Driving in convoy to the ‘man cave’ and the band’s very own music meet-up – a decked-out cellar come party pad under dave’s house, i was excited to see what the smooth hounds had to offer. Several minutes spent off-roading and we arrive at the venue – jp wasn’t wrong, there was no way i would have found this place alone.
Once inside, I meet the crew. Or more so, the alter ego of each band member. JP introduces himself as a Russian Astronaut, Marc a cunning spy and Dave an ex-rugby player who likes to dabble in instrumental logistics. Of course, they all have everyday jobs as well, yet whilst in band mode they like to keep things quirky.
You may have already guessed – my newfound friends are quite the characters and despite being decidedly different from one another, they gel perfectly in tune. They waste no time in telling me of their ultimate goal – to make enough money to buy a flashy helicopter that will whisk them off to a variety of dreamy destinations. The stimulus behind this, Iron Maiden and one of heavy metal’s greatest vocalists. ‘Bruce Dickenson never gets on a bus; he flies!’ say’s Marc.
This brings us onto the story of when the band performed a gig at Le Hocq Inn. Being a Black Friday and the weekend before Christmas, there wasn’t a parking space in sight. The Smooth Hounds instead journeyed to the venue, kit in tow, on the local bus. ‘Rock & Roll!’ Exclaims Marc. ‘If only we’d had the helicopter at the time…’
When we get down to the nitty gritty facts, this isn’t a band that plays to accomplish a certain status; they play because they love to jam! Their ultimate goal (aside from the helicopter) is to get the crowd going. ‘When we’ve got the groupies singing along to the chorus, we’ve nailed it,’ explains Marc.
They’re not a band intent on touring the Globe, they’re quite happy to do the rounds in Jersey, with their most recent performance being a showdown at the Watersplash. ‘The place was filled with so much energy and heat, it brought out the best in us’ says JP.
So when did the Smooth Hounds begin their rock and roll journey? ‘That would be four years to date’ says Marc, himself being the last member to join. Apparently Dave took one look at him, gave him the title of the bass player and the rest was history. The beauty of the band, each and every member comes from a different melodic background. Dave, from sunny Wales (not to stereotype but apparently he has the voice of an angel) this is the sole reason he’s been banished to the drums, ‘this is a gruff band’ say’s Marc ‘and we make ‘gruff’ music!’ Then there’s JP, all the way from South Africa, as his layback drawl clearly indicates. Finally Marc, a London-born 80’s kid and burgeoning body popper. Despite their varied upbringings, they’ve all been on the island long enough to class themselves as fully-fledged Jersey beans.
The next question I wanted to ask the boys, why the Smooth Hounds? Although they wish they had a more Rock n Roll story, it’s because each and every member shares a passion for fishing, a ‘Smooth Hound’ being a small cunning shark. ‘Some of us are a lot better than others’ says Dave, said whilst rubbernecking JP. On one of their many fishing adventures, the lead drummer managed to catch JP in the face with a lure; luckily this didn’t affect his jamming.
So how do they practise and more importantly where do these three men and their manager/roadie/pupil get together. The latter individual being Swifty, and one of the youngest members to join this finely tuned musical machine. ‘We practise in the ‘cave’ declares Marc. ‘It’s boy time’ says Dave. ‘No girl’s allowed’ say’s JP. Intrigued, I follow them down to the said ‘cave’ – a converted cellar come party playpen a few metres from the front door. ‘When we play,’ says JP, ‘it’s almost as if we become kids again, a hiatus from our everyday lives.’
‘It also means we can have a beer or two,’ say Mike. ‘The church halls hate it if you leave a cider bottle behind!’ This is the reason the Smooth Hounds are able to practise at least four hours every week, something that differentiates them from the other musicians in Jersey. Having their own space to jam means they can make as much noise as they desire (the neighbours have been notified) it also saves them lugging around their guitars, drum sets and musical selves – a task usually left up to Dave.
One, Two, three and it begins, hats off, beers down, and their edgy sound entrenches the room. I have to say, I felt pretty privileged to be the only other member of the audience. Aside from a few internal debates about the songs they did and didn’t want to play, this is a band that works well together. I quickly see why the crowd were so rife at Splash.
So where else have they played? ‘We won’t play just anywhere’ say’s Marc, ‘we want to stay fresh’ say’s JP – possibly one of the reasons they’ve never, and never will perform a cover, each and every word is their own. They headlined Groove de Lecq when it first took to the stage; they’ve played at a wide variety of charity events, pubs and clubs and, oddly, a private party in Sumas in Gorey. ‘Diners pushed the chairs back and began to dance’ says Dave, ‘we weren’t expecting that!’
Then there was the RegStock this year, which boasts a Roman-style amphitheatre; ‘we felt great that Reg asked us to headline the gig as it was for Amnesty International’, ‘the venue was quite interesting too’ says Marc. ‘The guy has his own Facebook page and he’s only 80!’
They tend to stay away from the commercial side of things, ‘we’re a local band and want to stay that way’ Marc hoots. ‘Although if Jersey Live were to ask…we probably wouldn’t say no,’ concludes JP.
You can see the hounds constantly working throughout the music, the practise is organic and this underground playground isn’t just a place in which to bash out a few songs, it’s a place in which the creative work at their best.
The Smooth Hounds are a delicious cocktail of nostalgic rock ‘n’ roll exuberance, blended with a punk attitude, catchy lyrics and a gruff edge. A number of the songs begin mellow, transpire into rock, and finish with a reggae climax.
There’s a ruggedly handsome quality to this band’s sound and from the foot tapping to the head bopping, each and every member really gets deep into the music. With lines like ‘I close my eyes to see if the world’s ok’ and ‘hey you there, need a little something’ it’s easy to see how the Smooth Hounds get the crowd going! I was tempted to get up and dance, not entirely sure how acceptable this would be on my first invite to the man cave, I stuck to the head banging and foot drumming instead.
So what’s next for the Hounds? Does the underground sound with a pop attitude of a kooky chorus wish to take things further? ‘If we can get a slot at Vale Earth, we’ll be happy men,’ they all chime, hoping to follow in the footsteps of the Buzzcocks and the Specials. ‘It’s held at the Old Fort in Guernsey, it’s been going for 30 years and still only costs £10 a ticket’ says Marc.
You can catch the Smooth Hounds on Soundcloud, whilst their debut EP will go live early October. I personally can’t wait to get an invite to their next gig!
FOR MORE INFO ON THE HOUNDS AND UPCOMING GIGS, CHECK OUT THE BAND’S FACEBOOK PAGE: