Holy White Hounds is an apt name for the quartet’s endearing but feral alt-rock. The moniker also conjures the band’s origins as small town underdogs who are rising to earn national prominence. When pressed on the significance of the handle, lead vocalist and guitarist Brenton Dean states: "We're dirty but we're not unclean. We're mangy, but you'd still let us sleep in your bed.”
For young kids with guitars, prodigious musical gifts, and aspirations of being professional musicians, the distance culturally and opportunity wise between a town like Des Moines, Iowa and New York or Los Angeles can make dreams feels unattainable. But for the proud sons of the Hawkeye State in Holy White Hounds, it’s their dedication to music and the alt-rock quartet’s ultra-catchy tuneage that’s bridging the divide. Now, the band announces its debut album, Sparkle Sparkle (Razor & Tie).
“We are a band that comes from the basement who has worked real hard to gradually make our way up the staircase,” says Brenton. In addition to Brenton, on vocals/guitar, Holy White Hounds is comprised of Ambrose Lupercal (bass), James Manson (guitar), and Seth Luloff (drums).
The Holy White Hounds story begins in 2005 with the friendship of founders and primary songwriters Brenton Dean and Ambrose Lupercal. As kids, the two were tight friends who informally played music around town who became buzz-worthy in promise. During this formative stage, Brenton and Ambrose had encountered producer Brandon Darner (Imagine Dragons, Radio Moscow, Envy Corps) and earned his respect, but they didn’t contact him until years later, after they were out of college.
“We were avoiding the pressure of working with him,” admits Brenton. “But when we decided to step up, face being uncomfortable to make a record we were proud of, we contacted him. Once we took it seriously, we realized what we were capable of, and it felt amazing.”
The resulting album, Sparkle Sparkle, coolly conjures The Strokes, Beck, Nirvana, Queens of The Stone Age and The Pixies. Album highlights include the debut single “Switchblade,” “Blind,” “In Your Skin,” “Ghost Arm,” “Oh Mama,” and “Laser Beams.” Switchblade” cuts the difference between Beck’s infectious slacker detachment and Queens Of The Stone Age’s gift for the infectious trapezoidal hook. Here, vocalist/guitarist Brenton Dean sketches out a captivating narrative. “It’s veiled but based on a true story about someone I used to know who was a sweet person, but made one unfortunate mistake and it followed them around forever,” Brenton reveals.
“Oh Mama” and “Laser Beams” manage to be both vitriolic and sensitive. Beneath the coiling hooks of “Oh Mama” is a profound snapshot of male adolescence. It unpacks a friend hearing his mother launch into a men-are-pigs diatribe, and reveals the wounding the boy feels hearing such negativity. “Laser Beams” is aimed at the school bully, and it masterfully dismantles him with the power of an underdog’s epiphanic self-reflection. The pent-up tension throughout the album is satisfyingly channeled into the strutting rhythms and carnal pleasures of “In Your Skin” and “Black Lust.” Rounding out the dynamics are the mid -tempo tracks “Blind” and “Ghost Arm” which teeter between slinky 1990s infectious alt-rock and punk rock anthemics.
Holy White Hounds are currently building a robust profile on alternative and active rock radio stations nationally. In 2014, the quartet self-released their debut EP Oh Mama which garnered critical acclaim, attracting the attention of local rock powerhouse station KAZR/Des Moines. The station’s support, and respected standing as a barometer of quality new music, kicked off nationally an unofficial radio campaign for Holy White Hound’s current single “Switchblade.” The track also has the distinction of receiving backing from digital tastemaking outlets. "Switchblade" has also been featured on the Rock homepage of iTunes as a New Artist Spotlight, and Apple Music Rock has added the band to their "Ones To Watch" playlist. The young band has fortified its growing legacy with incendiary shows sharing the stage with such diverse artists as Cage the Elephant, Sick Puppies, Cake, Wavves, Surfer Blood, and Rob Zombie.
Thinking back on a decade of friendship between Ambrose and Brenton, the sacrifices to make music that’s vital, and how the quartet has become a family and a seasoned touring entity, Brenton says: “When I find myself somewhere in Missouri at three in the morning at a Wendy’s, I look around and realize there’s no place I would rather be. I’m with my best friends, doing something I’m proud of. All the hard work and long drives are worth it.” Ambrose adds: “The biggest thing I’ve learned is that if you’re challenging yourself emotionally and artistically, you can put your head down at night feeling fulfilled.”