American Lions
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American Lions

Conway, Arkansas, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2010 | SELF

Conway, Arkansas, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 2010
Band Rock Indie




"Arkansas Groups Deserve Attention"

Remember central Arkansas rockers This Holy House? They released the impressive Love and Hope in the War Times back in 2012? Yeah? Well, they are no more.
OK, actually, the group - David Velek, bass, vocals; Elliott S. Cotten, guitar, lead vocals; James Velek, drums, vocals; and Jordan Ahne, guitar, vocals - is still kicking, only now under the much sexier moniker American Lions, and they've come up with a debut album of jams with earthy roots and an eye for the stratosphere, mixing country twang with soaring, jam-band rock minus the aimless noodling.
Think a rougher, looser Band of Horses and you're getting close to what these Lions are doing. Cotten's impassioned vocals are urgent and raw and coalesce nicely with the sprawling arrangements (only two songs clock in under five minutes).
A highlight is the epic, funny, self-explanatory "It's a Band Thing" (sample lyric: "hope I've got something to say/ the music gets in the way/of my message to the drunks/ there's only two in the bar so let's save them'').
Find the self-released album at, through the American Lions Facebook page or stream it on Spotify. It's well worth seeking out.
Hot Tracks: "It's a Band Thing," "My Bones," "Hang Me By Daylight" - Arkansas Democrat Gazette - Sean Clancy

"A band name thing"

Back in early 2012, Conway quartet This Holy House released their debut, 12 tracks titled Love and Hope in the War Times. The collection ranged from the furious, feedback-propelled rock stomp of “Three Pieces for the Devil’s Chess Game” to the banjo-fueled rock ’n’ roll of the opening track, “Love and War.” The record was an exciting debut, with songs roaring along on big crests of music and other, quieter moments when This Holy House slowed down and entered atmospheric rock territory.

Two years later, the band of Elliott S. Cotten on vocals and guitar, Jordan Ahne on guitar, David Velek on bass and James Velek on drums is back with a new album. Same guys (Ahne and the Veleks also sing backing vocals), but a different band name. And a punchier, more rock-oriented sound.

Now titled American Lions, the band, with roots stretching past their 2010 formation to Cotten and the Velek brothers’ childhoods in Greenbrier, released American Lions: Volume 1 in early May. The album’s eight songs are just as thrilling as the band’s previous work but also an improvement. These new tunes are less earthy, more full-tilt indie rock as the band’s folk and roots tendencies are less evident on American Lions: Volume 1 than on their previous effort.

The opening track, “Hang Me by Daylight,” is the one song that maintains the closest link to This Holy House, mainly through its clean electric guitar opening, but soon the distortion pedal is hit, the drums roll in and it’s apparent American Lions is some new beast. “Days of Water and Wine,” the album’s shortest song at just over four minutes (five of the tunes stretch beyond six minutes), is also one of its most urgent, with Cotten singing over a jabbing guitar rhythm, “And I’m feeling like the jig is up. I’m wishing the time would pass, so I can get back to the place where the only things that last …” before swinging into the song’s chorus. “Brothers, I’ve Got to Go” swerves between bluesy rock and swirling, galloping rock, and “Everyone’s Devil” is the best tune on an album loaded with killer tracks. The bass taps along the groove, the guitars jerk with staccato chords and the drums hold the strutting, indie rock number to its foundation.
Cotten took time last week to answer a few questions via email.

On changing the band’s name from This Holy House to American Lions

To put it simply, we changed the name to avoid any religious undertones that may have been tied to a name like This Holy House. Some people would probably label us as a Christian band automatically just based on our name. That’s not what we were going for. American Lions seemed like an appropriate change … and it was already the title of one of our songs.

On the band’s songwriting process

As far as the songwriting process goes, we definitely gel a lot more than on our first record. On Love and Hope, I not only wrote lyrics but had a very heavy hand in all the music as well. I think that came with being a fairly new band trying to figure out its sound. Over the past couple of years, however, and with the addition of [Ahne] on this record, we’ve really become a cohesive unit. Everybody is contributing ideas, and it’s certainly made for what I think is a better and more mature record. For instance, the song “Everybody’s Devil” would not exist without David Velek. We were taking a break during practice … and he just started jamming this awesome bass riff. All of a sudden [James Velek] was adding these dance-floor ready drums, and we went off. It’s very nice to be in a band where we can put trust in each other to make the best music possible for the sake of each other and the song.

On comparing the new album with Love and Hope in the War Times

Honestly, I don’t feel like Love and Hope in the War Times can compare to American Lions: Volume 1. To me, they are two completely different albums composed by two different bands. I think one similarity between the two is that we tried to have a selection of epic, powerful songs on each album. Love and Hope differs in that it is more folk-rock influenced, whereas American Lions seems to have more of a rock ’n’ roll influence. - Sync - Shea Stewart

"Rocking This Holy House"


This Holy House starts its debut album Love and Hope in the War Times off easy enough. The sylvan pluck of a gentle banjo, perhaps reminding one of The Avett Brothers. Elliott S. Cotten softly singing, “I’ve only just begun to see the truth/You locked your heart away with no living proof.” Perhaps this is the love and hope part they speak of in the album title.

But then comes the war. Between that first verse and the beginning of the second, the brothers arrive: bassist David Velek and drummer James Velek. The drummer Velek comes in first. Pounding over Cotten’s banjo lines. Then comes the bassist Velek, popping a deep groove from his strings. This is Cotten’s signal, and the band’s vocalist and multi-instrumentalist adds electric guitar, with the opening tune “Love and War” soon roaring and Cotten howling. The song thrashes forward riding big crests of music. Anthemic is a good descriptor. There’s even some Crazy Horse-style guitar theatrics toward the end, Yet, the banjo never disappears. It’s always there, keeping the track rooted. And it’s where the track returns on the outro.

This is what the band means when they say they play Arkansas-bred, Americana rock. Cotten throws in mandolin, tambourine and glockenspiel across the 12 tracks of the album, and James Velek also adds some piano. The music of the album is folk and country based at points, but the band also knows when to give tunes a rock kick. And then there is the stomp of “Three Pieces for the Devil’s Chess.” The tune whacks, all gigantic guitar riffs with a fierce urgency as Cotten rages about today’s cracked political system before ending with a raw-throated yell: “Let’s put a crack in the system!” It’s barely controlled bar rock. Somewhere, The Replacements are smiling.

“Put Your Arm Around My Shoulder” is blues rock, and a tune where Cotten demonstrates his vocal pipes by tearing into the song, yowling “You lived the truth without a pause/I know they tore you up” before hitting tenor range with “I know that it hurts like hell.”

And this is only within the first four tunes of the album. There is a lot more musical ground covered on this powerful work from This Holy House. That banjo returns on “I Can’t Win This Alone,” with James Velek adding maracas as the tune goes soft/loud/soft/loud. But “Ballad of a Battle-Scarred Heart” is a straight-shot of guitar, bass and drum indie rock. Nothing flashy. Just simple and melodic and good.

Fans of This Holy House — Cotten and the Velek brothers recently added Jordan Ahne on guitars and vocals — know the range of the band. See them live and they might be folk rocking during one song; punking it up the next. But what ties it together and makes it consistent is the rock-solid rhythm foundation of the Velek brothers, and Cotten’s magnificent vocals. It’s a voice that can be down and dirty, or angelic. (See Cotten on the sweeping rock of “I Will Follow You.”)

Both the Veleks and Cotten grew up in Greenbrier, playing separately before coming together as This Holy House in early 2010. (The band calls Conway home now.) By the summer of 2011, the band was working with Darian Stribling and Jordan Trotter at Blue Chair Recording Studio in Austin on the 12 tracks written by Cotten and arranged by the band that comprise Love and Hope in the War Times.

Arkansas offers a wealth of musical talent. That’s true. But This Holy House’s Love and Hope in the War Times is some of the very best lately. Lyrically covering man’s spiritual and emotional struggles, the album is 58 minutes of Americana rock touching everything from acoustic ballads to rustic sing-alongs to raging indie rock. It’s an introduction that is sturdy from front to back. Many bands struggle for years before finding such an impressive and epic but also sometimes wild sound. This Holy House nailed it on their first try with Love and Hope in the War Times. - Sync - Shea Stewart

"Exclusive: This Holy House - Love And Hope In The War Times"

Writer: Coral Williamson on 28th September, 2011

There are plenty of pseudo-folk bands out there these days, cashing in on the popular sound but lacking the sincerity to go with it. Fortunately this is not the case with This Holy House and their album Love and Hope in the War Times. As soon as the banjo kicks in for opener Love and War, quickly followed by the soft vocals Elliott Cotten asking “Why bother with love?” you know you’re in for a heartfelt, sincere album.

That’s not to say that an album is automatically good just because it’s got emotion behind it, although it’s certainly true here that the songs that are a bit more personal are better. There seems to be a rough concept running through the album, of war and suffering, but lyrically Love and Hope in the War Times suffers because of this. Three Pieces for the Devil’s Chess Game has clever riffs and Cotten’s excellent slightly-screaming vocals, but these are wasted on a song which contains the lyric, “Don’t care about nothin’ but green money trees anyway.” It’s a tired old theme and hard to relate to.

Where the Arkansas boys really prove their worth is in the latter half of Love and Hope in the War Times. Ballad of a Battle-Scarred Heart gets the balance of heartbreak and war just right, and is an interesting side-step from the louder tracks elsewhere on the album. That said, it’s not a quiet song by any stretch; for a three-piece the band really know how to make a lot of noise.

Immediately following on is the somewhat patience-trying Stolen From Our Lover. At this point, the love/war ideal is getting overused, and again, the lyrics are lacking: “But how can we be love if we don’t know how to love?” That doesn’t even make sense.

Another highlight of the album comes in the form of the penultimate song, Hold Onto Me. The percussion comes into its own here, and there’s some nice guitar work again, especially with the time changes which turn the track a little post-rock. It doesn’t sound as romantic as the lyrics would have you believe, but like most of the album sounds good enough that these kinds of missteps can be forgiven. For a debut album, Love and Hope in the War Times is a little rough around the edges, but well worth a listen, especially considering that This Holy House will get better with time.

For Fans Of:
Manchester Orchestra, Mumford and Sons - We Are Unseen - Coral Williamson

"Holy House's special recipe to debut on album"


Love and Hope in the War Times is the debut album from This Holy House, and what a remarkable debut it is.
Ambitious, sprawling, littered with images of war and conflicts of the heart, this record is the sound of a young Arkansas band emerging fully developed and confident in its voice and vision. Mixing an organic, folksy base with soaring, noisy, rocked-out jams, This Holy House skillfully walks the line between Americana and something more bombastic and experimental without sounding precious or dull -- think The Avett Brothers at a Radiohead show and you're getting close.
It's hard to believe that this month marks just the two-year anniversary of the band, and even harder to believe is that Love and Hope in the War Times was recorded in just two days at Blue Chair Studios in Austin, Arkansas. The band is celebrating its inaugural release with what promises to be a rollicking performance of the entrire album Saturday at Stickyz in Little Rock's River Market District.
This Holy House can trace its roots to Greenbrier Junior High School, which is where singer Elliott S. Cotten first ran into future bandmates James and David Velek and the three became friends.
After high school the Veleks were making a name for themselves in the rock band Dying Breed and Cotten had a thought.
"I reallly wanted to play with them," he says. By March 2010, the trio were jamming together, and in July of last year they hit the studio to record.
The process was rather quick.
"We recorded the album in two 12-hour sessions," says Cotten, 24, the band's lead singer.
Darian Stribling owns Blue Chair Studios and co-produced Love and Hope in the War Times.
"What's cool about their stuff is the songwriting. It's really good,” he says, adding that, from photos he'd seen, he thought they were a bluegrass band. "Then I Heard what they were going for and it was more of an indie rock vibe and I got into it really quick."
So what is is about the songs that attracted Stribling?
"The melodies are really interesting. And Elliott's vocal delivery ... he has so much emotion. He really kinda lets that out in the songs. They are pretty keyed in on that emotion. That's probably what Elliott gets out of making music, that emotional connection."
Cotten, who wrote the 12 songs on Love and Hope, describes the band's sound as a mixture of the members' classic rock influences along with more ambient leanings that result in "an epic, yet refined and dynamic sound."
With the Velek brothers' rhythm section, the band covers a good bit of sonic territory. "Three Pieces for the Devil's Chess Game" is a raging, Occupy-era rant against the system; "I Will Follow You" begins as a folksy, ominous declaration of faith that seethes and roils into a thunderous maelstrom; "Ballad of a Battle-Scarred Heart" is a hopeful, jangly workout; and the album closer, the 12-plus minute "in Death" is pure, emotion-drenched drama and another goose-bump inducing affirmation of faith.
"Jimmy's drums are one of the things I love most about our band," Cotten says, noting that James Velek was a guitarist, not a drummer, when the band started. "He's and incredible guitar player, and then he started on drums. With Dave as the bassist, they are perfect together."
Cotten says he had been writing for a good while before the band began recording.
"The process for this album started with broad ideas of love and hope in war times," he says, adding that there are songs about his ex-wife, politics, the human condition and spiritual relationships. "We're not a Christian band, but we believe we are all part of a spiritual body -- every human being. And, yeah, life is hard, but we can get through it by loving one another and being there for everybody you can."
The Veleks and Cotten have also welcomed new guitarist Jordan Ahne to the fold, which, Cotten says, gives the band an even larger sound. "With a fourth person it gives the live show more oomph," Cotten says.
The band is self-releasing Love and Hope in the War Times -- it can be downloaded at -- but is shopping for a label and looking to tour. - Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - Sean Clancy

"This Holy House CD Review: 'Love and Hope in the War Times'"

When looking for new music, it is always interesting to find something that you like different from your normal genre. That is exactly what I found when I listened to the album by This Holy House. Their album is called 'Love and Hope in the War Times.'

This group has been together since 2010, but in late 2011 added a new guitarist, Jordan Ahne, to the group. The original band members are David Velek on bass guitar and back vocals, Elliott S. Cotten on guitar and lead vocals, and James Velek on drums and back vocals.

This album consists of 12 songs by this Indie group from Arkansas. Their music has many different elements to it and everyone could find something they like on this album. I personally enjoyed the slower ballads more than the hardcore rock on this album.

Their music is so diverse that you never know what to expect with the next song. This Holy House honestly doesn't seem to have a comfort zone because they are comfortable doing any kind of music. 'Put Your Arms Around My Shoulder' became one of my favorites on the album. This song shows off the lead singer's vocal ability.

'Hold Onto Me' was another song that caught my attention. It is a song I could see myself swaying too as they perform it live on stage. It has great lines such as 'I promise to be tender to your hands because they hold my heart for the rest of your life."

This Holy House has a great career ahead of them, but it will just take the group finding their way into the mainstream industry. They are playing local shows in Arkansas now and promoting their album which is available to purchase on their website.

If you are interested in This Holy House, you can check out their CD release party Saturday, March 3 at 9:00pm at Stickyz Rock N' Roll Chicken Shack. - Revel at Conway - Mandy Robinson

"Conway-based This Holy House's new album, "Love and Hope in the War Times," pretty much impressed the mess out of me when I sat down to do this review."

Conway-based This Holy House's new album, "Love and Hope in the War Times," pretty much impressed the mess out of me when I sat down to do this review.

That's because it surprises with twists and turns on every track, with instrumentation not seen at previous live shows (a banjo on several songs for example), and some of the most soulful and thoughtful lyrics and vocals I've heard from an Arkansas indie rock band in quite some time. It reminds me of a what might happen if Mumford & Sons collaborated with old Modest Mouse and they listened to a lot of Black Sabbath! LOL. Seriously, though, this is way better than any comparison I could possibly make...

This Holy House rocks and rocks hard on the album, but many of the tracks are much more mellow than what I've seen from them at live shows — and as a result, they are more emotion- and thought-provoking as well.
The band consists of singer-songwriter and guitarist Elliott S. Cotten, David Velek on bass & keys, and James Velek on drums & percussion. The trio is quickly becoming one of the top bands to watch in the indie-rock scene in Central Arkansas.

Their page says: "Raised in Greenbrier, Arkansas, the Velek brothers and Cotten spent years separately honing their musical skills and have finally arrived on the same page." Obviously. And we are reading every single word.

Here's some of my favorite songs from the album:

"Hold On To Me" is one of the band's standards they play live very well, and it sits comfortably anchoring this debut full-length album as the next-to-last track. The guitar riffs are slightly distorted, wonderfully strong and distinctly powerful, the song makes excellent use of tempo changes throughout the track, and the lyrics are almost ironically sweet for how hard a rocker the song is.

"In Death" is the album's last song, and it grew on me. Not the song for those of you who need to hear the gist of it in the first 30 seconds, but man, when it goes, it goes. Awesome, slower, heavier rock song with lots of quiet, soulful moments and beautifully breathy vocals.

"Love and War," the album's opening track, begins with a sort of guitar-style, finger-picked banjo solo (slowly, though, and not the rolling strum of the bluegrass style banjo), and it moves on to feature breathy, almost-sexy vocals. Its lyrics reach out to the lonely and forlorn as the band kicks in with an awesome indie folk-rock sound enveloped by striking guitar riffs that, in its sum, is powerful and promising. We LOVE the beat of this song, and think it has great vocals and harmonies. And the feel of the song really reflects the meaning of it as well. Well played.

"Scarlet River Valley," features another banjo solo opening, and then sort of a train-like, light snare beat kicks in, followed by those awesome THH guitars. Nice, rolling feel to the song. I can see myself driving through the rolling hills of Central Kentucky with my hair blowing in the wind and this song blaring on the speakers.

"Three Pieces for the Devil's Chess Game" sounds more like some of the live THH stuff I've seen, with almost overwhelmingly powerful guitar rock and drums right from the get-go — no banjo seen here. The vocals are intense, reminding me a little of Modest Mouse at their most frenzied.

"Put Your Arm Around My Shoulder" again features the familiar THH heavy-rock sound, but the slightly twangy-blues twist to this ballad make it a nice love song for any indie rock lover's collection.

"Hometown (The War Times)" is a cry against war and everything evil and scary in the world, and lyrically reminds me of something The Cranberries would record. Beautiful song and message as the author and singer speaks to his family about keeping them safe.

"I Will Follow You" starts with a quiet and soulful rhythm guitar solo, building up your anticipation as the other instruments join in gradually, but it remains quiet and thoughtful — nice vocals. Great use of changes in volumes and power, seen throughout the album.

After listening to his album, I'm impressed by the fact that these guys have excellent command over their instruments and a great vision for what they're doing — and it shows with every single note in every song.

This is definitely an album every indie rock fan should consider adding to their collection, especially fans of psychedelic rock and folk-rock.

Good job, guys. We at MoJo Music wish you all the best in your future endeavors and will be looking forward to seeing your next live show! - Kristal "K*Star" Kuykendall - MoJo Music Management

"Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase Round Five goes to This Holy House"

Over the last few months, the newly-streamlined trio has shed a few members and, along the way, gained a reputation as an especially promising act, thanks to their energetic, sometimes borderline hysterical, take on moody rock atmospherics. Unrestrained lyrics, textured guitar effects, splashing drums: it's all there.

Keeping up with this year's streak of sibling acts (Catskill Kids, Thunder Thieves), brothers James and David Velek, on drums and bass, respectively, provided a tremendously technical, intense rhythm section for frontman Elliott S. Cotten, who shook, thrashed and punished his guitar when not wailing into the mic with echo-heavy vocals a la Muse.

While the noise—in both dynamic and volume—is monolithic, there's a certain Robert Smith-shaped desperation embedded in the songs that works at an advantage. And with lyrics like "this valley was purchased by the father/Father" in "Scarlett River Valley," there's a certain Rob Bell streak of provocation in the band's leitmotif.

Also: one quick, simple note—these guys practice and it shows. - Arkansas Times - John Tarpley


American Lions (2014)

1. Hang Me By Daylight

2. Days of Water and Wine

3. It's A Band Thing

4. Bastard Child

5. Brothers, I've Got To Go

6. My Bones

7. Everybody's Devil

8. American Lions

Love & Hope In The War Times (2011)

1. Love and War

2. Scarlet River Valley

3. Three Pieces For The Devil's Chess Game

4. Put Your Arm Around My Shoulder

5. I Will Follow You

6. Homefront (The War Times)

7. I Can't Win This Alone

8. Ballad of a Battle-Scarred Heart

9. Stolen From Our Lover

10. The Ambulance

11. Hold On To Me

12. In Death




American Lions was formed in early 2012 when Jordan Ahne joined This Holy House, a band comprised of Elliott S. Cotten, David Velek, and James Velek.  Shortly after joining the band they decided to change the name to be more fitiing to the new style of music that they were writing.  All born and raised in Central Arkansas, they all shared the Southern style of living that is reflected in their music.

American Lions' music is very diverse.  From Blues-driven ballads to rowdy Indie rock, they are all connected with the influences of Southern roots.  With "Put Your Arm Around My Shoulder", the audience experiences slow blues riffs that tear into rock solos, all while speaking of helpiing out your fellow man.  "It's A Band Thing" a song about the experiences of being in a band, throws you into a repetitive Indie rock trance that never slows.  You can describe American Lions under the genres: rock, indie, americana, and more.  But it's the combination of these genres, some showing through more than others, throughout all of their songs that gives them their unique sound.

The best way to take in what all American Lions brings, is to see them perform live.  It is an experience that shows you the true depth of their sound.  When it's time to rock, they bring it.  When it's time for a breather, they'll slow it down.  Whether it's a tight 30 minute set, or performing for you for hours, they do not quit.  They bring a tight, professional set, but know how to get rowdy with the crowd and have a good time.

American Lions have released two albums.  A full length "American Lions: Volume I" was produced by the band in 2013, and mastered at Blue Chair Studios in Austin, Arkansas.  Their last project was an EP entitled "Drowning In The Drought", which was recorded in 2015 at Blue Chair Studios in Austin, Arkansas.  The band plans on recording another full length album in 2016.

Festivals Performed:

Wakarusa 2014 (Ozark, AR)

Riverfest 2012 & 2015 (Little Rock, AR)

Arkansas State Fair 2012 (Little Rock, AR)

Bikes, Blues, & BBQ Festival 2013 (Fayetteville, AR)

Heart of Texas Rockfest 2013 (Austin, TX)

Strawberry Jam Festival 2015 (Bald Knob, AR)

Main Street Food Truck Festival 2014 (Little Rock, AR)

Solar Flux Festival 2015 (Greenbrier, AR)

Opened Directly For:

The Sheepdogs, Young The Giant, The Apache Relay, Kopecky, Jonathan Tyler, The Steepwater Band, The Lonely Wild, Banditos, Gringo Star, These United States, Lucius, and more.


Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase '15 Finalist

Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase '13 Semi-finalist

Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase '11 Finalist

If You Like:

Kings of Leon, J Roddy Walston & The Business, Band of Horses, My Morning Jacket

Band Members