Detroit, Michigan’s quartet The Hounds Below, the new project by guitarist/singer Jason Stollsteimer, are setting their sights on indie-rock gold. Formed in 2009, after a short-start in 2008, the group’s mellow rock vibe and melodic approach is certainly a sonic change when compared to Stollsteimer’s previous group, The Von Bondies, but the songs are no less catchy and memorable than the former.
When a band’s catchphrase is “Let’s make every night a loud Saturday night,” I have no choice but to pay attention and give it a shot. So, when I was asked to check out The Hounds Below, I could not resist. But then, how could anyone pass something like that up? Are you all about quiet Tuesdays or something? If so, you must’ve stumbled on the wrong website, but thanks for checking Live High Five out anywho.
The Hounds Below made a few appearances at this year’s installment of CMJ Music Marathon, starting off with The Conflict Party taking place on the Monday before the festivities kick off, and it was a packed house when these guys hit the stage. They’ll also be hitting the road later this week, starting on November 6th. I spoke with Jason Stollsteimer and Skye Thrasher to discuss the band’s launch, their plans during and after the festival, and what we can expect from them once they hit the stage.
G- Hi there and thank you very much for taking the time to speak with Live High Five! It’s a newer group…
J- Yea we started in January.
G- You started this January?!
J- This January.
G- Now Wiki, by far the most reputable site on the planet, said that you had something else in 2008 and started in 2009… Maybe you can tell us about what’s going on, because there’s a few year discrepancy there.
J- I had a solo project that was just me and a group of people were none of who were in the band, called Jason and The Hounds Below. In January this year, we made a record and we formed a real band, not a solo project. It wasn’t a side project anymore… It was a band. The Von Bondies ceased to exist and this became the main focal point for all four of us.
J- And when Skye and Matt and Griffin joined the band altogether, we basically… It became a band overnight. Basically, because I was doing 50’s rock stuff like Buddy Holly in 2008, and when they joined, it didn’t make sense to do it anymore. The songs… I dropped every single song we had before that. Everything on Youtube is not a song we do.
J- Yes. It’s from a different band that had violin and organ… Solo project stuff.
G- Ok right on. So, if this started in January, how did the band form, where did everybody get to know each other, and when did you first feel it click over?
S- I gotta talk into an iPhone.
G- Yea, I know… It’s a very pro set up I’ve got going for me right now.
S- I met Jason through a phone call from a mutual friend.
S- Just heard he was looking for a guitar player, so I called, and he wanted to do some touring, and that’s what I wanted to do, so…
G- Is this your first time on the road?
S- No. I’ve been in several other bands and did some touring, but there’s a certain romance about touring. I guess there’s a romance with touring in every young man’s mind about living on the open road.
J- Every girl seems to get jealous about life on the road.
G- Well, isn’t that usually the case anyway? Wives and girlfriends on the road… When I was on the road, it sucked.
J- Well, for me it’s ok because she toured before for years, so she gets it. But it’s also a problem because she was with a band full of guys that were definitely not always faithful, so she just assumes sometimes. But now she’s better. She is better. I hope to God she is better (laughing with a curious, worried voice.)
S- My girlfriend rules about it.
J- She’s like ‘Thank God he’s gone!’
S- (laughing) Yea she’s like ‘Thank god he’s gone.’ No, she understands it, and I understand it, and so it definitely makes it work.
G- Dig it. So, to get back to the music a bit, give us a few examples of bands in particular that have influenced the sound of The Hounds Below, and who do you typically like to listen to in addition to yourselves? Are there any acts you think we should know about from your perspective?
J- Umm, for this band specifically, something that came up was, you know, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zero. Just, kinda like, that group fun. Whether or not it’s ten people in a band, or four people in a band, it should sound like a good time. A little bit going for that epic big house party sound of like everybody singing along hopefully, eventually.
But influences, I’d say more like The Pixies, Echo and The Bunnymen, and a little bit of Phoenix, but that’s about it. Mainly band that we sound nothing like, but they influenced us somehow anyways.
S- It’s funny how that works.
G- Nothing wrong with that at all. Diversity… there is a lot of music out there, and I’m a genre neutral site, so I wanted to hit as many bands and see as many shows as I can.
J- Yea. And anytime I hear a band say ‘Our biggest influence is The Beatles,’ do I expect to hear The Beatles? No.
G- No. How can you? How could somebody? It’s like ‘Hey John, let’s write a swimming pool today!’
J- You did an insane Liverpool accent!
G- Was it?
J- Yes! That was good!
G- Appreciated! Ok so, what should your fans, both old and new, expect of the performances when you guys perform, and what about the first time listeners? What are you going to show them that they haven’t seen before?
J- First time listeners, that for being a band since January, that somehow, people says it’s surprising that we’ve only been together since January. Because we all come from strong musical backgrounds and other bands, it’s instantaneous… Either you get along and make chemistry, or you can’t. You can’t force it.
That’s why I’ve never been in a band with, like, high school friends, because my chemistry is as a friend with them, not as a musician. I like to meet people that I don’t know as friends, and have chemistry or don’t have chemistry, so I don’t lose a friendship. And then we become friends through that.
G- Right on, and how about a favorite song you have ever written. Do you have one, or if you had to recommend one song to someone who had never heard The Hounds Below before, which one would you choose to make a new fan, and why?
J- If they’re into vocals, I’d say “For You and I,” and if they’re into something, like, to put on and dance with their friends and a house party, I’d say “Chelsea’s Calling.”
S- Yea that’s good.
G- “Chelsea’s Calling?”
G- Right on! You’re gonna play that tonight, right?
J- Yea we’re playing all of them!
G- Perfect! Now, I was going to ask you something more depthy and business related, since we’re at CMJ and you’ve got plenty of experience with your previous group The Von Bondies. You’ve been on tour and released records, and now that you’re working with the new group, what are your feelings about the larger music industry at this time? Do you feel that it is in peril, or simply in a complete state of reorganization and being revolutionized by tech and digital?
J- It’s up to the labels whether or not they are going to die off. They have to… They’re basically going to have to break apart into smaller companies probably. But I don’t think about it. I’m from Michigan, so there’s no industry there… It’s just bands touring, but there’s nobody there looking for bands. We have to go tour to get it, any notice at all.
If we were living in LA or NY, somebody would eventually see us at a show and probably like us, but being from Michigan, we have to tour to have anybody notice you. But we love touring anyways.
J- And so, the music business is interesting. Facebook is charging $7 for you to… Like if I post a tour coming up, it only reaches a few people or the few thousand people that we have as fans, and it’s going to be the death of Facebook if they don’t figure out how to fix that.
G- I agree.
J- And Myspace. Justin Timberlake may be able to fix it, but not yet.
G- I wonder? It’ll be interesting… Can Justin Timberlake fix Myspace?
J- Can Myspace fix Timberlake? I love Timberlake, to be honest.
G- Dude, there’s nothing wrong with Justin Timberlake… That dude’s badass! I think he’s great!
J- Me too.
G- Alright, so you guys currently have an EP available at your Bandcamp page for download…
J- Which we will never play again.
G- Which you will never play again.
J- Yea… I wouldn’t tell people to go to that.
G- Ok… Don’t go to that. Nevermind.
J- It’ll be erased actually in a day or two.
G- I’m going to have to transcribe this quick then, huh?
J- Yea man.
G- And it’s CMJ?! Anyways (laughing) do you have any plans to head back into the studio or just going to jump back on the road after this? Anything in the works?
S- Actually, we’re working on new stuff before this record was out.
J- The record came out Tuesday, so we’re not going into the studio for another 8 months. The record just came out, and our official first tour is in November.
G- Wow… So I really did catch you guys nice and young, didn’t I?
J- Yes. Well, we tried to change the band name, to avoid that question, but the band voted to keep it even they weren’t officially members of the original band.
G- Wow this is great! I really like this, because now this next question may have a little more relevance… If you guys could be on your dream lineup right now with 3 other bands to…
J- For this band?
G- For this band, what bands would you select and why?
J- David Bowie.
G- David Bowie.
J- Any era except for ‘Tin Machine.’
J- I’m sorry, David Bowie… That was insane and you shouldn’t have done that.
J- You shouldn’t cut out lyrics from a newspaper, throw them up in the air, and make a song out of it. You’re so talented!
But honestly, it would be David Bowie and, umm… Do they have to be functional right now?
G- Yes feasible is best.
J- Umm, I like Phoenix, and I’ve never seen Radiohead live, so I’d like to be able to see them live on tour with them, with us opening first of 20. I don’t even care if we open first of 100. But yea any of those bands, even if we don’t sounds like them. For this band. And The Pixies.
G- The Pixies. Right on! And would you agree with these choices?
S- I’d agree with those choices. Those are good choices.
G- Those ARE good choices!
G- I’d pay for a ticket to go see that show.
J- Yea it’d be pretty lofty for those bands.
G- Yea, but we’ll have had such a longstanding relationship after this that I’ll just call you up and say ‘Hey, what’s up man!’
J- Yea if we get on The Pixies tour, you’re on, man.
G- Perfect! I’ll play backup tambourine or something. Whatever you guys need.
J- No, you can just play lead. You can play his guitar or something.
S- Yea you can play my guitar.
J- He’s take a nap in back. A catnap.
S- Maybe Tupac.
G- (laughing) Tupac?
J- He’s not touring anymore. Supposedly he’s still alive!
G-Well, you could do the hologram!
J- Not the hologram. They said that he’s still alive. His best records he put out were after he died.
G- Yea, and he put out more records after he was dead than when he was alive, too.
J- Some of his best songs were put out after he passed. People are either leeches, or he faked his own death. I hope that he faked his death, because he was really good!
G- I think when I die, I’m gonna slow down a little bit, but I don’t know.
Ok so you guys are going onstage very shortly, and this has been great! But lastly, you’re in a band. You’re in a touring band, and you’re in the studio. You guys have lots of experience already, and you’re an up and coming band yourself… What advice can you give some of the young, up and coming bands everywhere who want to make it in music, on the road, and as a professional musician?
J- Don’t do covers. Don’t ever even learn a cover. We do a cover now, but we worked on our own songs before we learned covers as a band. I’d say be original, no matter how bad it is. You can’t play six strings, put two on the guitar and play two. If you’re a bass player, play one.
G- That’s ‘The Presidents Of The United States Of America’ method. Three strings.
S- Millions of peaches.
G- Millions of peaches for free! It’s good stuff. How about you, Skye?
S- Listen to Presidents Of The United States of America.
J- That’d be your advice?
S- That’s my advice. Don’t learn any of their songs, just pay attention to the pop.
J- The songs that you cover you’ll never be better than, if that’s what you do. If you do cover songs and never really work on your originals, why even bother? Except for, like, closure stuff.
G- Dig it! Alright, thank you guys very much for taking the time to speak with us today!