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Hyacinth House (Profile)

Duo carves out a place in the ElectroPunk scene

By C.A. MacConnell · July 21st, 2009 · Locals Only

Dirty, sexy, seedy. And without a doubt kickin’. A souped-up Beta Band. LCD Soundsystem with a li’l bit of Modest Mouse.

That about hits it. High energy, this music’s got “late late night trouble,” dark rooms, weird lighting and couch surfing written all over it. In a good way, nasty.

“I like driving to it. It gets you going. Something you can dance to, something you can put on when you’re going out Friday or Saturday,” says vocalist Mike Schalk.

Electropunk band Hyacinth House played the “Bodyrock” event at the Blue Rock Tavern every Wednesday in June, booking bands and DJs. Schalk continues, “We’re lookin’ for other places to rock out to. It’s cool, because at Blue Rock we can pretty much do what we want. I can walk on top of the bar. I can jump off shit, and no one really cares. It allows us to have a little freedom.”

Here’s the story: Schalk and Mike McKibben met in high school in Williamsburg, Ohio. When Schalk busted out of detention one day, McKibben was standing there waiting for him, asking, “Hey, man, you’re Mike, right? You play guitar?”

Schalk responded, “Yeah, I’m a badass guitarist.”

Straight from detention, Schalk and McKibben went to play music, and they’ve been ripping through songs together ever since.

Grabbing the name Hyacinth House from the 1971 song by The Doors, Schalk says he just dug the sound of it: “It does have kind of an electronic music connotation … the ‘cinth’ and the ‘house.’ ” Although HH officially landed here from space a year and a half ago, Schalk and McKibben have been all over the music-genre world for years.

“I love that ’77 Punk Rock scene in New York," Schalk says.

"You know, like The Heartbreakers. A lot of times, the people who come up and enjoy (us) are people who like weird music — Talking Heads or even underground electronic music. They like being able to dance, but they like seeing us move around, jump around, play guitar and sing and stuff too. I think that’s where the punk-rocky energy comes through.”

Although McKibben (bass, guitar, backup vocals, beatwork) is “into dance songs,” and Schalk (lead guitar, keys, drum machine, lead vocals) likes “weird, abrasive stuff,” their tastes are all over the map. Before HH, Schalk regularly played Bob Dylan covers solo at local haunts. “Just me and a harmonica,” he says.

Schalk has an album’s worth of solo originals with “acoustic guitars, bells and vocal harmonies. Eclectic.” Schalk, McKibben and Brett Tritsch (Frontier Folk Nebraska drummer) also play in the spanking-new, high-energy, psychedelic Garage Rock band The Dust Feel.

But for this band’s inspiration, Schalk gives a shout to some locals: “We saw The Seedy Seeds a long time ago. Just two of them playing with beats. We were like, ‘If they can get away with it, maybe we can,’ although we don’t sound anything like The Seedy Seeds.”

Then one day Brooks Rexroat needed a coffee drink where Schalk worked. Out of nowhere, Schalk asked Rexroat if he played in a band.

“I always ask people that," Schalk says. "Brooks has a Type A personality, but he can play any kind of instrument. I like working with people who can do keys, sing, play bass, all that.”

And Schalk is a multi-instrumentalist as well, often working alone when recording demos.

Rexroat’s now a multi-faceted HH fixture, switching from keys to guitar to drums. Stepping in when he’s in town, Rexroat also plays with the Illinois-based band Sorry, Michigan.

Shalk explains, “Brooks will come in and help us record. He played with us a couple of weeks ago, but he’s a professor in Illinois right now. Whenever he comes into town, we usually put him on stage with us and hang out.”

Last year, the three went on an intense tour.

“We did a southern tour with (Rexroat), and we would do coffee shops in the day and play his material," Schalk says. "Then at night he would come on with us and play the Hyacinth House stuff.”

Hyacinth House is in the process of setting up a Northside production company aimed at promotion and networking. Recording at local spot Candyland Studios, the band’s debut CD is in the oven, with a release party planned for the end of July.

Listen, and in no time, you’ll start nodding your head, grinning, then full-on moving, feeling the ground — no, feeling the underground.

“When we first started playing, I don’t think people knew what to expect,” Schalk says. “After getting it down, and (when) we knew what we were doing, people respected that and started to think it’s OK to dance.”

HYACINTH HOUSE (myspace.com/hyacinthhousemusic) plays The Blue Rock Tavern July 22. Get details and find nearby bars and restaurants here.



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