Earl Greyhound

“Who wouldn’t want to be compared to Led Zeppelin?” asks Matt Whyte, guitarist and primary songwriter for Earl Greyhound, Brooklyn's newly minted purveyors of blistering blues-rock. “It’s flattering without a doubt, and it’s not like it’s putting us in a position where it’s going to affect the music we make.”

Earl Greyhound’s rough-and-tumble, Zeppelin-reminiscent cuts, the stuff of last year’s Soft Targets, have propelled the trio out of New York’s hipster metropolis and into headlining slots at rock clubs across the U.S. Within the space of 11 songs, Earl Greyhound recharge the sweat and grit of ’70s rock with galloping drum beats, chugging guitars, and hypnotic keyboard lines, made arresting with brooding refrains and the keen, hymn-like harmonizing of Whyte and bassist Kamara Thomas.

The sound remains the same, and so have the tools. A steadfast Gibson player, Matt Whyte guns it through full-tilt sets with Jimmy Page’s favorite guitar—a screaming Les Paul. To engender Earl Greyhound’s throwback guitar riffs, Whyte looks to his The Paul—Gibson's late ’70s amalgam of the SG and the Les Paul. “I've had it since I started playing guitar,” he says fondly. “I learned to play on it.” He also kicks out the jams on an Epiphone Les Paul, a gift from Thomas. “The Les Pauls tend to have a thicker sound, which suits what we’re doing,” he says. “We get more bang for our buck with every note I play.”

Dialing in from Austin, Texas, where Earl Greyhound unleashed an adrenalized SXSW set, Matt Whyte is the yawning byproduct of an unremitting tour schedule. Touring since last October, when Soft Targets was released on Some Records, he’s found life on the road to be fine creative fodder. Now that Earl Greyhound are accustomed to days squashed together into a van and nights before wild and growing audiences, new songs come easily. “We’ve written half of the next album,” Whyte says. This time around, he’s using not only his The Paul to write songs, but he and bassist Kamara Thomas have also put their heads together for piano-pounding arrangements.

“On the road we have a chance to collaborate a little bit more, as opposed to when we’re in New York, where everyone’s kind of in their own apartment, and they just come together a few times a week for rehearsal,” Whyte says. "Now we have a chance to try something new every night."

Pressed to name the downfalls of life on the road, Matt Whyte blanks. “We never forget that we're lucky to have this opportunity,” he says. “There’s really nothing bad about it.” Indeed, success quickly befell this Brooklyn-based trio. Nearly a year and a half ago, there was no Earl Greyhound album, no record label contract, no publicist, and no drummer. Still, with yowled harmonies and churning riffs, they were shoe-ins for the spotlight.

Much of Earl Greyhound’s spectacular rise comes down to the effortless pairing of Matt Whyte and Kamara Thomas. In ’98, Whyte moved to the Big Apple from California, where he was working on an English degree at UC Berkley; several years later Thomas, too, moved from the West Coast, where she looked for work as an actress, to the East, where she wanted to pursue music. For years, neither Whyte nor Thomas could find a band—or a sound—that stuck, until they were introduced to one another through a mutual friend. Of first playing music with Thomas, Whyte says, “It was great to feel like I was where I was supposed to be.”

After some early efforts, Whyte and Thomas threw in the towel on singer-songwriting, and tapped into a collective calling—joyous, hook-laden hard rock. Both trained pianists and deft guitarists, Whyte convinced Thomas to learn bass, and together they built the foundation for Earl Greyhound’s rafter-raising rock ’n’ roll.

“Our sound definitely evolved over time,” Whyte says. “A lot of who we are today is a result of having played together as long as we have.”

Both Whyte and Thomas agree that the biggest gift laid on Earl Greyhound’s doorstep came in the form of venerated drummer Big Ricc Sheridan. Sheridan first met Whyte and Thomas when his friend Kirk Douglas, guitarist for the Roots, brought him along to a pair of Earl Greyhound shows. After a lengthy search for a replacement for their short-lived original drummer, the up-and-coming Earl Greyhound found Sheridan to be a serendipitous addition to the band.

“Ricc brings us to where we’ve always needed to be,” Whyte says. “His tone and his ideas behind the kit—the sensibility is just really married to the music that we’re playing. Things happen pretty naturally now."

Things, though, have always happened naturally for Earl Greyhound. When Some Records signed the band a few years ago, they weren’t even actively looking for a record deal. They were looking more intently for a band name. But like most band names, “Earl Greyhound” just kind of happened to them. That was the case when a friend suggested the band do an early photo shoot inside the Alogonquin Hotel, an opulent, old world hideaway in Times Square. “It’s got this really plush interior,” explains Whyte. “And the setting for the shoot was to include dogs and a nice tea set—very royal looking—so the name was born out of that.”

The name suits a band with the gumption and composure of rock royalty. But even royalty must rest, and Whyte eagerly awaits his several-weeks-long tour break. By now, he’s even thought of something lame about life on the road. With a fantastic yawn, he says, “Driving can be a bit of a wear sometimes, but if that’s the worst thing we have going I don’t think we’re in all that bad shape.”

Visit the band at www.earlgreyhound.com.

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