If Hounds’ quirky video for “Shake Me Up” cues up allusions to The Royal Tenenbaums or The Grand Budapest Hotel, there’s a very valid reason for that. “The video was very inspired by Wes Anderson’s style of filmmaking, with a dash of classic Monkees nonsense,” explains vocalist/guitarist Jordan Slone.
Quirky and idiosyncratic, the video uses nearly every standard Anderson trope… from the bold wardrobe patterns (but no trademark houndstooth?!), to the overt visual balanced symmetry, to the ostentatious house in the background, to the band’s exaggerated walking gait… Oh, and let’s not forget the oddly-placed but never-referenced piece of art… in this case, a blue elephant sculpture.
“The video was incredibly fun to shoot,” he remembers fondly. To his credit, the video looks like a whole lot of fun, with band members essentially performing visual non sequiturs. You can almost hear the video director spitballing, “Let’s have them play chess on the right side of the screen… and then have a leaf-blower… YES! A leaf blower come and just nonchalantly disrupt the game without any real fanfare. That looks weird, right? And in the foreground… Let’s get one of the guys to dance unabashedly without a care in the woooooooorld.”
“That’s actually my youngest brother, Jacob, serving as the dancer, and needless to say, he got quite the workout that day,” laughs Jordan, as if revealing the punchline to an inside joke.
If you’re going to mimic a very-identifiable brand like Wes Anderson, you better do it right. Hounds not only laser-pointedly nails it, they make it feel like an authentic and genuine homage.
Musically, “Shake Me Up” shares a style of 1950s greaser rock… of ’57 Chevys and milkshakes, poodle skirts and stark white t-shirts… but also of the turn of the Century “The” bands like The Strokes, The Vines, and The Datsuns. It’s that thrilling kind of revved-up alternative where guitarists rock out and vocalists sing their hearts out while looking coolly uninterested.
“I think it’s obvious when you hear the recording [that] we’re actually having a blast. Playing music is fun, right,” he asks, as if rhetorically looking for validation. “So let’s make sure that fun comes through for everyone to hopefully enjoy.”
The lead single from their upcoming debut Cattle In The Sky (itself perhaps an idiosyncratic nod to Wes Anderson as well), “Shake Me Up” is the punk guy’s companion to Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off.” Making her version sound almost dainty and tea-party proper in comparison, Hounds is scruffy and messy, dirty and punky… If Tay-Tay had recorded her song in a pastel bedroom, they recorded theirs in a mechanic’s garage. It feels alive and vibrant with sharp edges and rough textures. “The recording on the record was actually our first take,” he explains. “That raw energy was just there from the start, and I’m glad we were able to capture that. ‘Shake Me Up’ is just my take at writing a fun, energetic rock & roll song, and it seems to really connect with the audience every time we perform it.”
Based in the Middle America locale of St. Louis, Hounds feels like a very American rock band. Cohesive and tight, their innate chemistry (two of them are brothers and three of them were friends since high school) was precision-tightened through the rigors of heavy touring. With hopes of taking a detour from the standard rock trenches of beer-stenched bars and dives to a surefire shortcut to stardom however, they entered a national band contest and walked away with the grand prize – $50k and a recording deal with BMG. But instead of preening and grooming themselves to fit into the manufactured band idiom that comes with an immediate national boost a la American Idol, et al., they stuck to their guns and kept being scrappy. Perhaps taking a subconscious cue from Anderson’s trope of unbridled angst constrained within the stricture of a uniform, they took that prize meant for organized and radio-ready pop and opted to make ardent and ornery rock music instead. “We’re a rock-and-roll band, and we’re never afraid of the technology of today,” says Jordan. “We follow wherever the inspiration takes us.”
Like the coda of an Anderson film where dark and heavy themes are still on full display as the credits roll to a seemingly happy ending, Hounds destroys a guitar at the conclusion of the “Shake Me Up” video. Mimicking yet another Anderson trope – deadpan line delivery, Jordan wraps it all up with a riddle. “And now we know the answer to the age old question: How many members of Hounds does it take to destroy a bass guitar,” he smirks. “ALL FOUR.”