Overcome by insomnia one night in 2013, my young-self scoured Spotify in hopes of something that would put me to sleep. Instead I found just the opposite. I had stumbled across Houndmouth’s “On the Road.” It was one of those rare moments when you hear the first few bars of a song and instantly know you’re going to love it. I remember staying up listening to the entirety of Houndmouth’s discography and bombarding a fellow music lover with texts about this band I had stumbled upon. Needless to say, I was wide awake.
Fast forward to last month when I had the chance to hear Houndmouth’s newest album, Golden Age (out August 3rd), and was presented with the same feeling. Last week, I had the privilege of speaking to one of the guys that has been bringing us these sweet sounds for many years now. Shane Cody (drummer/vocalist) chatted with me about the evolution of Houndmouth, the creation of Golden Age, and the effect technology has on us all.
AKG: So, we’re just going to dive right in! We’ll get to the basics first. How did Houndmouth come to be? How did you get started up with Matt (guitar, vocals) and Zak (bass, vocals)?
SC: I was living in New York, we’re all from the New Albany area. I knew them from high school but we didn’t really hang out. We’d play poker together, so I remembered them but we weren’t close or anything. So, I went to school in Chicago and worked in New York for a little bit and got fired so I moved home. Then when I did, I got a Facebook message from Matt saying he liked my solo stuff I was doing and putting out. And I was like ‘Oh yeah, I remember you – you’re the guy that’s good at guitar and good at poker. Yeah let’s hangout.’ So he came over and we messed around for a while just doing like a couple acoustic things. We were both playing guitar at that point, then I switched back over to drums. Then [Matt] called Zak and I was like ‘Oh yeah I remember Zak too. Oh yeah!’ Yeah and then we’ve just kinda been messing around ever since then. It was like a weird little high school reunion.
AKG: What were the first steps in getting your name out there? Do you remember the first show you played that felt real?
SC: Yeah! Yeah well I remember we just started kinda recording. You know, you just kinda play and try to put it out. We just wrote and would record and put it out on Soundcloud in early/mid 2011. Then our buddy Chris Thomas told us to start putting out songs once a month to make a record, and he’s still our manager to this day. So that’s kinda how we started there. I went to kindergarten through 12th grade with him, so it’s been a very small family-run business for a while.
AKG: That’s awesome – you guys are like brothers!
SC: Exactly! And even our tour manager, Jason Gwin, he and Zak went to school K-12 together too. None of us knew what the hell we were doing. When we were starting out, Chris didn’t know how to manage a band, Jason definitely didn’t know how to be a tour manager, and Zak didn’t know how to play bass – he just played guitar. It was all very high school in the beginning.
AKG: As many of your loyal fans know, you all have been going through a transition period over the last few years since your keyboardist, Katie Toupin’s, departure. Can you touch on what that transition was like?
SC: Yeah, when she left we had still done a few shows just us. We have these two great saxophone players, Graeme Gardiner and Drew Miller, so it was a little familiar with that. Essentially, the three of us just sat down to figure it out. We still just worked as we normally would, writing lots. For touring, we added the saxophones and Caleb Hickman on keyboards.
AKG: Yeah – I saw your set at Forecastle and I loved the new, fuller sound. You guys killed it. Was that one of y’all’s first shows touring the new album?
SC: Thanks! I really appreciate that. That show was wild. That was so much fun. It was kinda surreal. We had I think our entire families there. Hometown shows are great, but a little stressful because there’s all these expectations. We’ve been around this year kind of just doing places we normally would play, getting everything tight and you know ready for this album to come out. You know, just figuring it out.
AKG: Oh yeah! Congratulations on Golden Age - it's fantastic. The production of this album is starkly different than that of the old albums. What was the process of creating this new album like?
SC: Thanks! But yeah, the production was definitely way different. We did every little detail we wanted and it was incredible and time consuming and insane. And so much fun. We did a lot of the album in El Paso and a lot of it in Los Angeles. I think we spent a year and a half making this, so it was quite the production. So, it’s kind of our baby.
AKG: To say the least! Do you have a track on the album that’s particularly special to you? My favorites are "Golden Age" and "Coast to Coast."
SC: Love it. I think definitely "Golden Age" for me too. That’s the one we started with and we spent the most time on it. That drum loop – that drum beat is a tape loop the whole time. So it was fun to just add more and more stuff to it. If you listen, you kind of hear it lull in the tape loop. You can hear it stop then start back and up and go slightly off-time for a second. It’s great. But then doing it live, we were afraid it’d be a disaster. After we recorded it, we were like “alright, how do we do this live now...” And we had to spend quite some time figuring it out. It’s our old style and our new style kinda meshed together. We’re really happy with it.
AKG: Right - you managed to maintain the old sound that your fans knew and loved, while fleshing it out and moving away from traditional sounds. Have you felt a lot of freedom in discovering your new identity as a band or did you feel restricted by previous sounds/records?
SC: I think if you really listen, the songs are the same thing. They’re the same style writing-wise. It’s all there, ya know. It’s just different sounds. I think people were freaked out at first but it’s, I don’t know. Hopefully it goes over well. But if not it’s ok! We’re happy with it!
AKG: Oh, I think it will be well-received! Are you looking forward to anything specifically with this tour and the promotion of the album specifically?
SC: Let’s hope! Definitely looking forward to the album release show! It’s the official Lollapalooza after party. That’ll be in metro-Chicago and I think we’re going to midnight or something, so it should be a pretty wild one. I hope the people still have the energy after being at Lolla all day.
AKG: Many of the songs on the album reference technology and allude to the effect it has had on us - like the line “Living in a mansion on the internet because it helps me forget” in “Golden Age”. What compelled you to touch on this subject? Was it a theme that you intended for the whole album?
SC: Yeah it kinda just came out. We decided it would be almost more of a concept album about that. Just about how technology has been affecting everyone in their daily lives and especially in their love lives. We’ve all come to create these two separate identities almost. We're living in dual realities. You can only sing about railroads and stuff for so long before you address the real stuff that’s happening, you know.
AKG: Definitely. Has technology affected your music as much as it has your personal life? I know you used Soundcloud, but have you seen that evolution in conjunction with your music as well?
SC: I think subconsciously it has. Just to think of where social media has taken us and how recording has changed since we started in 2011. The way it was then compared to the way it is now…that difference is substantial. Being on the road a lot you know, you’re either watching a movie, reading a book, or just on your phone all the time. It’s definitely a change. One of the things we love to do is go all the way back on our Instagrams to the first post, and see how different it’s been since then. I’ve decided I’m not going to delete anything – you just gotta leave it and see the memories later. It’s all evolved so much it’s just crazy.
AKG: Oh, I know it’s wild. Have you noticed any changes specifically from your first album – whether it’s personal or musical – to Golden Age?
SC: I feel like we’d definitely been seeing more ideas, you know just kinda made up stories. But now, it’s much more personal and we’re writing more about how we feel. As we’ve gotten older, it’s changed. Matt and Zak have families, and I’m engaged so we’re changing and evolving.
AKG: What do you think is in the cards for Houndmouth long-term?
SC: Well, I mean this day and age you gotta make a living doing this. We’ll keep at it as long as we want or as long as people want to listen. We’re always writing, so I’m sure we’ll just keep doing it all again and again. We love it and love that people seem to as well.
It's clear that these guys put their heart and soul into their music and it especially shows on this latest album. Golden Age comes out this Friday, so make sure to give it a listen! You can also catch them on tour this fall with Family of the Year.