This is part of our weekly series titled “Columbus’ Own,” where we profile a local band every week.
Columbus trio Houndstooth Bindles has made it through somewhat of an identity crisis this year after reforming its band and revamping its sound.
Comprised of singer and banjo player Virginia Pishioneri, bassist Bill Wolfe and his brother, guitarist Hermano, the band went from playing folk tunes to punk rock after its mandolin and fiddle players left the group in the spring.
Pishioneri said that the band’s music can be described as a “hybrid of rockabilly punk and bluegrass.”
“With the people who were in (the band) before, the instruments they played made it more like a string band,” Pishioneri said. “Now, we’ve added an electric guitar (Hermano) and it’s just a whole new sound.”
Wolfe agreed and said the band sounds more like the music the members always wanted to make.
“Anytime you bring anybody into a band, they’re going to have their own influence on it, and we always had more of a desire to make it weirder and more rocky, and we wanted to incorporate a heavier sound,” Wolfe said.
After graduating from the University of Cincinnati with a philosophy degree in 2000, Wolfe moved to New York City for five years, where he said he used to play alone in the city’s subways. When he moved back to Columbus, Wolfe met Pishioneri, a Columbus native and OSU alumna, whom he began making music with right away.
Wolfe said “dreaming, devils, love and storytelling” are among the common themes in the band’s music. One of its favorite genres to play is an obscure form of storytelling called murder ballads, which Pishioneri described as darker stories that have been passed on through generations.
“They’re traditional stories. No one knows who the author of the song is, and they’re telling a murder story because the songs are a way of passing along stories, instead of newspapers,” Pishioneri said.
All three band members share songwriting duties, which Hermano said helps maintain its diversity.
“Usually we go with whoever wrote the song sings it,” said Hermano, who requested his real name not be used in this article. “We like to mix it up so one of us doesn’t have to carry the burden the whole time. I think it makes it more interesting and keeps everyone involved.”
With multiple singers at its disposal, Hermano said the band tries to stay organized in order to keep track of who is doing what for each song.
“It keeps things really interesting for us and the crowd,” Hermano said. “I think that it also keeps us from getting bored. Pretty much everyone from the band can play two or three instruments. So usually when we play we have a bunch set up and pass them around.”
The band released its self-titled debut EP Jan. 13, and Pishioneri said the group is focusing on writing new material so it can record an album that showcases its new sound.
“Most of our songs are so different now, so we want to record that new music so we can honestly portray what we do,” Pishioneri said.
Wolfe agreed and said it’s important fans hear the “new and improved Houndstooth Bindles.”
“It’s like an actor went to an audition and he submitted a headshot that was his face 10 years earlier,” Wolfe said. “We’re proud of the music we used to do … it was fun, but we’re a different band now.”
Houndstooth Bindles is scheduled to perform Saturday for a benefit concert at Cafe Bourbon Street, located at 2210 Summit St. The band is slated to perform at 1:15 a.m. Sunday. Tickets for the benefit are suggested to be purchased in the form of a $7 donation.