Handsome Hound
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Handsome Hound

Washington, Washington, D.C., United States | Established. Jan 01, 2015 | SELF

Washington, Washington, D.C., United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 2015
Band Americana Folk


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"The Giddy Folk-Pop Of Handsome Hound"

You understand more about Claire Daviss and Cuchulain Kelly’s playful relationship just by listening to their music. The couple’s band, Handsome Hound, makes catchy, good-natured tunes that radiate giddiness.

“I’ll write you songs in an open key,” the duo sings on their recent EP, I Guess We’re Doing Alright. “The notes will ring out into eternity.”

Handsome Hound Album ArtDaviss and Kelly, both 24, met while studying at Yale, where they sang in a capella groups. Neither majored in music — they mostly just played for fun — but they had formidable musical backgrounds: Daviss, a native Texan, played both violin and guitar, and Kelly, reared in South Carolina, had skills on saxophone, guitar and drums.

As their bond has deepened, so has their shared investment in music-making. “Music has become more and more a big part of our lives and our relationship,” Daviss says.

Handsome Hound’s EP isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, however. Track No. 5, “Hannah,” brings depth to their sound. Daviss says the song harks back to her childhood in the South, where social norms around gender were clearly drawn and reinforced.

The song channels the “feeling of wanting to push back on that, but not push back so much that you’re not yourself anymore,” Daviss says.

“Hey, hey, hey Hannah, don’t lose yourself tonight,” the song goes. “I know you wanna keep putting up a fight.”

Daviss and Kelly say they’re both feminists — and proud of it.

Handsome Hound jokes about their name and the dogs on the EP’s cover — “What I like to tell people on stage is that Claire is pretty handsome and I sort of look like a dog,” says Kelly — but their moniker has roots in history.

Cuchulain is an old Irish name, related to the mythological figure Hercules, Kelly says. But it literally means the “Hound of Culland,” Culland being a province on Old Northern Ireland. When Kelly’s peers mocked his name in the schoolyard, he complained to his dad.

“I’d be like, ‘Dad, why’d you guys give me this weird name?’” Kelly says, “and he was like, ‘Tell them it means Handsome Hound.’” - WAMU Bandwidth

"A Report on ‘Handsome Hound’ at Millennium Stage at The Kennedy Center"

Handsome Hound, a local band piloted by twenty-somethings Claire Daviss and Cuchulain Kelly, gives millennials a better name. Self-described as having “roots in folk, rock, pop, Americana, country and bluegrass,” the group radiates a message often out of smartphone reach: positivity. They even have a trumpeter, Allison Rosenberg. Who has a trumpeter anymore?

These cool kids do, the ones pulling us away from our backlit screens and back into the light of day. These young professionals are on-stage professionals and they have something to say.

Founded in 2015, Handsome Hound released its debut EP, I Guess We’re Doing All Right, in March 2016. This is a roll the windows down and head-bob song, the one that gets your foot tapping or at least some part of your body besides your text-fatigued thumbs remembering that it moves. “I guess we’re doing all right, for a couple of kids in a mixed-up, crazy world,” they say, with humble uncertainty and just enough ambiguity to be exciting and true to life. Everything isn’t perfect, but would we want it to be? Daviss’ clear soprano and Kelly’s twangy bass tones complement each other, different cars in parallel lanes, traveling toward the same horizon.

To call Handsome Hound a band “getting off its feet” would be to completely short-shrift it. New, yes, but the pieces are together. Theirs is a coordinated operation. They’ve mastered performance (making it all look easy) by honing their respective crafts.

Andrew Northcutt on drums and percussion and Ben Schifman on bass guitar keep it steady, keep the band sounding like—a band. Through almost an entire hour of music, not one transition passed as anything but seamless. No pauses. No faltering—the kind of smooth born from hours of rehearsing.

Daviss and Kelly aren’t afraid to tackle and cover some other great bands either. Their rendition of Jackson, made famous to most by Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash’s rendition, is a respectful ode to those music legends. Handsome Hound’s interpretation stays true to the form most people know, the melody we recognize—a smart way to showcase influence and talent at the same time.

Hannah snaps and sizzles slow-cooked marshmallow style. Daviss called for audience back-up on the chorus (this worked and was not at all cloying). We readily joined in. All that was missing for that song was a fire pit between us. “Hey, hey, hey, Hannah…don’t lose yourself tonight. I know you wanna keep putting up a fight. Hey, hey, hey, Hannah…hey Hannah it’s all right; it’s all right; it’s all right. Don’t lose yourself tonight,” Daviss crooned in her smokier alto range. The lyrics ooze comfort and just the right amount of edgy sadness.

I’ve Been Thinking trickled down like after-rain wind, the kind you lean into when it passes. The performance, a refreshing communal experience, brought the house to near silence. A pin breathed, maybe.

Handsome Hound’s gentle yet poignant voice is a welcome wonder to Washington, D.C. and to its peers, the Twitter followers and Facebook friends, who need to get out more. You may just make a real friend when you attend. Theirs is a happy crew. - DC Metro Theater Arts


Still working on that hot first release.


Feeling a bit camera shy


Handsome Hound is a folk rock band formed in 2015 by Cuchulain Kelly and Claire Daviss in Washington, DC. The band is rounded out by Allison Rosenberg on trumpet, Andrew Northcutt on drums and percussion, and Ben Schifman on bass guitar. Their lyric-driven music has its roots in folk, rock, pop, americana, country, and bluegrass - think Johnny & June Carter Cash meet Shovels & Rope. In March 2016, the band released its debut EP, I Guess We're Doing Alright, which was described as "the musical version of 60 mg of Prozac" by WAMU's Bandwidth. Handsome Hound brings the same level of energy to shows, leading to a rapidly growing following in the DC area. 

Since releasing their debut EP, the group has performed at a number of DC's historic music venues, including the Rock & Roll Hotel (headlining twice), Gypsy Sally's, Black Cat, the Kingman Island Bluegrass and Folk Festival, and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts' Millennium Stage.

Band Members