The Host's debut EP, Receive, might have hit the streets just two years ago, but the band's roots stretch back nearly a decade and a half. Beginning in 1994, vocalist Chris Charlton, bassist Steve Streit and drummer Marc Sherlock were three-fourths of Levelnine, the locally acclaimed experimental Industrial/Noise outfit, while guitarist Tim Kindberg joined precision Hard Rock band Dropshadow in the late '90s.
Since the two bands shared a similar fan base, they often appeared on the same bill.
"We did quite a few shows together," Charlton says. "We always had a pretty good crowd with both bands playing together."
In 2003, Levelnine dissolved with the loss of their guitarist; the remaining trio took nearly a year off when their gear was stolen. Kindberg subsequently returned from college in Florida in 2004 without a thought of resuming his musical career.
"I'd sold my Mesa/Boogie amp for $400, even though it's a super badass amp," Kindberg says, laughing ruefully. "I thought, 'Surely I'll never want to play music again. I'll sell everything and buy a computer.' I learned I'll never sell all my shit again unless I have way extra.
But it was good because instead of coming back with my old stuff and playing what I used to play, I had to rebuild and buy new pedals and everything, so it helped me start from total scratch."
Kindberg had been back in Cincinnati for all of a week when the Levelnine threesome contacted him to see if he'd be interested in jamming with them. Charlton, Streit and Sherlock had written some songs that were decidedly unlike anything they'd done with Levelnine and they were anxious to flesh them out with a guitarist. Kindberg was a perfect fit and the Host's dark Alternative melodicism evolved quickly.
" 'Sets the Sun' (from Receive) was the second song we wrote and it was solid, like, 'This is what we sound like,' " Charlton says. "We go from side to side, but that's a really good example of our sound."
After two years of honing that sound and writing, The Host released Receive in 2006 and earned some positive buzz, including a Cincinnati Entertainment Awards nomination. The quartet went into last year with new songs ready to record and a hectic gig schedule, but was slightly derailed with Charlton's diabetes diagnosis, which required a few months of reduced activity to begin treatment and regain his equilibrium. (Charlton is helping to raise funds for Juvenile Diabetes research; a portion of CD sales at this Saturday's CD release show will be donated to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Fund.)
Even so, The Host managed to win the local Bodog Battle reality show/Rock band competition last year (which sent them to Cleveland's House of Blues for the regionals) and record their latest EP, Transmit.
With Transmit, The Host expands its pummeling Rush-meets-Radiohead sound with a streak of Jazz and Blues, accentuated by Charlton's emotionally soaring vocals, Kindberg's sinewy guitar leads and bedrock structure, the intuitively slippery bottom end of Streit's subtle bass thunder and Sherlock's velvet hammer drumming. The secret to The Host's sonic cohesion is the band's effective collaboration throughout the process.
"That's what kept all of us playing together for so long," Streit says. "Making sure that we're all happy musically and artistically."
Right now, plans for The Host's upcoming CD release gig at the Madison Theater are the main focus, but they're clearly looking ahead to the next step. They already have a handful of new tunes written for what they hope will be their full-length debut in the next couple of years, and they hope to start touring regionally on a regular basis in the near future.
For a band that began as something of a lark, The Host has grown exponentially in the past four years into a legitimate contender with great potential to break through to the next level.
"I don't know how serious we were when we started other than we wanted to take care of that desire we all had to play," Sherlock say. "When people started giving us positive feedback, we took it more serious and we want to keep it going."
THE HOST (myspace.com/thehostband) plays a CD release party Saturday at the Madison Theater with guests Junior Revolution and Mad Anthony. Buy tickets, check out performance times and find nearby bars and restaurants here.