April 24, 2010 | Skully’s Music Diner |  Columbus, OH

Photo by John Danner

This night had been in the works for months.  A joint birthday party between one of my best friends, and a rock star. Since they met back in October, and discovered they had the same birthday, Tracey and Jason Stollsteimer had been giddily planning an epic evening of red velvet cake and rock and roll.  This was Columbus debut for The Hounds Below, and even though he had played this town numerous times before with The Von Bondies, Jason admitted he was slightly nervous.  A whole new band, a whole new sound.  I sat down with him and Ben Collins in the Green Room in the upstairs of Skully’s Music Diner.

KP: Since you are fairly new, I would like to know what brought you together to start the band.

Ben: Jason started the band a couple years ago. It just started as an idea. They had played one show with totally different members.  More recently decided to do it more seriously, and he found a whole bunch of musicians from the Detroit area.  We all play in our own bands as well but we kind of took time off here and there to go play with him because…

Jason: …We tour!

Ben: Yeah, and we all really like his songs so we joined his band as well.

KP:  How did you all meet?

Ben:  I was Jason’s sound guy when he was in the Von Bondies.

Jason: And I liked his band, his other band.  It was nothing like this or anything I’ve ever done. But most music I like live is not something I’d ever play. I appreciate what I don’t do. I don’t like a lot of bands that sound anything like what I do… at all.   Not modern ones… But yeah, Molly, the bass player, I had never seen her play before in any other bands. Ben Luckett our drummer, the other Ben, I had never seen his band play either.  It was just like people recommended people and they just worked or they didn’t.  There are 4 people in the band, but we seem to have a new keyboard player every 10 shows… every 5 shows…

Ben: Every tour!

Jason: But they aren’t in the band.  They’re just friends who are normally lead singers of their own band but they like the break from the pressure of being the front guy. They just have fun playing live.

Ben: George is doing a great job.  He’s the one playing with us tonight.

 Jason: Yeah, the show last night was his first with us, and this will be his second. We practiced three times and that was it! Allison plays trombone for us.  We asked her to join the band, but she has too many others asking her to join.  … and she’s not behind you or saying anything right now.

Allison: I forgot my heels! 

Jason: You can borrow someone’s! What size do you wear?

Allison: Size 8.

Jason:  Anyone wear a size 8?

KP:  I do… but I didn’t bring an extra pair with me, sorry!

Jason: See… shoes!  That’s just like you… just like you.

Ben:  If it makes you feel better, I also forgot my heels.

Allison: I never forget anything…

Jason: You forgot them in my bedroom [Laughter]

KPHow long have you played collectively?

Jason: Seven months!

KP:  Seven months…. So what has been the greatest show you’ve played together thus far?

Jason:  It wouldn’t have been BRMC… but that would have been the biggest crowd.

Ben:  Oh yeah, I had fun at the BRMC show in Seattle though

Jason: You left!

Ben: Yeah… I left to see another band down the street.  [Laughs] But it was still good.

Jason: I would say… LA was fun.  I don’t know! We’ve been really lucky. We’re trying not to use my other band’s name.  I think this is the only show where we’ve used the name The Von Bondies to sell tickets.  We try to make it a fact that no one’s allowed to use it. We don’t want to live off of my old merit.  It’s a big thing because I don’t want people coming expecting to hear Von Bondies songs.  Which… believe me, happens when you advertise it.  And people drunkenly get pissed and say stupid things. But [The Hounds Below] have never played Columbus and the Von Bondies always did well here for some reason.  Which is weird.  Ben is a University of Michigan Alumnus.  He played in the Marching band.

Ben:  That’s right, that’s right.

KP: Uh oh!  Don’t go telling anyone that.  There’s a lot of drunk OSU fans out right now.  Today was their spring game.   Don’t get any sudden school spirit.  [Laughs]

Ben: Oh, well I never had any. [Laughs] It took me 6 years to graduate and I’m going to be in debt until I’m 60… so…. But that’s alright.

KP:  What do you guys do for other jobs, other than touring and recording with The Hounds Below?

Ben:  I do sound locally in the Detroit area and for bands. I also do web work, which is nice for the road. I can work from the car.

KP: That’s pretty cool.

Jason: I just do this…

Ben: He’s lucky enough that he doesn’t need to do anything else.

Jason:  Anytime I made money I never spent it.  So I have a tiny little house, instead of a bigger house I could have afforded at one point.   I don’t need a lot, you know?  I don’t need a three, four bedroom house when I live by myself.

KPThat’s admirable! You’re not trying to get on MTV Cribs or anything…?

Jason: No, no, no.  MTV Holes-in-the-Wall. [Laughter] No, but its funny, though. The Von Bondies, everyone kind of looked at it as a band. But, after the first two years I came to the realization and so did the guy that was managing us, that it was a solo project. I’d always end up in the studio, always by myself.  This is the first band that actually feels like a band. I know Ben kept saying it’s MY band, but he’s played more guitar in seven months than the guitarist for the Von Bondies did in seven years.   I’d always play the guitar parts because I could get it done in 5 minutes. But Ben is 10 better than I am. The drummer plays all of his parts and Molly the bass player also plays all of her parts.  This is more of a band, and we actually hang out and go out where I never went out with any one from the Von Bondies after the first year or two.  (To Ben) Maybe in a year or two we wont talk.

Ben: Hopefully! [Laughs]

Jason:  And that means we succeeded!!

KP:  What about SxSW? How was that experience for you guys?

Jason: Hot tub!  We rented a big house and got a hot tub!

KPHow many days were you there?

Jason: All of them.

Ben: We were supposed to play seven shows? Eight shows! But we only played 6.  The last day it was 40 degrees and pouring rain and lightening.  We were to play 3 outdoor shows that day, several on metal stages.

Jason: The best show was at Home Slice.  Which is a pizza place in Austin.  It’s the show I always love playing. No matter what, there are lots families there.  There were two little girls sitting right in front of me.  And I was like, “Is this too loud?”

The interview was interrupted briefly.  I had missed a payment on my credit card and Chase was calling me at 8:30 in the evening to harass me.  Jason began to explain how to make the creditors stop calling you forever…

Jason:  They had been calling Ben so, I picked up the phone and said, “What is this about?!” and they said they were a creditor trying to collect money. So I said, “I really don’t have the strength to talk…” They were like, “I’m sorry sir, is there a better time to call?” And I said, “Actually no, I have cancer.”  [Laughter] And they felt sooooo bad.  I know that’s horrible, and I’m totally going to get cancer. Everyone in my family has cancer. We all have cancer. But they never called back!!  I told them to take me off the calling list because I didn’t know how long I was going to be around.  They NEVER called back.

KP:  That’s good! I’m going to have to remember that next time they call.

Jason:  I am terrible, so terrible. But life is too short not to be. 

The Hounds Below are currently (top left to bottom right) Jason Stollsteimer, Ben Luckett, Ben Collins and Molly Jean Schoen. They will be touring with The Heavy this July. Keep an eye on their myspace for more dates to be announced. You can download three free songs off of their page.