Houndmouth, an alternative roots trio first formed right next door in Indiana, has returned to their midwestern roots with their fourth and latest studio album, Good For You. While the band has made the most of life on the road in their decade of touring, their homecoming has proved fruitful, with Good For You marking a matured revisitation to the folk-rock sound that put the prolific band on the map.
Houndmouth first came together in 2011, after Matt Myers (guitar, vocals) reached out to Shane Cody (drums, vocals) to let him know he was a fan of the work Cody was making at the time. Zak Appleby (bass, vocals) and Katie Toupin (formerly keyboard, vocals—she left the band in 2016) were also recruited, and the band was born. From the inside of the “Green House,” an 1857 shotgun house that belongs to Cody’s family, they recorded and produced their debut EP, Houndmouth, under their own steam. It earned enough buzz to nab them a slot at SXSW 2012, where they caught the attention of a rep from Rough Trade Records and were subsequently offered a record deal. Four studio albums later, and that buzz is only growing.
Following the success of their EP, their folk-rock debut album, From the Hills Below the City, performed well, as did their sophomore record, Little Neon Limelight, from which standout track, “Sedona,” helped catapult the band’s career forward and solidify their unique ability to combine a sunny, easygoing sonic atmosphere with raw, deep-in-their-feels lyrical themes. Their third record, Golden Age, saw the group make a tonal shift as they dabbled with a synthier, dancier, 80s-inspired electronic sound.
But their most recent record, Good For You, is a return to the band’s roots, both literally and sonically, after the guysmoved back to their hometown of New Albany, Indiana to record it. The shift in place and the resultant change in pace shines through the entire album. Harkening back to their earliest work, the record is folksy and understated, with detailed, Americana-style depictions of the people and places they’ve encountered along the American road and in their personal lives. The crooning vocals are sung with the high, raw style that has become a hallmark of the folk-rock genre and much of the instrumentation is subtle, but the album retains the energy of the California surf rock genre that can be heard in the band’s earlier work. The Middle American bend to this album comes not only from the town it was recorded in, but also the building. As with their debut EP, the Green House acted as Houndmouth’s recording studio for Good For You.
While Little Neon Limelight had the a sun-soaked, borderline psychedelic sound reminiscent of The Beach Boys and Golden Age was their biggest, boldest album production-wise, the overall vibe of Good For You circles back to From the Hills Below the City. It is a polished but homegrown slice-of-life record that captures the sparse but rich tone of their native Midwest. Not a complete departure from their recent albums, the record contains the free-spirited storytelling the boys have became known for, but the lyrics are slightly heavier. Far from morose, the youthful melodrama that made their first three albums so gripping has matured into an attention to and appreciation of all that is bittersweet, which is carried out with an attitude that is paradoxically equal parts neutral and romantic. The music has grown up alongside the band, and this poignant shift has resulted in not only some of the band’s best songwriting yet, but also some of their most intimate, distinct instrumentation, and their most compelling storytelling.
Their decision to return home for this record was not an arbitrary one. Myers tells us, “I think where things are written always has a big impact. I had a chair and little desk set up in front of the second story window our house in Indiana. I was writing for a while so I got to see a few seasons of Midwest weather roll through. Saw a lot of people pass by too. After spending two years prior in LA recording and touring around the country, it was such a relief to be home and to be able to make a record in our own space.”
The many people and places Houndmouth’s success has led them to meet has provided rich content for songwriting and undoubtedly a great deal of life experience, but it hasn’t come without price. Myers continues, “I think what prompted our return home was the fact that I personally didn’t feel like myself for awhile. I needed familiarity and time to gather myself in a safe place. I lot of the record is glimpses of my childhood, which is undoubtedly turned out to be a Midwest picture. I’m very fond of where we’ve grown up and grateful to have [been] everywhere else only to come back home.”
See Houndmouth play the Equipment Share Stage at Roots N Blues on Sunday, October 9th. Get your passes here: https://rootsnbluesfestival.frontgatetickets.com/.