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Q&A: JASON STOLLSTEIMER

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Best known as the longtime leader of the Detroit-based band The Von Bondies, singer/guitarist Jason Stollsteimer is devoting his time and energy lately to The Hounds Below. While Stollsteimer did a lot of passionate, melodic shouting on “C’mon C’mon” (the Rescue Me theme song) and other Von Bondies tunes, he takes a different vocal approach on the five-song Hounds Below EP, which is available as a free download through the site Bandcamp and includes a cover of The Pixies‘ “Where Is My Mind?”

Stollsteimer recently checked in to shed some light on his latest venture and what the future holds.

Medleyville.us: According to the press materials for the new Hounds Below EP, the band was formed in 2008 when you wrote a group of songs that dealt with “previously unexplored emotional territory.” Would this territory be your divorce? And are any of those ’08 songs on the new EP, or were they written and stashed away as a form of private catharsis?

Jason Stollsteimer: “Yes, the songs on the EP — which came out in 2010 — are both old/new, and also some deal with the idea of loss of friendship, getting old (laughs). I like to use music as much as I can as a form of therapy. Alcohol was never a good listener.”

When writing those divorce-related songs, how much editing did you have to do to keep from revealing any specific or sensitive details, and to avoid including any typical breakup lyric clichés?
Stollsteimer: “I didn’t do much masking with the lyrics. It was how I felt at the time. The feeling of wanting to start a family was slowing fading away. I didn’t want to become bitter and noncommittal, so I used songs as my outlet.”

You’ve said that doing the Hounds Below material allows you to use your more “natural” and “normal” singing voice. In what ways did that impact the way the melodies were written?
Stollsteimer: “I grew up listening to the rock ‘n’ roll classics like Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, Elvis [Presley], Otis Redding … So back in 1998, when I first started singing, I had no thoughts of trying to convey my vocals in that ring of singers. But now after 13 years of being in bands, it’s time to try — at least vocally (laughs).”

Did these songs come very quickly, like “C’mon C’mon” and other Von Bondies material, or did you take your time — or maybe even have to labor over certain parts?
Stollsteimer: “Most of them came very fast. It’s always been my style of either it works or it doesn’t. Lyrically, it was the same — a constant steady stream of ideas.”

Talk about your cover of The Pixies’ “Where Is My Mind?” and how it fits in either stylistically or thematically with your original songs.
Stollsteimer: “Well, the Pixies cover was just one of those things that just happened. Our newer songs are more in that vein of style. And it’s the f-ing Pixies — who doesn’t love that?”

After your tour ends, what are your recording and touring plans for the rest of 2011, either with The Hounds Below or The Von Bondies?
Stollsteimer: “Von Bondies are done for now. The Hounds Below will be touring for most of June and August — recording in July. Then who knows what the future holds for us?”

— Introduction and interview by Chris M. Junior

The Hounds Below on tour (schedule subject to change):

* June 4: KOBO — Columbus, Ohio
* June 7: Caledonia Lounge — Athens, Ga.
* June 8: Pinhook — Durham, N.C.
* June 9: Mojo — Newark, Del.
* June 10: Tritone — Philadelphia
* June 11: Union Hall — Brooklyn, N.Y.
* June 12: Mercury Lounge — New York
* June 14: Northern Lights — Clifton Park, N.Y.
* June 17: Bakery Lofts — Detroit