Kind of Life:
An Interview with Shane Cody of Houndmouth

Words by Steve Melone
Photo by Cory Gehr

It’s a late Friday morning. Drummer, Shane Cody and the rest of Houndmouth are still on the road touring upon the release of last year’s Little Neon Limelight. “We have a bunch of random shows and some festivals. It’s kind of slowing down for this album run”, he says.

You can hear the grogginess in his voice over the phone as he speaks, “We’re in Philly, I just woke up.” It’s no doubt a task in itself to be on tour, especially when it’s been on-going for such a stretch of time. “I love it. It’s kind of just become life to us for four years. The middle of last year we ended up with a bus which has made things a little easier and more normal, you can sleep at night. It’s always good to go home, but a week later I’m bored and I want to get back.”

That energy and motivation is something you can feel when you see Houndmouth perform live, especially at smaller venues that lead to a deeper intimacy. “I like playing venues that size, that are forty years old. Like a shitty bar, that’s what we did for a year and a half. Three hundred cap rooms that are shitty and smell like beer. That’s kind of home. Those smaller rooms that are nice and new make me more nervous than playing Terminal 5. Shane continues on about his touring preferences, “I love comin’ northeast. Better markets and crowds are always just a little crazier, a little bigger.”

Cody, and Houndmouth have found success rather quickly, an unusual story for too many worthwhile bands these days. The group hails from New Albany, Indiana where as Shane puts it, the local music scene is non-existent. “New Albany doesn’t have any music scene whatsoever, but we’re fortunate enough to be right across the river from Louisville, Kentucky. We were able to hop across the river and play. Such a good local scene, it was kind of the vibe between Southern Indiana and Louisville. They kind of took us with open arms”, he shares.

It’s been a fruitful year, finding an audience that shares the love of good music and good storytelling, both characteristics of the Americana/folk music scene. “I kind of laugh about how technically everything is folk”, he chuckles. “Matt [Myers], he does the majority of writing. The first album is a lot more made up, but now as we’ve traveled quite a bit for the past four and a half years, we kind of changed and now we have our own tales and crazy people we’ve met, it’s kind of evolved. It’s probably only going to get more and more personable.”

Personable definitely holds true, considering that the roots of Houndmouth go back to high school. “I knew them [Matt and Zak] since my freshman year of high school. We go back ten, twelve years together”, he shares.

Former member, Katie Toupin didn’t come up in conversation, likely a subject that’s still a bit touchy for the group. Though an amicable split, it must’ve had an impact. The band’s statement regarding the departure read: “We (Matt, Shane, and Zak) wish Katie the absolute best in all her future endeavors and want to thank her for the years we spent together as bandmates and, more importantly, friends. When we all first met as teenagers, we never dreamed that music would bring the four of us together and take us as far as it has. It’s been a long journey, and the time has come for our paths to split. We encourage everyone reading this to continue to support her.”

The collaborative process benefits from that “tightness” as well. Whether it’s the writing or the music, they all go at it together. “We all do it somewhat differently, we always have notebooks”, he explains. “We’re always kind of writing. It’s just tough to get some alone time to write on a bus, but we’re always thinking.” Having multiple people contributing to the process is easier since the group is so tight knit and similar. “It helps to have the same taste in music. We’re not hip to newer stuff. I don’t know what’s going on anymore in music these days, but we bounce off each other a lot quicker. We’re tight.”

The group shares some similar influences, and some not so much. “We all went on a big Neil Young kick a few years ago. When the first album came out we got a nod to The Band, and we had never really listened to them, everybody knew, “The Weight,” and “Up On Cripple Creek,” but we had never delved into the deep cuts.” As a drummer, Cody has his own specific influences, “Mitch Mitchell in Jimi Hendrix was a big one for me.” And some unexpected ones, “I learned playing drums by playing Green Day’s Dookie with headphones over and over and over. Sometimes I feel this big chorus, at like half time, and our sound guys always yelled at me for smashing on cymbals too loud.”

Shane Cody has had a self-starter type path. Able to find success in a increasingly cluttered musical world where anyone is able to record and release music no matter the quality. “I studied recording engineering after high school in Chicago for a few years. I recorded our first EP.” Luckily talent sometimes still finds a way to stand out. “I was playing in some shitty band. So I [thought] might as well get on the other side of it so I can still do music. I moved to New York, got an internship at a sound design studio. Got fired after a year ’cause they downsized. So I moved back home, and Matt messaged me on Facebook. It worked out a little bit.”

Worked out is an understatement. Moving from laptop recording to working with a high status producer is a wide gap to jump in a short period of time. “When I did the EP, I only had a Macbook, and a pre-amp going into Pro Tools with two shitty mics. We had to do everything separate.” The most recent aspect of Houndmouth’s sonic identity and creative collaboration has been shared in part with producer, David Cobb, known for his work with Sturgill Simpson and Chris Stapleton as of late. “The first record we did all the music live then did vocals [separate]. For this last one (Little Neon Limelight) we we’re all in a room together live. Dave Cobb wouldn’t let us use headphones. He was like, ‘this is how they did it!’ So it was all live, just over-dubbed a few things. We did that record in ten days. It was super fast. Ninety percent of the vocals are scratch vocals, there’s so much bleed.”

It been a little over a year since Little Neon Limelight‘s release, with a tour wrapping up, you’d expect something new on the way. “We haven’t had the time, but it’s getting to a point where we’re going to think and put ideas together. We’re looking forward to it, I know we already have a bunch of ideas so it’s going to be good.”

Just before ending the call there’s a silent moment, Shane paints a picture of where he is on the road at the moment, “We’re stopped right now, our driver’s doing something to the bus. I’m just chillin’ in some bus graveyard, a bunch of parked buses, city buses and broken down semis.”

Catch Houndmouth at Sasquatch, Mountain Jam, Lollapalooza, and more this summer. See all dates here | Little Neon Limelight