Eclectic indie pop rock from The Loose Hinges, Eliot Houser and vocalist Kris McCarthy
December 13th, 2011 by Craig Hartranft
Celebrating stylistic diversity and their unique process of creating a brilliant full length, indie recording, multi-instrumentalist Eliot Houser and lead vocalist Kris McCarthy came up with a clever moniker that captures their blissful lack of “pre-planning” and preference to “fly by the nape of their knickers” rather than blueprinting: The Loose Hinges. The Nashville based duo’s self-titled 11 track debut, which Houser likes to categorize as “mostly dream pop,” draws on an incredible array of musical styles, including chill/techno (the infectious opening track “Out of the Sun”), Cuban music (“Just Say It”), rock-n-roll (“What You Waitin’ For”), country and folk.
The ironic part of all of this soulful eclecticism is that at any other point in Houser or McCarthy’s lives, they would have thought such a musical matchup impossible. A renowned producer who has helmed projects for bands like Old Crow Medicine Show and The Legendary ShackShakers, Houser has also been in numerous (all male) bands over the years—including The Cowards (a punk outfit that morphed into the Americana alt-country band Ned Van Go), HeavyWood Brand, and Fugitive Glue. “To be honest,” he says, “in all the years I’ve been making music, I never wanted to work with a ‘chick singer.’ I’d met a lot of them and there was always this diva attitude to deal with.” Likewise, McCarthy, who claims she grew up in a “cultural black hole” in small town Tennessee, sang and learned guitar for fun but never played in a band—and had no desire to be part of the Nashville music scene.
That all started to change when McCarthy met Houser through a mutual friend around the time he was producing The Shackshakers.critcally-acclaimed Cockadoodledon’t. She was inspired by his music but at first had no intention of pursuing any musical ambitions of her own. After a number of years, she began hanging out more with him in his studio and something just clicked. “It went something like this: I was sipping a cocktail, he’d be mixing a project, I’d pick up the guitar, try some new chords, then make up a little ditty,” she recalls. “He’d take off the headphones and ask me who I was playing. I’d say, ‘It’s just something I came up with’ and he’d say, ‘We need to lay that down!’—and thus began this crazy, fun project. Now, our routine is more like, he comes up with a way cool riff and I improvise a melody line or hook and we write the rest of the song together, including arrangement and lyrics.
“What I can see now in retrospect,” she adds, “is that no matter the project we work on together, we do it without a blueprint and that is part of the concept that led to our name The Loose Hinges. One night the electricity went out, so we lit some candles, took our guitars and iPhones out to the porch and came up with more than a dozen song ideas. That night is an example of how Eliot’s guitar weaving and my melodies spark the songs we write. We’re now incorporating several of those songs into our next project, which should be out in early 2012.”
This unexpected and fruitful musical chemistry infuses the duo’s debut from the opening hypnotic beats and trippy, ethereal flow of “Out of the Sun,” which looks back fondly on a broken relationship with a dreamy “lover’s memory.” Houser’s flamenco-inspired guitar rake and rich percussion textures pair perfectly with McCarthy’s sensuous filtered vocal on the exotic Cuban vibe of “Just Say It,” while “What You Waitin’ For” is a fiery, Les Paul driven power-rock ballad featuring some of McCarthy’s most impassioned vocals. The Loose Hinges wrap the set with the moody, folk-influenced “You Do More,” which finds the singer at her most unadorned and vulnerable.
“I think the most amazing thing about this album is that when Kris started hanging out in the studio, I was kind of in the process of doing a solo record,” says Houser. “But as the music kept developing with her, we agreed that it was worth pursuing as a duo project—and I couldn’t be happier with the results. I’ve been making music a long time and it’s easy to become cynical after a while. But working with her has been a fun, effortless experience. It’s been a joy picking up that exploratory energy from her great vocal and songwriting talents and creating something beyond anything I could have dreamed.” Kris adds, “It’s been incredible discovering this creative process and realizing what beautiful things can emerge if you find the right chemistry – and this just feels right.”
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