoughtful unit. Hearts are broken and friends are exiled, love grows cold and drugs do damage, leaders make mistakes and money turns tricks. On the acoustic “Gasoline,” one of the most poignant moments of Houndmouth’s catalog, Toupin barbs the confessions of a perennial party girl with the specter of mortality. “Maybe I’ll meet my maker on a bedroom floor,” she sings, her voice fighting against its own existential fade as bowed cello traces her words. Haunted by samples of the buoyant opener and single “Sedona” and the noisy filigree of a Moog, the beautifully downcast “For No One” stalks through personal blues with conviction. Its world-weariness has been incubated by the world it surveys.
But all of these feelings aren’t worn on Houndmouth’s collective sleeves: Despite the turmoil embedded within many of these songs, they are equal parts energetic proclamation, built with choruses that can’t be denied, harmonies that can’t be escaped and rhythms that can’t be resisted. With its carousel keyboards and start-and-stop drums, “Say I”” is a combination come-on and kiss-off that might make Keith Richards blush. For “15 Years,” Houndmouth conjures barroom bluster to voice the woes of a prisoner, backing the cries of his soul with howling organ and slashing guitar. When all the action drops into a shout-along, gospel-strong bridge, you might feel the urge to bust the fella out yourself. What’s the point of having the blues, Houndmouth seems to say, if you can’t have fun with them, too?

Nowhere is that balance of tragedy and triumph better than on the romp “My Cousin Greg,” a Band-style saga where each member takes a turn with a verse. Written about Myers’ actual cousin and former cover-band bandmate Greg, these four minutes present the title guy as a mischievous, enlightened and acerbic genius. He leaves Florida with his master’s degree in physics for a brainy job in Los Angeles, raising metaphysical hell and questions along the way. Greg thinks his cousin has it made, touring the country by van while playing the songs he’s written.

But Myers disagrees: “If you wanna live the good life/Well, you better stay away from the limelight,” the quartet sings as one in the chorus, repeating the mantra as though it were their only lifeline to sanity. For those long drives, it’s a reminder of the thrill and toil of what they now get to do. “For the first record, we were floating around after having been thrown into this,” explains Myers. “This time, we were able to write more about experiences than random stories, because that’s where we are in life. There had to be an attachment to what we recorded.”

For Little Neon Limelight, the charged, charming and preternaturally mature Houndmouth did exactly that.

– Grayson Haver Currin
Clear Plastic Masks
Clear Plastic Masks
It might be cliché to say that the mark of a true rock n' roll band is that they play from the heart, but in the case of the Clear Plastic Masks it is exceptionally true. As the band's moniker indicates, there's not much to hide with one of the most talked about groups in Nashville's burgeoning rock scene. This is the sound of heart-on-your-sleeve blue-collar soul.

Formed in New York City in 2011, Clear Plastic Masks quite literally have honed a world of influence into sharp, tight, nostalgic rock n' roll that is at once bone-deep familiar and not like anything else you've heard. The story starts where every good story does, in a dive bar where lead vocalist and guitarist Andrew Katz, born and raised on theatre in (Minneapolis?), met Dominican Republic-born drummer Charles Garmendia. Despite upbringings half a world apart, the two forged a fast friendship centered on a collective love of music. Soon enough, toiling around Bed Stuy, Brooklyn, they met guitarist/keyboard player Matt Menold (from?) and bassist Eduardo DuQuesne (from?). What began as simply four unlikely friends hanging out trying to make their way in one of the toughest cities on earth eventually evolved into an informal jam session where, without planning, they discovered a surprising sound. Modestly, the way they tell it, "We're just buddies. That's the sound that comes out," Katz says.

Attitude has been a fundamental element of rock music since its inception. It's the one thing you can't fake, and Clear Plastic Masks have it in droves. Trying to put your finger on exactly what is the band's sound is near futile, like a game of musical whack-a-mole. Recalling the sneer and snarl of the Rolling Stones' early R&B-influenced work, Clear Plastic Masks' brief catalogue runs the gamut from mid-70's New York punk ("Everything Nothing," "So Fucking Real") to Stax-style soul ("Outcast," "Baby Come On") to tight, almost ELO disco rock ("Dos Cobras") to Lou Reed-style spoken word poetics ("Allen's Song") to more recent nods toward Nashville contemporaries like the Alabama Shakes ("When the Night Time Comes"). But the key word here is almost. Weaving through the ten tracks on their self-titled debut, the band dips into the well of American rock, soul, and blues, but never stops long enough to let one part soak in too deep. Throughout, the group swings seamlessly from soulful crooning to raucous punk and gnarled grunge riffs, and then throws you back to classic '60's garage rock and near-'50's influenced sock hop rockers and ballads. Crispy guitar licks, floral backing keys, and a tight sharp rhythm section swell behind Katz's soul-quivering vocals and poetic, story-telling style lyrics which peak in crescendo choruses that stab you right in the heart, and then hold you sweetly as you let the music flow through you. Simply put, it's the sound of Clear Plastic Masks.

As quickly as they formed, the band began gigging around the city and soon set out on tours through the Midwest and down to New Orleans, eventually stopping in Nashville in December of 2011 and April of 2012. There, they recorded first a 7-inch and later a full album with Andrija Tokic at The Bomb Shelter. In Nashville, Clear Plastic Masks found what they lacked in New York, a tight-knit scene putting itself on the map supported by a host of incredible bands. After several shows and recording sessions, the band decided to relocate in late 2012(?), becoming one of the first of now many groups around the country to spy Nashville as America's next hot bed of authentic rock n' roll. Summoning their hard working roots, the band continues to tour and earn new fans in each club in every city they stop in while remixing their demo for their first official full-length debut, a self-titled effort which will come out on Serpents and Snakes later this year.

Just two years into a promising road ahead, the band continues to build critical acclaim and stack up accolades. Ever nonchalant, Katz says, "What else are we going to do if we're not doing this?" Give a damn and do it well. That's the spirit of rock n' roll. That's the spirit of Clear Plastic Masks.
Venue Information:
Saturn
200 41st Street S
Birmingham, AL, 35222
http://www.saturnbirmingham.com/