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  House of Fools

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Given tastemakers’ habit of focusing on “the next big thing” from either coast, North Carolina seems an unlikely breeding ground for musical genius. But when you look at the legends who’ve come from NC—from Ben Folds to Ryan Adams, Thelonious Monk to Superchunk—you realize how head-slappingly obvious it is. More than “something in the water,” there’s something in the spirit of North Carolina that fosters pure, uninhibited musical ingenuity. And with Greensboro’s House of Fools, NC adds yet another chapter to its legacy. Live and Learn, House of Fools’ Drive-Thru Records debut album, plants the band in the front ranks of new-school “classic” rockers—The Format, Guster, Limbeck, et al.—who’ve reclaimed the instrumental brilliance and pop-rock songwriting chops of decades past. Produced by Walt Vincent (The Format, Pete Yorn) with additional mixing and production by Mike Green (Paramore, Over It, The Matches), the disc captures the full range of HoF’s sound in all its warm, dynamic glory. And if the rich piano strains of the title track and the laid-back, acoustic-tinged jams of “Better Part of Me” and “Me and Everyone I Know” (both featuring The Wallflowers’ Rami Jaffee on accordion and organ) sound especially “alive” for studio recordings, it’s because HoF know you can’t rush perfection: A touring band’s touring band, they’ve given their material ample time to evolve in concert first. “When we get in the studio, it really forces us to get our ideas together and focus on the moment,” singer/guitarist Josh King explains, “but live, we tend to be a lot looser, and a lot of times, that’s where our best ideas come from.” It was a different story just two years ago, when, playing in the well-regarded rock/punk group The Necessary, King, guitarists David McLaughlin and Joel Kiser, and bassist Jeff Linn found themselves feeling limited by the more straightforward nature of their sound. “We all liked what we were doing in the Necessary; that was the sort of music we grew up on,” McLaughlin remembers, “But as we got older and our tastes started evolving, it wasn’t the only music we were listening to anymore.” The music they were listening to—a sonic melting pot that included everything from The Beatles to the Beach Boys to Elliott Smith—crystallized in the form of a 2004 demo recorded by King and future HoF keyboardist Matt Bowers. “These were basically just songs that I recorded for fun, so I could document them and get them out there,” King remembers. Ironically, even though he didn’t have aspirations for the music beyond the simple joy of making it, King saw his demos catching Drive-Thru Records’ attention—and after rounding out their ranks with Phil Bell on drums, House of Fools quickly evolved from demo project to full-scale band. Making their official debut on Drive-Thru’s 2005 compilation Listen to Bob Dylan: a Tribute with a cover of “Blowin’ in the Wind,” House of Fools hit the studio that summer to record their self-titled five-song EP for the label. And while House of Fools, which arrived to widespread critical acclaim in October of 2006, proved that freewheelin’ folk-rock is just one of the styles HoF have mastered, Live and Learn showcases the band’s genre-blurring brilliance tenfold. Packed with harmony leads and monster volume swells, the triple-guitar attack in tunes like “Until it’s Over” is pure ’70s-vintage rock—and yet, in the danceable “Kiss the Haze” and the gentle, balladic “What are We Supposed to Do,” lush keyboards, string arrangements, and deft indie-pop orchestrations add a simultaneously modern and timeless feel. “What gives our sound this cool kind of weirdness is that we all have similar and totally different influences at the same time,” McLaughlin explains. “But the great thing is that we can all appreciate each other’s differences.” While they’ve enjoyed critical acclaim since signing with Drive-Thru, House of Fools continue to focus much of their energy where it counts: on the road. Over the past year, their live shows have only cemented HoF’s reputation as a “band to watch”—and for good reason. Shortly after catching their breakout set at the 2006 South By Southwest music conference in Austin, Texas, Alternative Press magazine proclaimed HoF one of “100 Bands You Need To Know In 2006” in its annual cover special; and, following a fall 2006 tour with their musically like-minded friends in Steel Train and a well-received CMJ 2006 showcase in New York, the sextet trekked down the East Coast for a string of dates with the equally hard-to-pigeonhole Wheatus. With more touring on tap for 2007, House of Fools are poised to make new converts on every stop; and while the world may not have its eye on North Carolina at the moment, it’s only a matter of time before the band shifts people’s focus. “The only thing I’m sure of is that we’ll keep evolving,” says King. “Our next record might sound completely different than this one; but hopefully, to people out there who can appreciate a whole range of music, they’ll see we’re writing this music because we enjoy it; it feels good to us. Hopefully, people will hear it and go, ‘Oh, yeah – so that’s what rock ‘n’ roll sounds like!’ If nothing else, they’ll definitely have fun.”

Band Members

Josh King: Vocals, guitar David McLaughlin: Guitar Joel Kiser: Guitar Matt Bowers: Keyboards Jeff Linn: Bass Phil Bell: Drums


(www.myspace.com/houseoffools) (www.purevolume.com/houseoffools) (www.drivethrurecords.com)

Upcoming Shows

2/28/08 Boston, MA @Middle East 2/29/08 Newark, DE @ Bacchus Theater 3/1/08 New York, NY @ The Knitting Factory 3/2/08 New York, NY @ The Knitting Factory 3/3/08 Washington, DC @The Black Cat 3/4/08 Richmond, VA @ The Camel 3/5/08 Philadelphia, PA @ The Trocadero 3/6/08 Raleigh, NC @ The Lincoln Theater 3/7/08 Grensboro, NC @ Greene Street 3/8/08 Mt. Pleasant, SC @ The Village Tavern 3/9/08 Orlando, FL @ The Social 3/11/08 Atlanta, GA @ Vinyl 3/13/08 Austin, TX @ SXSW 3/18/08 St. Louis, MO @ Off Broadway 3/19/08 Cape Girardeau, MO @ The Enchanted Forest 3/20/08 Little Rock, AR @ Whitewater 3/21/08 Oklahoma City, OK @ The Conservatory 3/22/08 Lubbock, TX @ Jakes Sports Cafe 3/24/08 Albuquerque, NM @ Launch Pad 3/25/08 Tucson, AZ @ Club Congress 3/26/08 Phoenix, AZ @ Modified 3/7/08 Phoenix, AZ @ Modified