Remember this band name: The Hoot Hoots.
While the phrase gets tossed around a lot, these Beatle-esque psych-rockers out of Seattle are very much on the verge of becoming "the next great indie-rock band", as their feel-good melodies, complex song arrangements, and positively wild live shows seem to be signaling a very important message to would-be rockers everywhere: get over yourself and have some damn fun. In other words, "Cheer Up Suburban Kid".
Initially emerging out Illinois, the Hoot Hoots -- lead by singer/songwriter Adam Prairie, Animal-like drummer brother Chris, and trumpeter Christina Ellis -- have slowly been carving out a niche of optimistic guitar pop that's classic in structure but modern in attitude, their songs referencing everything from Calvin & Hobbes ("Transmogrified") to James Joyce ("Australopithecine") without ever lapsing in the emotional honesty department. With a successful underground EP (Less is More) and a self-produced full-length (The Truth ... Relatively Speaking) to their credit, the Hoots have now migrated to the Northwest (along with bassist Geoff Brown and new guitarist Cooper Smith) and are getting ready to conquer the world all over again, starting with this summer's new Missle Teeth EP and concluding with a full-length by the end of the year. No, they won't be faulted for lack of ambition ...
Speaking with Evcat, Head Hoot Adam Prairie gleefully dishes on how he's grown as a producer, the electronic-direction the band might be heading in, and his ideas for some delightfully controversial cover art in the semi-near future ...
+++>>Adam, I remember once you told me you took a course in music production, and how what you learned within the first week made you rethink a lot of the production work you did on The Truth ... Relatively Speaking. Listening to Missle Teeth, everything sounds much richer, more fully-bodied, lots more "sonic details" in the mix. Fundamentally, what has changed about the way you produce your records?
Better gear essentially. For our last album, it was me, a Apple G4 ibook, two somewhat shitty mic (one duct taped to a mic stand), and a two input audio interface from Edirol. Everything was one track at a time. I didn't want to do a low-quality job like that again, so I spent hours on eBay searching for good mics for cheap, and after a few months I had about 10 mics or so that were just infinitely better in terms of sound quality. Instead of Garage Band I'm using Pro Tools M-Powered now, which I sorta hate because of the propriety handicapping bullshit that they do.
But besides the gear, I learned how to mic a drum set and guitar cab much more effectively. I actually put some thought into mic choice and placement before I hit record. Before I would just throw a mic down in front of an amp and just start playing. Plus, the final term of the Audio Production course I took at the University of Washington Extension was with Scott Colburn, who recorded the Animal Collective's Feels and Strawberry Jam, two albums that I absolutely love. We recorded an EP for this Seattle band called Ghost Lobby during that term, and we recorded the core tracks (drums, bass, guitar, keyboard) with the whole band playing in one room. That's such a cool way to record. First of all it's quicker that way, and also the tracks we recorded had a tight, live feel to them. So yeah, both gear and watching Scott Colburn changed how I record... I guess I read Tape Op (which is a completely free, completely amazing recording mag) too, and I try out ideas from that.
>>Of course, this is the second time you guys have recorded one of my personal favorites -- "Cheer Up Suburban Kid" -- and this is now the third version of "Transmogrified" you guys have laid to tape. The best part about these tracks, though, is how they're all so sonically different, the original version of "Transmogrified" from the Less is More EP sounding virtually unregonizable in terms of texture to the hyper, colorful version that's heard here. Will there ever be "definitive versions" of these songs, or is the urge to tinker and perfect just too great for you guys?
We decided to rerecord tunes from the last album for a couple reasons. One, we wanted to craft a pretty up tempo, in-your-face EP that still had some quirkiness to it, and those two songs fit the bill. Plus, I wanted another shot at recording "Cheer Up Suburban Kid" because I did a pretty awful job the first time. I'm somewhat of a perfectionist, and the way I recorded that song the first time kinda makes me cringe. Also, Cooper Smith, our new lead guitarist, is bad ass! He has a tone and a manner of playing that really fills out those songs, and we wanted to feature that on this EP, mostly to give people a chance to hear how we sound right now, especially since our band members have changed a bit. I think I'm done rerecording "Transmogrified. I'm ready to move on to more tunes. We might put one old song on our upcoming full length album, which is in the works now, but for the most part I'm ready to get into new songs, new sounds.
>>In terms of songwriting, the numerous chord changes of "Australopithecine" mark a quantum leap forward for you guys, like condensing prog-structures down into concise pop formats (this track reminds me a lot of Umphrey's McGee). What has changed in your musical approach between The Truth and Missle Teeth?
We write songs as a band much more now. Before, I would record almost all the tracks, then I would teach the band how to play the song. Now, I record a rough demo so everybody can hear the changes, and then we get to work. As for numerous changes, that's something I've been into for a while ever since I heard The Unicorns and early Of Montreal. I have a pretty short attention span, so I get bored with my own songs if they don't change a lot chordally or texturally. I think what you're hearing in "Australopithecine" as well is the addition of more technical flourishes to the music. That's probably Cooper's influence. Like I said, he can fucking shred! And I think I have that as a tool in mind now when I write tunes. It is so freaking awesome to be in a band now where I'm comfortable letting the song grow as we practice it together.
>>This isn't a question: I'm just giving props for the best Finnegan's Wake reference I've heard to date.
Thanks. Kind of random, nerdy reference but I couldn't resist.
>>The ending to "Zoo" might be the single most rocking thing you guys have ever done, almost moving into hard rock territory before being grace-noted by the horns at the end. Given your live reputation, how do you feel these new textures will work in a live context?
Besides some of the extra atmospheric sounds on the EP, we recorded these tracks pretty close to how we play them live. These new textures are a big part of our live sound now, especially the additional chaos elements. I have this pedal called the Fuzz Factory from Zvex that is basically chaos in a can, and Cooper hand made his own version of it which he uses all the time live. Sometimes we wonder if we overdo the noise elements live, because we do not want to be known as a noise rock band at all. But really when it comes down to it, we just say, "Aw fuck it," and freak out. I don't think we get noisy enough to make our songs unmelodic or atonal. I just like crazy, whacked-out fuzz and feedback and glitchy noises as a texture.
>>Given how the Hoots are busy working on a full-length as well, this EP seems to be moving away from more of the deliberate minimalism that peppered some of your earlier work (I'm thinking specifically of "Vision Blurred Green" from The Truth). What kind of sounds can we expect from the new album? Ultimately, what's the next direction that the Hoot Hoots are going to be taking?
I'm really into MGMT, Merriwether Post Pavilion, and M.I.A. these days, so I think we're going to have some more electronic elements as we progress. Or at least more synth sounds. For now, I'm more interested in creating music with lots of shifting, rich sonic textures, so the minimalism of some of our earlier stuff might be something we drop for a while. I don't know though. Sometimes I pick up a guitar and write a song and it sounds fine with just voice and acoustic guitar. But more often than not these days, I hear much larger orchestrations when I write. So yeah, I think for our next album I want us to sound like some amalgam of our current sound with some more atmospheric drone and even more lush vocal textures.
>>Finally, so far in your guys' career thus far, what has been your biggest regret, and -- conversely -- what's been your proudest accomplishment?
Couldn't really think of a regret.... I'm sure there's something I'd rather not do again.... but I know I am definitely proud of this EP. I think we created something that sound pretty damn good on a pretty low budget, and I worked really hard to try and make these recordings sound as professional as I could given the resources. Also, I think my most fond memory of playing live was at Knox College's Wallace Lounge when I returned for a week in January of 2007. The Hoot Hoots played a show at the end of that week after having a few feverish practices (we hadn't played together for a few months). The whole night was amazing, but ending the show with a bunch of friends and drunken pirates on stage surrounding us and singing with us, damn that was great! That's what we want to create here in Seattle, some fun, energetic shows wth plenty of chaos, tight musical precision, and a healthy dose of, for lack of better phrase, absurd gimmick. I'm totally comitted to establishing this band in Seattle right now. It's sort of my single driving goal right now. I have a day job right now that's all right, but it just pays the bills. This is what I want to be doing every day of the week. Oh I thought of a regret. Having our last album manufactured in Taiwan. They fucked up our printing and we didn't have our CD's for a show we were billing as a CD release party. So no Taiwan this time around. This next album is 100% American. It's gonna have fucking eagles and flags and George Bush, Dick Cheney, and John Ashcroft burning the Constitution and pissing on the ashes all over the cover.
Visit the Hoot Hoots' official website.