“We’re dirty but we’re not unclean. We’re mangy, but you’d still let us sleep in your bed.” -Brenton Dean, Holy White Hounds
By Carl C. Sundberg
Holy White Hounds are one of those bands you might want to look into now. If they were a stock, you’d invest. So many bands come out and get tagged with the “buzz-worthy” label, but this time…this time it’s different. Holy White Hounds deserve it. Their feral name best described in their bio by singer and guitarist Brenton Dean: “We’re dirty but we’re not unclean. We’re mangy, but you’d still let us sleep in your bed.” With their unique look, their peculiar vibe and infectious grooves, the quartet from Iowa are about to launch into the stratosphere of the rock world like a magnificent laser beam of glory. Why? Songwriting! Take a listen to their wild, quirky single, “Switchblade” from their upcoming debut album, “Sparkle Sparkle”, which has whiffs of Beck, the swagger of Beastie Boys, the fuzzy punk thunder of Queens of the Stone Age and an epic guitar solo that would turn Jimmy Page’s head. And that’s just one song. Every other song is completely different, utterly surprising, refreshing and fun and just as hard to explain. And every single song even more infectious as the last.
Hailing from an unlikely place for rock stardom – Des Moines, Iowa – Holy White Hounds might have never been heard of. That is, of course, if you forgot that a little band called Slipknot also hails from Des Moines. Which was a trip for the band growing up. “Slipknot is a hometown treasure for a lot of people,” explains Brenton Dean. “Around my high school there was always rumors of who went to our school from Slipknot, and I had friends who worked delivering pizzas who would swear they once delivered to one of their houses. Up until their other projects where they took off the masks most people still had no idea what they looked like. It was funny wondering if Corey Taylor might be lurking around the corner and you wouldn’t know because- what does he look like? Slipknot worked so hard to get where they are that I think they are such an inspiration to Iowa kids and musicians because they show others what is possible.”
As cool as it was that they lived in the same city as Slipknot, the music that Brenton Dean was into was a bit different. “In the early years I really liked a lot of pop punk, Warped Tour style bands,” recalls Dean. “I was up late one night in 9th grade and saw Ben Kweller perform live on Craig Kilborn. That was a performance that really changed things for me. Shortly after I got The Hives’ ‘Veni Vidi Vicious’, and became pretty obsessed with The Beatles and my tastes expanded quite a bit. Always been a big fan of Beastie Boys as well.”
“Music was always something that just helped me to climb out of a shell,” Dean continues. “I would never dream of dancing at a wedding or anything like that, but with a guitar on stage I felt like I could move any way I wanted. Also realizing I could say things in a song that people would accept in song form that I couldn’t say in real life… that really turned me on too. I think the freedom music brought with it was what inspired me to play first.”
It was 2005 when Brenton Dean started Holy White Hounds with childhood friend and bassist Ambrose Lupercal. As kids, the two were tight and informally played music around town, becoming buzz-worthy even back then. During this formative stage, Brenton and Ambrose had encountered producer Brandon Darner who produced Imagine Dragons, Radio Moscow and Envy Corps and earned his respect. They didn’t contact him until years later, after they were out of college, and got him to produce their debut album, “Sparkle Sparkle” due out in May. But we’ll get to that soon enough.
The band gained traction the old-fashioned way – playing as many live shows locally as they could. And in time, the crowds grew. “Like most bands, when we started we played a lot of hometown shows,” says Dean. “Our friends and family have always been very supportive of us and would come to a lot of our shows. But then people started coming to shows that I didn’t recognize. I remember one show where people were actually cheering for us before we started playing. That was something that never happened before. It was a very cool moment for us.”
It wasn’t until 2014 when the band started to get airplay on their local rock radio station, powerhouse KAZR in Des Moines, that things started to really pick up steam. An unofficial national campaign around the single, “Switchblade” began to form. “Ambrose was emailing back and forth with our local station and talking to them about dropping off a demo and asked me to take our EP [‘Oh Mama’] down to the station,” says Dean. “We met up to hang out with Andy and Ryan from Lazer 103.3 and they were very kind to us and just fun to hang out with. They helped us out giving us some radio play and even introduced us to our managers. We have big love for those guys.”
The band continued to build momentum, showing up on the rock homepage of iTunes as a New Artist Spotlight and Apple has added them to the “Ones to Watch” playlist. In May, Holy White Hounds will unleash their debut album, “Sparkle Sparkle” on Razor & Tie, which was produced by – you guessed it – Brandon Darner and engineered by Micah Nuterra at Sonic Factory Studios in the band’s hometown of Des Moines.
Behind the scenes, Dean, being an impatient type of guy, was anxious and wanted to get things done quickly, but that wasn’t in the cards. “The original plan was to go in and record all the songs live and do very minimal dubbing at the end,” says Dean. “When we completed the live performances and looked at what we had, we shifted our plans to take a bit more time with overdubs and searching for specific tones we wanted. It just took a long time to make it. For a lot reasons. It’s a good thing we had a producer because I am not super patient when it comes to searching out the perfect tone and stuff like that. But in the end the time we took really paid off and we have ‘Sparkle Sparkle’ in all of it’s sonic glory.”
One thing that seems to permeate the album, in addition to the killer tracks, is a strange, unique sense of humor, which wasn’t really expected going into the studio. “It gives songs with dark lyrics a weird feeling sometimes, which I like,” Dean explains. “I thought we were going to polish things over to make them squeaky clean and to the point. But our producer encouraged us to let our freak flags free in a couple moments of the record and I like how it came across.”
Holy White Hounds are poised for a prolific career at the rate they are writing. They haven’t even released their first album, but that doesn’t stop them from writing more music. “We try to make a habit of writing as much as possible,” says Dean. “It’s easier to write when you do it a lot. I wrote the majority of ‘Sparkle Sparkle’, but Ambrose wrote most all the music in ‘Switchblade’, and ‘In Your Skin’, which are two of my favorite tracks on the album. We like to collaborate a lot. Anymore with the line up of Hounds being solidified to James [Manson, guitarst], Seth [Luloff, drums], Ambrose, and I…there really is no process. Just a constant throwing at the wall of riffs, lyrics, and beats and seeing what sticks.”
So what’s the secret to writing a great song? “No one has told me,” says Dean. “But if I were to guess – if you write a song that you don’t think you would listen to – don’t expect other people to wanna listen to it.”
Finally, to add one more layer of cool to Dean, when we gave our mega-interview questions to him, we asked him to answer just three questions. He answered them all. Enjoy.
Three of your favorite bands?
Broncho. Beastie Boys. Mastodon.
Most played tracks on your phone/ipod/etc?
Getting Jiggy Wit It – Will Smith
Pollockshields – 1990s
A Lack Of Understanding – The Vaccines
What have been the biggest hurdles to get to where you are today?
My own brain. Egos. Thinking I’m right or being too afraid to be wrong.
What do you do in your downtime that doesn’t involve music?
I love watching movies. I love hanging out with my family. I can’t do much without feeling like I’m in desperate need of playing guitar though. Music is like my oxygen.
When do you get the most inspiration when it comes to writing music?
When I buy a new record I love, or see a show I love. That always kicks me into gear to get going.
Studio or Live?
Both. gotta love the studio…. but nothing is like the live show.
Are relationships possible being in a band?
Of course. being in a band is a sacred relationship in and of itself if you’re doing it right. But if you want to have a relationship with a significant other then the person you are with has to be supportive and understanding of your plight…. or no, it ain’t gonna work.
If you could put together a dream band of dead rockstars, who would be in the band?
Tom Jones, singing for Kiss… Of course.
What’s the hardest part of working in the studio?
Knowing that what you’re recording is going to be the track that gets listened to when you’re not around. That’s tough because it becomes hard not to over analyze everything.
If you could go to Vegas with a no-limit budget and you could take anyone you wanted, famous or otherwise as your wingman, who would you pick and why?
Fergie. She could teach me that if I want others to love me… I first need to learn to love myself.
Highest points and lowest points in your career?
Once we played a show Denver… and not long ago we played in Miami…. so that’s miles about AND below sea level…. that is the literal answer.
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
MAKING RECORDS. That’s the part I never want to stop!
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