Hoots & Hellmouth get autumnal with new record


Philadelphia band Hoots & Hellmouth will perform at Willie’s Locally Known on Thursday, Oct. 20.

Aayat Ali

Rock music consists of innumerable subgenres and avid music listeners often crave a wide variety within the genre.  It’s rare to find a band that satisfies and appropriately weaves these unique sounds into one form, but Philadelphia band Hoots & Hellmouth does just that.

In 2005, the band started off with a “raw, acoustic vibe” as described by lead singer Sean Hoots. With acoustic guitars, an upright bass and their percussion consisting of the stomping of their feet, Hoots describes the early days of the band as a “gospel string band.”

Hoots says since then, the band’s progression has allowed them to explore with different rock sounds and each of their four albums has its own unique sound.

“My interests lie all over the place,” Hoots said. “As a listener, as a reader and so, as a result of being a writer, I find it hard to stay in one place too long, stylistically speaking.”

Although their sound has since evolved into other areas of rock, Hoots said he understands the band’s original acoustic sound was a first impression for many listeners and why their live sets might be confusing when the band comes out with an electric guitar, organs and a drum set.

“We still play songs from every record that we have and it just so happens that every record ends up sounding a little bit different,” Hoots said. “We’re creatively restless and want to explore all kinds of different [sounds]. It’s diverse, but it’s not like one record is polka and the next one is industrial.”

Their latest self-released project In the Trees Where I Can See the Forest, has a warm, autumnal sound.  The album opens with the song “Golden Coast” that consists of acoustic strumming, subtle banjo picking and sounds like the beginning of an existential expedition.  Although there are numerous references to bodies of water on the album, Hoots describes the album as woodsy and dense, with R&B inspiration.

“It definitely has more of wood element as a record.  For the most part, on a deeper level, it’s a little more like a dense forest,” Hoots said of the album’s mood.  “It’s almost like a jungle…you’re making your way through all the tracks.  It’s more stable, more solid and it’s older.”

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Despite all of this, Hoots admits that when he was compiling songs for the record, he had no intention of any overall theme or concept and that it was all “a happy coincidence.”  Once he went back and listened to it, he started to realize the several parallels throughout the album. 

“When I think about an album as a conceptual album, it indicates a measure of forethought, and there wasn’t any [for this album],” Hoots said.  “If it was a concept album, it wasn’t my concept.  It was some other spirit in the universe.”

Hoots & Hellmouth look to artists like D’Angelo, Van Morrison and Al Green who maintain a “soulful, yet organic vibe.” Hoots said that the bigger rock sounds on In the Trees came from fellow indie rock band Dr. Dog, whose studio they recorded in.

From blues, gospel, acoustic, and indie rock, Hoots & Hellmouth have managed to encapsulate the huge spectrum of rock music in just a decade.

If You Go

What: Hoots & Hellmouth

When: Thursday, Oct. 20 at 8 p.m.

Where: Willie’s Locally Known – 286 Southland Dr.

Tickets: $7