Josh King: Vocals, Guitar David McLaughlin: Guitar Joel Kiser: Guitar Matt Bowers: Keyboards Jeff Linn: Bass Phil Bell: Drums
Given tastemakers' habit of focusing on "the next big thing" from either coast, North Carolina may seem an unlikely breeding ground for musical genius. But when you look back at the legends who've come from NC--from Ben Folds to Ryan Adams, Thelonious Monk to Superchunk--you realize how head-slappingly obvious it is. More than "something in the water," there's something in the spirit of North Carolina that fosters pure, uninhibited musical ingenuity. And with Greensboro's House Of Fools, NC adds yet another chapter to its legacy.
Rock-solid and subtly infectious, House Of Fools' self-titled Drive-Thru Records debut proves what a dynamic powerhouse the band is in the studio. But as anyone who's heard these songs at shows over the past year will tell you, the EP also confirms House Of Fools' reputation as a monster live act. From the piano strains and guitar-god heroics of the concert staple "Live And Learn" to the cascading acoustic beauty of "Better Part Of Me" (featuring The Wallflowers' Rami Jaffee on accordion and organ), the five songs on House Of Fools sound fleshed-out and intimate mostly because they had a chance to evolve in concert first. "When we get in the studio, it really forces us to get our ideas together and focus on the moment," says singer/guitarist Josh King. "Live, we tend to be a lot looser, and a lot of times we find that's where our best ideas come from."
It was a much different story just two years ago, when, playing in the well-regarded rock/punk group The Necessary, King, guitarists David McLaughlin and Joel Kiser, and bassist Jeff Linn found themselves feeling boxed in by the more straightforward nature of their sound. "We all liked what we were doing in the Necessary; that was the sort of music we grew up on," McLaughlin remembers, "But as we got older and our musical tastes started evolving, it wasn't the only music we were listening to anymore."
The music they were listening to--a sonic melting pot that included everything from '80s guitar-rock wizardry to classic singer-songwriter ballads--crystallized in the form of a 2004 demo recorded by King and future HOF keyboardist Matt Bowers. "These were basically just songs that I recorded for fun, just so I could document them and get them out there," King remembers. Ironically, though he had no big aspirations for the music beyond the simple joy of making it, King saw his demos catching Drive-Thru Records' attention--and following the addition of Phil Bell on drums, House Of Fools quickly evolved from demo project to full-scale band.
Making their official recorded debut on Drive-Thru's 2005 compilation Listen To Bob Dylan: A Tribute with a cover of "Blowin' In The Wind," House Of Fools hit the studio that summer with producer Walt Vincent (The Format, Pete Yorn) to lay down tracks for their first proper Drive-Thru release. And as House Of Fools proves, freewheelin' folk-rock is just one of the classic styles that inform the band's sound. The band's triple-guitar attack, packed with harmony leads and huge volume swells, puts HOF in league with Southern-rock giants, while their lush keyboards and rich orchestrations add a simultaneously modern and timeless feel that finds previously unexplored links between Queen and Elliott Smith. "What gives [the EP] this cool kind of weirdness is that we all have similar and totally different influences at the same time," McLaughlin explains. "But the great thing is that we can all appreciate each other's differences."
Over the past year, shows with Limbeck, Daphne Loves Derby, Hellogoodbye, Steel Train, and other eclectic kindred spirits have only cemented House Of Fools' reputation as a scorching live act. Shortly after catching their breakout set at the 2006 South By Southwest music conference in Austin, Texas, Alternative Press magazine proclaimed HOF one of "100 Bands You Need To Know In 2006" in its annual cover special.
With an upcoming full-length featuring additional production from Mike Green (Paramore, The Matches) on tap, House Of Fools have only begun to show their potential. And even if the world may not have its eye on North Carolina at the moment, it's only a matter of time before the band shifts people's focus. "The only thing I'm sure of is that we'll keep evolving," says Josh. "Our next record might sound completely different than the EP; but hopefully, to people out there who can appreciate a whole range of music, they'll see we're writing this music because we enjoy it; it feels good to us. Hopefully, people will hear it and go, `Oh, yeah - so that's what rock `n' roll sounds like!' If nothing else, they'll definitely have fun."