From Anchorage to Portland: A conversation with Old Hounds

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Aric Hanley (Bass), Argel Isaguirre (Guitar), Alberto Alcala (Vocals), Joshua Springer (Guitar), Mac Holtan (Drums) at the Old Hounds Farewell Show. Photo credit: Jay Guzman

The first time I heard Old Hounds was at their album release party for “Tooth & Nail” in late 2016.

A stranger to the metal-core genre and local scene, I was unsure what to expect but interested enough to check it out. I was instantly overwhelmed by the sheer volume but also fascinated by the energy in the crowd and on the stage. Post-show, I picked up a CD and popped it in the car to hear the other ten songs I missed, by the time I caught up to the last two tracks I couldn’t help but think, “This isn’t the same.”

Fast forward to Sept. 2017 at their farewell show before their move to Portland, and I finally got to hear a full set and had to resist putting my cameras down and joining the mosh pit.

I was lucky enough to stop by Old Hounds’ last practice and chat with them before the show. Being able to watch the dynamic of a band comprised of long-time friends, converse with them and watch them perform their farewell show, I couldn’t help but become a fan of the group.

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Old Hounds hold their final practice Thursday night in preparation for their farewell show. Photo credit: Jay Guzman

So, Alaska to Portland. Let’s talk about that.

Josh Springer: So I made the decision to relocate back in June. I finished school back in December. I got my [Bachelor of Arts]. From a personal standpoint that’s kind of what’s kept me here. I made the decision to move back in June and the first person I went to was Alberto. I told him I was leaving simply to put myself in a better position to travel and play music full-time. We had kind of touched base with Argel on the longevity of [him] being in the band and what that was gonna look like. And Mac has been rooted here for a long time and will continue to be rooted here because he’s got his fingers in a lot of pies. So he’s got a lot going on. So asking him to relocate was a stretch. We already knew that Brian was leaving, too.

I honestly did not think the project was going to come with when I decided to leave. That was an aftereffect of Alberto deciding to come with me, then us talking to Argel and Mac about the life of the project. Because that’s really what a band is. It’s an art project. We picked Portland because the musical opportunity that I have is in Portland. I’m joining another band based out of Portland and we have a built in friend system and are very well connected with promoters and venues in Portland. It was be easier for us to get a local start there than anywhere else it the country.

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Alberto turns from the crowd. Photo Credit: Jay Guzman
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Alberto Alcala: I was super opposed to the idea at first. You came up to me and I was like bump that. I don’t wanna leave. But I have a really bad habit of staying complacent sometimes. Josh came to me and said what he had to say then I thought about it for four days and thought, “This has to happen.” Like I said you get complacent and… not stuck but kind of happy where you are.

Argel Isaguirre: Thanks to you guys, when I go to shows outside of [Old Hounds shows] I know what to do. Playing for years with these guys helped me grow as a musician, but this is like destiny we crossed paths at a young age. It’s the end of a chapter but a start of a new beginning but these guys I’m super happy for them. Geographically we are restricted in Alaska. And as far as this kind of music like you get to a certain point but then it’s like you’ve seen it all.

Springer: We plateaued awhile ago. I think when we told Mac a while ago he was like, “That makes sense. There’s not much to talk about. You should totally do that.”

Mac Holtan: It’s very logical.

Springer: When it was first happening, things were falling apart because we weren’t communicating openly.

Isaguirre: We had that feeling.

Springer: Alaska will always be home but I think for us it’s time to make a move.

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Argel shreds it out for his last show with Old Hounds. Photo credit: Jay Guzman

In respects to Alaska, like [Argel] said geographically you’re kind of locked.

Springer: We have a lot of friends that have come up here in big bands that we admire and we’ve heard both sides of the story. Like, base yourself out of Alaska then you can market yourselves as the only band touring out of Alaska. We’ve had other bands saying you won’t be able to do it, so you need to move. And what I have found is people will not work with us solely based on the fact that we are not from Alaska. It is impossible to get attention from anybody.

Isaguirre: Driving hours to another city here is like driving through four, five different states.

Springer: You could drive across the country in the same time it would take to drive through Canada just to Alaska. So logistically, it doesn’t make sense to continue to try and do that, even with plane tickets.

Isaguirre: It’s impractical.

Springer: Being in a bigger city with more people and a hub for music; it will make or break the project. I’m really hoping it makes the project. We’re really gonna put ourselves to the test, but Alaska will always be home. It’s bittersweet. I’m leaving my family. Alberto is leaving his family. I’m leaving a bunch of my friends.

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Josh and Alberto. Photo Credit: Jay Guzman

I think that’s just kind of generally the Alaska perspective. One thing I’ve heard in terms of Anchorage is that you either build or leave Anchorage. In respects to you guys, you have to build. I feel like that’s kind of the destiny of an Anchorage artist. Whereas Mac, he’s bolted in here, but kind of as a business entrepreneur.

Springer: Yeah Mac builds a lot. Mac is still building and he’s an intrical part of a lot of stuff that happens in town. Alberto and I leaving not as tragic as if Mac relocated. Anchorage would take a much bigger hit.

Holtan: I can believe in Anchorage but I can still advocate that the right move is for Old Hounds is moving. There’s a lot beautiful things in this city. These guys are only gonna grow if they move. It’s not like, “Hey, I hate my town, it sucks here.” It’s literally like given our genre, given what we do and where we’re at in our lives they need to move.

Springer: I think a lot of people leave Anchorage and they’re like, “Fuck this city, there’s nothing here, there’s nothing for us.” And we are not approaching it from that perspective at all.

Holtan: 90 percent of people that say that move back in five years.

Isaguirre: Sometimes even way less like a year.

Springer: I’m not ruling out the possibility of moving back. What needs to happen is to get down there first. Alberto and I will give it a shot then we decide from there.

Holtan: The genre that Old Hounds is in is aggressive and a big big part of that is the live show. which we went over the logistics they have to be rooted somewhere that’s more of a hub. Whereas Anchorage, it’s very isolated and its out there. Music is very much thriving here but not so much in the genre [that Old Hounds is in].

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Old Hounds play their final song. Photo Credit: Jay Guzman

Isaguirre: I can speak for that cause I’m playing gigs that are pop gigs here in town. It surprised me like, “This existed?” I didn’t wanna compare but when I compared the different sides I was like, “Man… Doing it in a different city would be more beneficial for the dudes.” It’s a good game plan.

Springer: The only thing I wanna do is travel and play music. And Alberto wants to do that with me for whatever reason. So we’re gonna try and do that. Alberto and I kind of talked about it. I’m not gonna get married to Portland. I’m also not gonna get married to the idea of us having to make it work in Portland or whatever. All I want to do is give it a shot and Anchorage, Alaska this town will always be home.

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Old Hounds Farewell Show from behind the stage. Photo Credit: Jay Guzman

Alcala: This is the first time I’m gonna live on my own. I’ve lived at home for this long. I don’t have a set job, but I’m willing to risk that.

Isaguirre: Trial and error, my friend.

Springer: This is part of the trial. There will be errors along the way. And we will decide whether we want to continue after that. Literally the first step is moving then Alberto and I will decide what we wanna do after that. Brian will have to weigh in as well. Brian is our bass player, he’s already down in Portland.

Alcala: As soon as we get there, Brian is gonna rejoin. We’re gonna try to find another drummer then we’re gonna continue as a four piece. Short-term. Were gonna get more aggressive. We’re gonna get louder. We’re gonna get more riffier. Were gonna get more beat downier.

Springer: Alberto wants to turn into Kublai Khan. I will not let that happen. This is not a last show. It is simply a goodbye.

Isaguirre: Yeah, it’s a goodbye. These guys will always be the brothers. We’re watching each other grow as people. Music is a part of our lives. When we see that growth it makes us proud.

Springer: The only way to feel is to be happy for each other.

As a band, in this phase of Old Hounds, any last words?

Alcala: I’m gonna say for Old Hounds, stay tuned cause it’s gonna get crazier.

Springer: If Alberto says it, I believe it.

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Alberto, a.k.a. ghost complex. Photo Credit: Jay Guzman