MILLHEIM - Hoots and Hellmouth, a Philadelphia-based roots-rock-soul band, will perform at 8 p.m. Saturday at Elk Creek and Aleworks, 100 W. Main St., Millheim. Hoots and Hellmouth is fronted by Sean Hoots, who answered questions about the band.
BRIAN BUSH: To start, could you give me some of your background? How did the band come together?
SEAN HOOTS: Rob and I met in West Chester over 10 years ago. We've played in a variety of bands together. We both ended up moving to Philadelphia five years ago, just after Hoots & Hellmouth got off the ground. Todd and Mike came into the fold since we've been in the city.
Hoots and Hellmouth, a Philadelphia-based roots-rock-soul band, will perform at 8 p.m Saturday at Elk Creek and Aleworks, 100 W. Main St., Millheim.
BB: Could you give me the names of the band members and their instruments?
SH: Robert Berliner - mandolin, banjo, rhodes, organ, vocals; Todd Erk - basses, vocals; Sean Hoots - vocals, guitars; Mike Reilly - drums, percussion, vocals.
BB: Where did the name Hoots and Hellmouth come from? I know Hoots is your last name, but what is a "Hellmouth"?
SH: There isn't enough room in your publication to fully explain it. Call it honey-coated black lung.
BB: How would you describe your sound?
SH: We have two main ingredients in our sound: soul power and modern folk rock. We've never arrived at a mutually agreeable genre term for it. We just make the music that makes us feel.
BB: Tell me about the music scene in Philadelphia and how you fit into it.
SH: Philly is wonderfully eclectic. There are bands to fill every nook and cranny in the style book, from folk to psych-rock to R&B to art metal. It's an inspiration to be surrounded by so much active creativity.
BB: Tell me about the band's influences.
SH: We're all voracious devourers of music, but I don't think there's any real conscious focus on our influences with respect to developing our sound. We draw on all the colors of our shared musical palette. That said, soul music of all kinds generally inspires me the most. Anything raw, from the guts that makes me want to pick up the guitar and howl.
BB: What contemporary bands do you guys like?
SH: Locally, we love our boys, Dr. Dog and mewithoutYou. On a broader scale, I'm really inspired by Animal Collective, Antony & the Johnsons, and cool new, strange R&B like James Blake, The Weekend and Frank Ocean. And that's just the tip of the iceberg ... like I said, voracious devourer.
BB: Tell me about your latest full-length record, "Salt."
SH: "Salt" is our third full-length release, but it's our first one released independently of any label and funded entirely by our fans via Kickstarter. This collection of songs tends more toward the introspective and understated in contrast to the bombastic approach of the first two releases. We're currently in discussions to re-release it via a label with online distribution.
BB: So your sound has changed over time. Tell me about that progression.
SH: Absolutely. As a songwriter I am forever playing with new ideas and the band has been through numerous personnel changes over the years, so we can't help but continue to evolve. We started out with a curiosity towards roots music, played with the traditional forms for a while, inverted them, reversed them, turned them on their ear, but it wasn't long before we were coloring outside of those lines. We've never aimed for that traditional string-band vibe, although our earliest attempts might suggest it. These days we're incorporating keys, electric instruments and a variety of percussive items to create a sound we feel is fairly unique.
BB: You guys are in the middle of a pretty extensive tour. How have audiences responded to your new material?
SH: Actually, we're just now emerging from a two-month hiatus, which was much needed since 2011 was incredibly busy. Last fall we began showcasing our new material fairly prominently and it was received very well. People seem to dig it.
BB: Do you enjoy being on the road?
SH: Indeed, we do. If we didn't, our schedule would make a miserable mess of us all.
BB: Does songwriting stop when you're on tour or do you have another album already in the works?
SH: Songs come when they're ready whether I'm on the road or at home. I have several albums-worth of material ready to go at the moment. Not all of them would be Hoots & Hellmouth albums, mind you, but I'm always making music. It's how I interact with the universe.
BB: From videos I've watched, I can tell you guys have a high-energy live show. What else can people expect to see and hear?
SH: Both ends of the dynamic spectrum, from high-energy jams to pin-drop quiet moments and everything in between. We aim to bring a complete listening-dancing experience.
BB: Is there anything you'd like to add?
SH: Thanks for the ink!
For more information about Hoots and Hellmouth, visit www.hootsandhellmouth.com.