"No comment,” Katie Toupin said, with a laugh.
She’s the keyboard player and vocalist for Americana outfit Houndmouth. Toupin had been asked if the rest of the all male band members she’s touring with are gentlemen.
“It can be pretty gross,” she said. “I just keep my headphones on most of the time.”
The “boys” as Toupin called them on numerous occasions are drummer Shane Cody, bassist Zak Appleby and guitarist/vocalist Matt Myers. Houndmouth’s first Oklahoma concert is slated for Feb. 18 at Opolis. For only having been a band two years the New Albany, Indiana-based quartet are riding an enviable wave of popularity. They’ve performed on both Conan and Letterman’s TV showcases and many festivals. For Toupin that hasn’t changed the day to day reality of traveling in a van with a trio of 20-something guys she has no romantic interest in. But network television was still a thrill, how could it not be?
“Being famous is a bit of a stretch,” Toupin said. “But it was totally exciting and the TV experiences in and of themselves were eye-opening.”
Conan’s show was their first and Houndmouth had just flown back to the USA from London. They were exhausted and not prepared for what would be a very long day.
“Load-in was at 6 in the morning but Conan and everyone at the show were so nice,” she said. “It’s amazing how it all works. They rehearse all day long, then tape it and have a new show for every night. All the work that goes into all that is incredible. We were so nervous that honestly I don’t remember the performance. There’s no warm-up, they open the curtains and we played our song. It was nerve-wracking.”
The boys wore plaid flannel, an ironic T-shirt and jeans on national TV but Toupin dressed for the occasion in an attractive and sophisticated geometric print mini-dress. The song Houndmouth performed was “On the Road,” the first track on their superbly crafted album, “From The Hills Below The City.” It’s a record of songs that speaks from the mid-America they call home. New Albany is a small town where high school girls basketball is Tribune front page news along with an editorial worrying “Are men really becoming obsolete.” Nearby Louisville, Ky., is the big city where she resides now.
“I grew up in other southern Indiana towns and we all went to four, area high schools and knew each because they are small towns where everybody knows everybody.”
Toupin’s father, Dave Toupin, was a blues harp player and guitarist so she was around his music growing up.
“My dad was always playing guitar,” she said. “He’d make up little songs for me. I’d always get Beatles CDs in my Easter basket. I’d shyly sing along with them and he’d encourage me to sing loud and hit the notes properly because it was a better way to sing and made my voice stronger. Our game singing in the car was ‘Hit that note.’”
The elder Toupin had an opportunity to perform with his daughter’s band at a late night festival show last year.
“It was really cool for me,” she said.
Before Houndmouth, Toupin and Meyers played coffee shop gigs together for four years.
“Zak and Matt played all through high school together in blues bands,” Toupin said. “We were all very comfortable when we got in a room together except that Zak and I picked up brand new instruments for Houndmouth. But our thought process when it came to what we liked in songs was really cohesive because we’d known each other for so long. Shane was new to the whole thing but he got exactly what we were going for right away. We all had this feeling what we had was really good but we didn’t think it would be what it is now. We just wanted to go find a local show for all our friends and had no idea we’d be playing all these festivals.”
Houndmouth has been touring with Alabama Shakes, Drive-By Truckers, The Lumineers, Lucero and Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. They have learned a lot from these more experienced groups.
“It’s helping us develop as performers,” Toupin said. “I love this opportunity to grow and the socializing part of it. I love the music we’re making and we all believe in our music. I think it’s really important to love what you’re doing.”
Check out Houndmouth’s music and you’ll ask, “What’s not to love?”
If You Go
What: Houndmouth and Willie Watson in concert.
Where: Opolis, 113 N. Crawford Ave.
When: 9 p.m. Feb. 18