Jason Stollsteimer was never known to be a tortured artist. His old band, the Von Bondies, were a fun rock & roll band, part of the early 2000s garage-rock revival alongside the Strokes and the White Stripes. But toward the end of the decade, as they fizzled out, he focused on a darker solo project he called “Jason and the Hounds Below,” which sounded like a cross between early Against Me folk-punk and ’50s rockabilly—he describes it as his “straight up tormented Roy Orbison” project.
At the time he was going through a divorce and dealing with the frustration of the Warner Brothers label representatives pushing the Von Bondies to sound more “emo.”
The new project mutated into the Hounds Below, a four-piece mellow post-punk, indie-rock band that released You Light Me Up In The Dark in 2012, but have since evolved into a harder, heavier and once again fun rock & roll trio.
“It was literally an outfit for a dark time in my life. Now I’m using it as an outlet for joy—not just a way to get my thoughts out on paper. My band members are 23 and 24. They’re all about living in the moment. And I missed that and they brought that out of me again. For all I know I’ll probably get married in Vegas on this trip, just because life is short,” Stollsteimer says.
This latest incarnation of the Hounds Below have so far only released one single, “Xx,” a high-energy rocker that recalls the Von Bondies’ biggest single, 2004’s “C’mon C’mon.”
Still Stollsteimer insists that “Xx” doesn’t really represent what most of the new material sounds like. The songs have elements of dance-punk, indie-rock and garage-rock—all with a lot of energy.
“We’re definitely a loud three-piece band. We’re not posing. … Even if I wanted to, we’re too energetic to put on outfits, have our hair done with gel. It would just fall down,” Stollsteimer says. “You know what new band I think we sound the most like? Pup. They’re amazing. They’re like Minor Threat energy-wise, but not political. It’s the old aggression where your parents would be terrified. But it’s not like screamo where you can’t listen to it. It’s not punk, it’s something else. It’s like old school aggression in a rock & roll sense. Rolling Stones and the Beatles were old school aggression.”
Although Light Me Up In The Dark is the only album the band has released, they will only play about four songs from the album. The majority of their current set is actually the heavier, harder unrecorded material they’ve written in the past six months.
“We’re very confused at what the hell to do. The eight that are not recorded yet, I kid you not, are the ones that everyone likes the most, which is weird because we’re promoting the album. The other songs are the ones that actually get people to actually like—we’ve had some crowd surfing and stuff. The debut album is a little bit laid back compared to the new stuff. The new stuff, people compare it to Block Party’s early stuff,” Stollsteimer says.
The Hounds Below bring with them the success of the Von Bondies, who back in the early 2000s were playing several-thousand-seat venues. However, Stollsteimer is glad to be back doing smaller shows.
“I just lost connection with people. I felt like I was being ripped off and they were being ripped off. I couldn’t even see them from the stage. The bigger shows we played, the more miserable I got because I got no interaction with fans,” Stollsteimer says. “I didn’t want to do stadium rock. That wasn’t my thing. I’d rather do two nights at a 300-seater. Some bands you see and you think, they’re going to be a great stadium rock band. The Von Bondies were not that band.”
The Hounds Below, particularly the latest incarnation, is not extraordinarily different than the Von Bondies, yet Stollsteimer is finding a new crowd of younger listeners.
“The fans that knew the Von Bondies, they’re 30-40 years old. They do not go to shows anymore. Which is fine because we’re not doing Von Bondie songs,” Stollsteimer says. “The kids who are coming to shows now, they’ve never heard of Von Bondies and they couldn’t care less. It’s awesome.”
The Hounds Below perform at the Blank Club on February 5. More info.