By MATT KOESTERS
NEW ALBANY —
Just over a year ago, Matt Myers and Katie Toupin were playing local venues strumming acoustic guitars as folk duo The Saint James Hotel. Myers and Zak Appleby were playing together in a Motown cover band, while Shane Cody was writing and performing for a bluegrass act called Riffraff Revival.
Last year, the four gathered in Cody’s New Albany apartment to form Houndmouth, a folk-electric act that showed up with a handful of original songs for its first gig at Zazoo’s Bar and Grill in Louisville on Dec. 1, 2011, just weeks after the band was formed.
What has happened since then can only be considered a musical miracle.
After a whirlwind year that saw the band play some of the country’s largest music festivals, sign with a major label, release its first EP and began work on its first full-length album, Houndmouth will return to the stage this weekend with dates in Lexington and Louisville.
What a short, strange trip it’s been.
At the beginning, Houndmouth put a few tracks up on the Internet, and the reaction was as positive as it was rapid. The band traveled to the South by Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas, in March, where it was introduced to an executive from Rough Trade Records, a British music label.
Before you knew it, the band landed a spot in the lineup of the Forecastle Festival, playing the same event as national acts like Wilco and My Morning Jacket. Houndmouth celebrated the release of its first EP in August by touring the region and is now preparing for the release of its first full-length album.
Houndmouth returns to the stage this weekend for two gigs. On Friday, it travels to Lexington for a show at Buster’s Billiards and Backroom before returning to the area Saturday for a show at Headliners Music Hall in Louisville.
It’s hard to define the Houndmouth sound by pidgeon-holing it into a genre.
“I’m not good with genres,” Myers said. “I think we all have a huge passion for late-’60s, early-’70s folk music. I guess maybe when [Bob] Dylan went electric. ... I think we all just like writing about stories and putting the emphasis on lyrics and keeping the songs simple.”
The songs may seem simple because the musicians make it look so easy. Houndmouth features Toupin on the organ and Appleby on the bass, but neither Toupin nor Appleby were familiar with those instruments before Houndmouth came along. Experience has been the best teacher.
“We went on tour with a band called Dry the River and played more shows consecutively than we’d played before in the band,” Myers said. “I guess the songs morphed a lot. We got a lot tighter.”
Though the music is becoming more refined, the band is trying to retain the raw sound that earned Houndmouth the first wave of attention after recording its EP in “The Green House,” the band’s nickname for Cody’s New Albany home. Houndmouth recently recorded three new songs at La La Land, a Louisville-based recording studio, and locals will get their first shot to hear the songs this weekend.
“We didn’t do a lot of overdubbing in the studio,” Myers said. “It’s a very live sound. I think that’s kind of what we were going for in the first place — very raw.”