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Hoots on Hellmouth: A Conversation with Sean Hoots

"It's a blessing and a curse, the name."

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Folk-rock band Hoots and Hellmouth toured almost nonstop for years after forming in 2005, and the Philadelphia-based band is back on the road again this fall after a year-long break. Co-founder and lead songwriter Sean Hoots talked with CP about touring in the modern age and finding his voice as an artist.

You seem to have a history of pretty relentless touring, so I'm sure it feels good to get back into it this fall. How's it going?

Spirits are high, all guns are blazing. Taking that time off was really good because it allowed everyone to do something else for a little. We're coming back into it with the positive, energetic approach that we used to have. Our general love of being on the road developed as a result of bands that we had been in before — we were all in bands prior to the Internet age of being in a band. "DIY" meant something a lot different then: You didn't have websites you could go to, emails you could send or invites that you could post. It was a much more "roll up your sleeves and get down into it."


Clearly you're "Hoots," but who is "Hellmouth"?

My bandmate Andrew [Gray] — I guess "Hellmouth" was what he considered a stage name at some point, but no one ever really called him that. The two of us were performing [at an open-mic night] weekly, and eventually the guy who was running it just coined us Hoots and Hellmouth, because it sounded good and it was our names. A lot of people read it and they think "Oh, you just mean ‘hoot and holler,'" and we kind of cringed when we realized that. We don't want to paint ourselves into a corner just because we started out playing some music that was pretty barn-burning and revival in nature. If you listen to our progression, things do get further away from that rootsy sound. So, you know, it's a blessing and a curse, the name.

Early on in the band, you espoused an attitude against big rock 'n' roll egos. Is that still an attitude you hold as a band?

Definitely — that's kind of who we are as people. When we started in 2005, that was before this whole neo-Americana boom that has occurred in the last few years. We went back to this acoustic thing just because were bored of what rock 'n' roll had become — it was emo, then it was pop emo, then it was fucking arena-sized emo, with all kinds of crazy pop-punk stuff. It had basically ascended to the place of all the corporate rock that had come before it [and] that punk rock was supposed to be against. I decided I needed to get away from writing music as a need to connect with a large audience and get back to writing music for the sake of writing music — digging in and trying to find my own singular voice in there. And that's what Hoots and Hellmouth has become over the years, and that's still where we are.

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