House of Fools stockpile new material, return with revamped lineup

by Ryan Snyder

Though they never specifically discussed breaking up, House of Fools had certainly seen better days than those leading up through the end of 2008 and into the New Year. To say that the band took one on the chin with the loss of their entire rhythm section, manager and booking agent within only a few months of each other might still be downplaying the severity of their predicament a bit. “It was the worst I’ve ever felt about my career as a musician,” said guitarist Joel Kiser. “It was definitely the lowest point for me.” The tumult started when a degenerative spinal condition forced the band’s original drummer, Phil Bell, out of playing altogether. Unable to endure van tours and the constant impact of regular drumming, he was faced with the decision to give up music or risk a potentially severe injury. Only a short while later, bassist Jeff Linn quit to return to school with the administrative relationships deteriorating amidst it all. “[Phil] was a really, really good drummer and the first one we picked when we formed, said keyboardist Matt Bowers. “That kicked off what was basically us just fizzing out.” After touring nearly 10 months out of the year for the first four years of their existence, that momentum came to a grinding halt. They couldn’t afford to put together any tours, were barely booking shows at all. The steam built up over their 2007 debut release was long gone and House of Fools was left wondering whether they had anything left to offer. It wasn’t until March 2009 that their fortunes would change. Although they anticipated a great deal of difficulty in finding a new drummer, the band named Jack Foster to the spot after only two auditions. “We expected this to be the biggest pain, but he just worked out right away and fit right in,” said vocalist/guitarist Josh King. With their longtime musical associates Far- Less on the verge of permanently disbanding, they recruited Jordan Powers in May, whom they’ve known for several years, to round out a brand new rhythm section. While such a systemic shock might spell the end of most bands, they have emerged with renewed purpose and a stockpile of unrecorded material at their disposal. “These two guys came in and totally reenergized everyone,” said King. “All of a sudden, it was just as fun as when we first started.” With the new lineup together and in harmony, House of Fools is starting to look like a new band. The eclectic rock sound that pays homage to a diverse range of classic and contemporary acts is still intact, but the new personnel allow the band to explore previously unbroken ground for them. Powers’ experience on vocals with Far-Less allows them to introduce four-part harmonies, while his and Foster’s versatility has opened the door to a new approach that includes a level of live improvisation that their bandmates are particularly excited about. “Seems like for a while we were playing shows to be rewarded, maybe get a good tour or sell a lot of records. We were so beaten down and jaded that it just felt like a job,” said King. “Now playing great shows are their own rewards. How we improv and jam has a lot to do with Jack and Jordan, who are really making us work harder than ever before.” Currently performing in two bands in entirely different junctures, the resurgent House of Fools and the outgoing Far-Less, Powers has been just as much an example to follow as he has a catalyst. He has been simultaneously preparing for important dates with each band while traveling between different North Carolina and Virginia to practice with each. Though Far-Less’ finale is still weeks away, Aug. 14 at Greene Street Club, House of Fools is having a homecoming of sorts at the same venue on July 31. The show marks the band’s first headlining date with the new lineup, as well as a chance for them to display some of the dozens of unrecorded songs they’ve written since their 2007 debut Live & Learn. “We have more than 40 songs recorded, but at this point the only way for people to hear it is to come to the show,” said Bowers “But we haven’t stopped making music and we’re excited about the future.”