Last year, the youthful pop band called Clockwork seemed to be on top of the world. Young, good-looking and capable of writing clean pop rock hooks, the young St. Charles residents found management, booking agencies and a host of producers ready to work with them even before two of the three members were old enough to drive to gigs. They eased their way through high school with an active touring schedule and seemed primed for a 2016 breakthrough. They even got the coveted nod to play LouFest.
But for Clockwork, that September 2015 gig proved less a jumping off to greatness and more the beginning of a sort of ending, says guitarist Jordan Slone. Since that performance, they've taken on a new name — Hounds — and begun to chart a much different course.
"We played the show and it was really fun," he explains. "After LouFest, we had a show that was rescheduled for a different month, about five months later. And we didn't have anything else planned. That was kinda good; we had that show coming up in February and time to work on music, do whatever.
"But everyone had so much time to be honest with each other. And we didn't like what we were doing anymore. We were a bunch of liars. We liked all the songs, but they weren't all necessarily meant to be shared. We went in the studio way too long, too sporadically. We worked on the last album over the course of a year, which was way too much time and something I'll never do again.
"The songs we recorded at the beginning, we didn't want to do anymore," he adds. "We wanted to play songs that we wanted to do, in a way so that we weren't lying to everyone. We want to say now, 'This is our music, we hope you love it.' We stopped for a while and it really felt that there was a chance that we weren't going to play music [together] again. At different times, all of us looked at different options in our lives. We had a ton of talks and moments of self-realization."
Jordan is the group's old head, at age 23. His brother/bassist Logan Slone is twenty, the same age as drummer Logan Mohler. While they may seem too young to arrive at a mid-career crisis, it's also a testament to the members' self-awareness that they understood that too many voices were being heard and served. Even if those folks were well-meaning and experienced in the craft of hit-making, the sheer amount of input started to overwhelm the young group. Over time, the advice touched on everything from the band's songs to the band's look; even today, you can sense that a simple question about the group's onstage attire is something that can stimulate a long, passionate, slightly self-conscious conversation.
The decision to shed that excess, Mohler suggests with humility, "is like we're slipping into our adult forms." In doing so, the members of Hounds are deprogramming the dreams of early pop stardom while transitioning into a new, improved, self-fulfilled band.
The best-meaning folks "weren't wrong; they just weren't right for us," Jordan says. "Success, for us, is playing music that we want to play. If we keep doings that — writing, recording, doing what we love to do — then we're successful."
Regarding the group's new sound, Jordan and Mohler toss out some general terms, indicating that they've basically roughed-up and "dirtied" their sound a bit, not stressing "finesse" as often as they might have before. To that end, they're especially rethinking the way they've recorded.
To date, the group's gotten used to spending time in world-class studios, which brought about a lot of positives, but also gave birth to a degree of over-indulgence they'd rather not repeat. Jordan hints that they were being trapped by these "huge swells in production," many of which couldn't be reproduced by the trio on stage.
"Even some of the equipment we were using," he adds, "was so beautiful, so amazing. 'This is an awesome guitar, these are awesome drums. Use this amazing mic, all these pedals. Use all of these things!' It was like being in Guitar Center and they say, 'You can use everything in the store. Then go online and think about what else you want to play with and we'll have that here within 30 minutes.'"
Slone admits that the group was "starstruck" in some studio interactions as well. Now, they've settled in on producer Matt Amelong, with whom they share a more organic, trusting relationship. In September they'll record with him, and the group hopes to have a release out by October — a new, quicker dynamic for them.
As for the new name, Mohler suggests that they wanted simplicity: "Nothing more than something people can use to find us on the internet."
Flirtations with names such as the Riveters, the Winters, the Breaks, the Fuzz and the Fuss were all abandoned, and they knew that two other Clockworks were out there, suing one another for the use of that name. The adoption of Hounds was just part of a large sense of rebirth.
"Every song now can't be that perfect, cookie-cutter format. We're doing something different and we're relying on each other more," explains Jordan. "As we've taken a lot more time, we've lost momentum. We didn't gain any [fans] through this change and the name recognition for people who followed us in St. Louis is gone; on the road, a lot of people won't know Hounds. They may've been to a Clockwork show, but they don't trust Hounds yet.
"But we've redefined ourselves," he adds. "We were babies when we started Clockwork; we weren't old enough to drive. Now we've realized who we are as people."
- PRESS PHOTO VIA PEERLESS ENTERTAINMENT
- Hounds started booking gigs before two of its members could even drive.