(By Pat ‘Riot’ Whitaker, Senior Writer/Editor, RiffRelevant.com)
Pittsburgh’s Horehound are a relatively young band, having first fired up in 2015, and are now continuing to build their street cred. I was unfamiliar with the band when I saw them live at 2016’s Doomed & Stoned Festival in Indianapolis, but my ignorance was irrelevant.
I quickly learned what a killer band they are, one that is a heavily blended take on psyche-infused Stoner/Doom. Their sonics are the result of the super talented quartet cast comprising the band, guitarist Brendan Parrish, bassist Nick Kopco, drummer JD Dauer and vocalist Shy Kennedy.
The lady there last is a singing phenom, a bit bluesy, a bit sultry and every bit banshee through and through. I met Shy in person at the aforementioned D&S Fest when, at the very last minutes of the event, a mad retail rush ensued to sell some last-minute merch. She convinced me to buy an LP or two (not her band’s either, just ones to help out), which I did.
In time, I learned that she is what one might call a ‘Jill-Of-All-Trades’, due to the fact that she is a non-stop workhorse when it comes to music and her scene. Shy’s involved with Horehound, of course, but she is also in another project named O Heiðrún, as well as associated with an entity called Blackseed Design.
Oh, she’s also one of the main organizing forces behind the upcoming Descendants Of Crom Festival in Pittsburgh on September 30th. It’s an amazing roster of acts as you will see and Riff Relevant (aka Leanne Ridgeway our Founder/Chief Editor, Staff Writer David LaMay, and myself) plan to be there to cover it.
With all of this now laid out before you, I thought it would make for interesting telecommunications to engage Shy in some conversation. If for nothing else, I’d like to know how she finds the time and energy to do all that she does, without collapsing from fatigue daily. Anyway, settle on in, my friends and allow me to present to you The Riff Relevant Interview With Descendants Of Crom Fest Organizer & Horehound Vocalist SHY KENNEDY…
Pat Riot: Didn’t Horehound first form just in 2015? How did the band get started originally? You all recently celebrated the one year anniversary of your fantastic, and widely acclaimed, self-titled début in April, what has been your take away from the positive acceptance of that album?
Shy: We did form in 2015, with me as the last piece. It was all Craigslist ads leading to one another. We all came from different backgrounds, but wanted the same thing. We’ve had lineup changes, mainly due to members moving on to better opportunities in other cities.
We recorded one year after we were together. Locally, people were digging the sound, but we had no clue how well our release would be received. The take-away from that to me is: ‘Hey, let’s do more! Let’s amplify this. Let’s invest more time.’ It’s all worth it. That is even more so from playing live and feeding off audience energy. We love what we are doing.
Pat Riot: What’s currently going on with Horehound at this time, how is the band going and what do you all have happening this year? And while we’re at it, just exactly what is a “horehound”? 🙂
Shy: Since the beginning of this year we’ve been juggling many shows and writing new material, and it’s been rewarding to our writing process, rather inspiring. Not only have the bands we’ve played with been encouraging, but the energy from our own performances has been thrilling. We’re having a lot of fun. We plan to do a split 7” with Enhailer soon, as well as begin recording for our next record.
We’ve went through a lot of lineup adjustments, but what happened was, we got where we need to be, better than we were before. The chemistry is good and the energy is great. Those are important ingredients when working in a group. We are currently writing new material and I don’t think it will be long before we are in a studio again.
We have some pretty killer festivals coming up starting with Maryland Doomfest in Frederick, end of June. We’re getting out to more cities this year, slow but steady. There is also an exciting announcement to come soon – you won’t miss it, I promise.
Horehound is a plant. It’s known for several medicinal purposes, such as treating breathing conditions and clearing sore throats. It’s a rough-looking plant, but has a beautiful flower when it’s budding. I am sure a lot of people get the wrong idea from the name especially when it’s only spoken. That’s just a bonus.
Pat Riot: The band has a decidedly heavier edge to it, who would you cite as your personal influences and what about the band as a whole?
Shy: I am a metalhead. I grew up on thrash, death, and doom. Black Sabbath will always be my eternal influence. I relate with the first era of Black Sabbath so much. I was also born in ’80. I listened to a lot of great pop music. From that, artists like Peter Gabriel, Annie Lennox, Freddie Mercury and David Bowie have specifically inspired me vocally. It’s funny because I think I listen to some of the more extreme music styles out of anyone in the band.
As a group, we all agree that Kyuss, Alice in Chains, Down and a lot of the 90’s stoner rock were killer. Brendan adores Hendrix, which is an important note regarding the inspiration of our material. Like all bands, we listen to a lot different styles, but more than anything, our peers are coming out with some amazing music.
Going to see shows and hearing all the new releases is more inspirational, even if it’s not even the same style music – you take so much energy from that. There is just so much creativity and support among the underground metal and stoner scenes. It’s absolutely encouraging.
Pat Riot: You all played last year’s Doomed & Stoned Fest. How was that overall experience for you all? Do you have a preference when it comes to festivals as opposed to live gigs/touring?
Shy: D&S was our first festival – remember, we are just getting started. It was a great experience for us to play along with some very great bands, but also many friends. I say fests are better because the more bands, the more different fans that come out to see them. That gives us the opportunity to play for people who’ve never even heard our name. Also, people invest their time in fests. There is time to walk up to people before and after you perform and get to meet people.
Pat Riot: Speaking of festivals, you are the organizer for the first planned Descendants Of Crom fest in Pittsburgh in September. What brought about this undertaking and how are things coming along?
Shy: Before Horehound, I was a fan going to shows. I travel to see bands a lot. Not all of them hit up Pittsburgh. There is no underground metal or hard rock festival where bands come into town to play. When Horehound became ready to play out, I started working with other bands to get us gigs. Then I began to work with venues directly.
What happened next was my becoming a resource for bands from out-of-town to find a spot in Pittsburgh to play. I book as many gigs for other bands as I do for Horehound and we play a good amount! The next time, I thought “I really wished we had something like that in Pittsburgh,” I realized if anyone could do something about it, it was me.
Descendants of Crom is about bringing this great talent to the area, and also about revealing the local talent to others who would typically never come out or even know to. It’s for the bands, it’s for the fans, and the bigger and stronger this first year will be will determine the years to follow.
Pat Riot: Penance are one of my favorite doom bands. How excited are you about their headlining D.o.C.? Without risking hurting anyone’s feelings, are there any other acts you are especially looking forward to seeing there?
Shy: I am terribly excited. I never got to see them live by the time I discovered them. It’s going to be awesome for those like us, and those who never heard of them. Also, many of the band members are my friends. It’s going to be amazing.
The thing about this line-up is that I really attempted to formulate it. I don’t want an all day event where everyone sounds like everyone. Every band will bring something to compliment the other and make this an enjoyable day. It’s not a deathfest, it’s not a doomfest, it’s an event of heavy music spanning all the genres. I am not ducking out on this answer, I am going to have a total bangover the next day. Maybe the worst/best of my life.
Pat Riot: For someone who may be on the fence about attending DoC, what would you say to them, to perhaps sway or entice them to make the effort?
Shy: The line-up is there, the location is great. We have a special thing happening here. You know that when you go to a show – you are the one making it happen. You are responsible for its success, by showing up and supporting the bands and by taking in what they create for you.
The more people who attend, the stronger this becomes. The better it will be then, and in years to come. Be a part of something great by helping make it great yourself. Come, bring your friends. If you don’t have friends, you’ll make some here.
This is an event that you get to meet and greet your favorite artists. Have a drink with them. Tell them what they mean to you. Believe me, I’ve seen them all perform… they’ll mean something to you by the end of this day.
Pat Riot: Shy, you are a Jill-Of-All-Trades… I recently learned of another project you’re involved with, O Heiðrún, which I have not heard, by the way. Can you tell us a little about it? While you’re at it, you may as well inform us what Blackseed Design is and your association with it. With all the varied hats you wear as a musician in multiple projects, event organizer, etc… what, if anything, non-music related in your personal life do you enjoy… assuming you have the time? Ha!
Shy: Ha! Master of none. O Heiðrún is an experimental noise project that is pretty personal. It’s just layers of anguished and exhausted vocals. It is an expression of all the musical frustrations I have had in my past and, I am sure, again in the future recordings. It’s unedited and not for everyone, it’s out there on Soundcloud and I have had some small releases. You’ll never see me push or advertise it. It’s just there.
I went to school for graphic design. I took a different path in my career and The Blackseed Design allows me to do some freelance and remain creative in that way. I specialize in commercial art and identity/branding, but I also work with bands as of late.
There isn’t much lately that I do in my spare time that is not music related. I like to make time to exercise because it helps me focus and makes me feel better. Weightlifting and boxing training are the best!
Pat Riot: I have a tradition of closing interviews with an open floor… anything you’d like to say, state, share, what have you. Now is your opportunity.
Shy: Thanks for taking the time and interest with Horehound and Descendants of Crom, Pat. I’d just like to say to anyone reading this, you are you because you are a person that cares about the music scene… wherever you are. Keep supporting and you’ll always be rewarded.
Well, that sure sounds like sage advice to me! Coming from Shy, who is clearly very motivated and obviously enjoys the myriad undertakings she has on her plate, I find myself believing it, too. That said, thanks to Shy Kennedy of Horehound and O Heiðrún for taking the time for this exchange.
You still have the time and the chance to see Shy with Horehound, and a slew of other amazing bands at the upcoming Maryland Doom Fest 2017 at the end of this month. All the details, information and ticket purchases can be made at this location.
Plus, you can, of course, meet Shy and see the results of her organizing skills at the upcoming Descendants Of Crom Festival, as well. It’s happening in Pittsburgh on Saturday, September 30th and you can find all the info, details, and purchase tickets HERE. (If you hadn’t noticed by our image link on the right side of every page of RiffRelevant.com, the site is also a sponsor of the festival!)
Both of these are THE Must-See events of this summer and you need to be at both, one, each, or the other, whatever. Barring anything unforeseen, Riff Relevant will be attending both, too, so see you there!