Folk band Hoots & Hellmouth and its facial hair return to Ann Arbor

MAD Dragon

By Chloe Stachowiak, Daily Music Editor
Published March 9, 2012

It has been a busy five years for Hoots & Hellmouth, the soul-meets-folk band with a tour list as long as its singer’s scruffy beard. The band has lit up stages across the country with its mandolin, upright bass and twangy guitars since its formation in 2005 — and it’s bringing that same infectious energy to The Ark tomorrow night.

Hoots & Hellmouth


Tomorrow at 8 p.m.
The Ark
From $20


This won’t be the group’s first time in Ann Arbor — the Philadelphia natives have graced the town with their string instruments and facial hair multiple times in the past, with a handful of performances at The Ark and a spot in the 2010 Ann Arbor Folk Festival.

“We’ve been fans of A2 for years now,” wrote lead singer Sean Hoots in an e-mail interview. “(It) seems like there's a lot of love for original music there. The Ark (and everyone involved from Anya to the volunteer staff) truly inspires us.”

While Hoots is drawn to the college atmosphere of the town — savoring everything from the used bookstores and coffee shops that speckle the streets to the local beer selection at Ashley’s — it’s Hill Auditorium that really dazzles him.

“That auditorium there is hands-down one of the finest rooms I've ever had the privilege to sing in,” he wrote. “Standing on the front lip of the stage at the center, you can cock your head back and hold a note that will fill the entire interior without amplification. That gave me goosebumps.”

But it isn’t just the acoustics in the Hill that stands out in the musician’s mind — Hoots performed there with Iron & Wine’s Sam Beam, an experience the musician remembers fondly.

“Sam is such a sweetheart!” he wrote. “We took a picture together afterwards ... both of our beards flowing in the breeze. It was glorious.”

Sam Beam is just one of the big names the band has performed with, however. The members have shared the stage with groups such as Dr. Dog and Wicked Sister, playing in cities such as Nashville and Chicago. While Hoots is somewhat drawn to these larger shows — the “glitz and glamor” make him feel like he’s “doing it for real” — there is still something to be said for quainter venues.

“Small-town shows bring out the salt of the earth, and I personally tend to identify more with these folks,” he wrote. “And although we may be playing a town we've never heard of before, those shows can sometimes bring out the best band-audience connections, because there’s a bit less pretense involved.”

Even with the constant shows and an ever-moving tour bus, Hoots & Hellmouth still finds time to write and record new music. The band’s third and favorite album to date, Salt is due for release April 10.

Salt is a colorful beast,” he wrote. “We took our time crafting an environment for these tunes ... more so than previous studio experiences, where we were trying to meet deadlines. Overall the album plays a little quieter than our previous efforts, but I feel like the subtleties and dynamics have been expanded and became more nuanced with our new approach.”

Hoots & Hellmouth’s music may have transformed since the release of their self-titled LP in 2007, but the band’s ego is anything but inflated — in fact, Hoots’s vision for the future is about as down-to-earth as it gets. His goal?

“Lots more Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays,” he wrote.