House of Bread
September 6, 2012
It can be easy to look around your hometown and think you’re living in a vacuum, where culture, arts and common sense can’t find it’s way in. A different opinion from the norm may and can be frowned upon. Where do I fit in? Where are the films I want to see? Where are the bands that I want to hear? These are sentiments that I’m sure are echoed throughout your hometown. I know they’re echoed in mine. Sometimes you have to just look a little harder, or just look a little further, but if you stand still and concentrate you just might hear an answer.
An answer to the question “Where are the bands I want to hear?” is sometimes, “Right in front of you, pal.”
Fort Wayne is not lacking in extremely talented, original music. I’ve heard so many great original bands over the last year alone. Years prior have been the same. Some stick around for the long haul and become those crusty blokes playing every weekend to adoring fans, putting out music despite the fact that they know in their hearts this is as good as it gets. No national tours. No contract signing. They do it for the love of music.
Other bands are gone before we have a chance to get to know them. Some do their thing and then move on to other projects.
One such band is Fort Wayne’s House of Bread. This is a band that started out in 2005 as nothing more than a living room chill session for All Nite Skate’s Omar Afzaal. House of Bread have since become a full-on band, four dudes laying it down like a well-oiled machine. I got a chance to talk to Omar about the band, music and their excellent forthcoming record, Hypnic Jerk, that is soon to blow minds in the Fort.
“I wanted a creative outlet that didn’t require me to take what I was doing so seriously. I had no quality control over my output at the time and ended up recording 30 songs in 30 days,” recalled Afzaal.
This bountiful burst of creative energy became House of Bread’s first full-length album, House That Bread Built, a record Afzaal now describes as “super sloppy and incredibly embarrassing to listen to.
“However,” he added, “I do think I recorded some accidental gems that have aged pretty well. I essentially used a digital 8-track recorder, and the only effects I used to produce it was whatever was on my guitar pedal board.” If that’s not DIY, what is?
What Afzaal had established was a creative outlet for himself, something he could keep to himself, hide from the outside world and his other band, All Nite Skate. If he wanted to record a song in the morning with a cup of coffee and the cat staring at him from across the living room, he could. How did this one-man session become the full-on dream pop, indie rock juggernaut that it is now?
“Eventually, Bob (Haddad, Afzaal’s bandmate in both All Nite Skate and Castles) convinced me to let him join the project. This immediately forced me to take the project more seriously. I didn’t want to waste his time, and I wanted to get the most of the creative connection that we have when we write and play music together.”
With Haddad on board, the duo finished House of Bread’s first collaborative album, 2010’s Superhuman Tomb, and with that stellar album under their belt, they decided they needed to get right back to work.
“We immediately started working on Hypnic Jerk together,” said Afzaal. “This is the first HOB album that we have collaborated on from beginning to end. We knew that our live shows were lacking without a live drummer and bass player, so we convinced Phil Arbogast and Zach Smith to join the band. Suddenly, House of Bread was a ‘real’ band.”
Arbogast was the drummer in both All Nite Skate and Castles. Smith has played in a who’s who of the area’s premier original bands, including Definitely Gary, Happy Birthday (a Ween tribute band), Wooden Satellites, Orange Opera, unofficially in Superchunk, Good Time Fun Club and Casa Del Pan. I think I even caught Smith practicing with my band once before he vanished in a cloud of dry ice smoke. The dude is an established player, let’s leave it at that.
With a full band in place, House Of Bread are ready to start hitting stages across town and sharing Hypnic Jerk’s original blend of dream pop.
“I think dream pop might be the best way to categorize our sound”, say Afzaal. “As much as I hate genre names, this is the quickest way to give people some sort of idea of what we sound like.” I was able to get a super secret listening session with the new album. I won’t say much about the album, other than this is truly one of the best local releases to come out of the scene.
With an album this special, Afzaal and Haddad wanted this record to sound as good as it possibly could, so they decided to put it out on vinyl. Since few people have a vinyl press in their basement, they decided on doing a Kickstarter campaign to help pay for the pressing.
“Once we finished Hypnic Jerk we knew we couldn’t sell it short by only having a CD release. We were really proud of the songs that ended up on the album and wanted to do them justice by doing a full-fledged vinyl release. However, money is definitely a serious issue when it comes to this format. We wanted our Kickstarter campaign to really be treated as a ‘pre-order campaign’ with a ton of added benefits. The cover requests quickly spiraled out of control because of it. However, we’d do it again.”
Cover requests, you say? Why yes. One of the perks once you hit a certain “pre-order” donation level was that you got to request a song for the guys to cover. All of the song requests will be compiled onto a covers album called Keeper of the Earth.
I asked Afzaal if the covers album is fun or torture? “It’s a little of both. There have been some selections that will go unnamed that we have dreaded doing. However, it has really helped all four of us get to know each other musically. I really cannot believe we are consistently pumping out a cover a week. I think the cover of Rob Zombie’s ‘Dragula’ was the most surprising cover we did. I still don’t know how we pulled that one off. But yeah, overall the covers album has been a total blast.”
House Of Bread – some guys who work day jobs, have girlfriends and wives and domesticated pets and enjoy a good maki roll every now and then – have pulled a musical miracle out of thin air. Sleight of hand, or ear, if you will.
What started out as one guy trying to not be so serious and record for the sake of fun – no expectations, no pre-conceived delusions of grandeur, just record some songs and enjoy it like he did before all that ‘serious artist’ stuff – has turned into something so much more. If anything, Afzaal and House Of Bread have proven that you don’t have to be a serious “artist” in order to make serious art. You can laugh, goof off and record an entire album of covers and still create something epic and beautiful as well. Hypnic Jerk is a testament to that.