Housman's Athletes
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Housman's Athletes

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"Housman’s Athletes are exuberant punk rockers on ‘Race to the Finish’"

Reviewed by Kit Burns
Housman’s Athletes/Race to the Finish

At first, I had mistakenly pegged Housman’s Athletes as Blink-182 clones. Certainly vocalist/guitarist Eric Epps employs that unmistakable adolescent whine on “Things No One Wants”; however, once the swirling keyboards kick in it’s obvious that these Arizona kids are looking up to the more ambitious Killers. Furthermore, as the record progresses, Epps’ voice gradually builds to a deeper, angrier tone a la Against Me! Lyrically, too, Housman’s Athletes don’t drag themselves down to the infantile level of Blink-182’s silliest moments.

Race to the Finish erupts with pedal-to-the-floor exuberance. “Unrequited” pounds the pavement with its rapid-fire percussion, throbbing bass, buoyant keyboards, and fiery guitars. To put it simply: It rocks like hell. “This Wretched Moment” is pop-punk with more brittle guitars while “Three Part Harmony” is a focused and exhilarating blast of high energy. The string-infatuated “Four Cheers for Innocence” and the hysterically funny cowpunk number “The Country Waltz” display iconoclastic sides to Housman’s Athletes that are worth investigating in the future.

- Overground Underground

"Race to the Finish"

Synth Alt Rock: The blurb accompanying Race to the Finish reads, "If Guitar Hero and Dance, Dance Revolution had a baby, it would grow up to be Housman's Athletes." It's a tongue-in-cheek description, yet not that far off the mark. One thing is for certain, Housman's Athletes is a breed apart, and Race to the Finish is as unique as it is infectious, weaving together the heart on the sleeve, upbeat rock of second wave emo bands with the synth driven pop of A-ha and -- gasp! -- early Van Halen. That's right, Housman's Athletes has replaced at least one guitar player with a keyboardist. And not for kill me now atmospheric twiddling, either. This kid is tearing out full-on song carrying riffs as the rest of the band wisely follows his lead, tastefully accenting the energetic bounce of the sound along the way. Add to that Eric Epps' vocals -- sugary sweet with enough of a slight, non-scary edge to get the frat brothers' heads a-bobbin' and the freshman girls throwing their underwear on stage -- and you have a blueprint for mega success. Sure, the record could do without the sappy, paint-by-numbers acoustic ode, "Four Cheers for Innocence." Nobody's perfect. But when Housman's Athletes do what they do best? You can almost see the roofs blowing off stadiums when you close your eyes. ~ Shawn Macomber - Outburn Magazine

"Album Review"

Housman's Athletes

Race to the Finish

Self Released

Housman's Athletes may be, at first, lumped in with the brat pack of mall punks (and they shall remain nameless), however, they're far more talented and irreverent. No, not irreverent in a childish, shock-value way, but in their courage to toy with genre restrictions. Green Day was slammed for going soft on "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)" a decade ago (has it been that long?), and Housman's Athletes displays a slow, sensitive hand on "Four Cheers for Innocence" without the sentimental baggage. While the song is pretty, the group probably won't be dissed for becoming wimps, because artistically it flows well. "Fumbling in the Dark" recalls Green Day, too, but I must admit I prefer Housman's Athletes' vocal harmonies much better; you get the sense that these lads listen to The Beatles as much as NOFX.

'80s New Wave synthesizers make an appearance here and there, prepping up "Things No One Wants" and "Unrequited" with a slick, toe-tapping back beat. Since the Killers made keyboards cool (and commercially successful) again, they were bound to be included everywhere, even in the roughest of punk acts. Thankfully, Housman's Athletes doesn't utilize them in an obviously Killers fashion; they just add frosting to the cake. Hardcore punks will be bruised by "Tired Shoulders" and the wonderfully titled "Feet Dangling and the Color Purple" while the demented "The Country Waltz" will simply have you giggling the whole evening with its fried take on hick music.

Housman's Athletes: www.housmansathletes.com

Kyrby Raine

- INK19 (webzine)

"Album Review"

Named after a poem by A.E. Housman (1859-1936), this Phoenix-area five-piece’s incredible transformation can be appreciated by comparing this LP’s fantastic pop-punk killers “Unrequited” and “This Wretched Moment” to the original muddy versions on their previous incarnation, Army of Strippers’ MySpace page. Kudos to producer Ryan Greene for helping the band sharpen their attack, for this is one of the best-sounding, most dynamic Descendents/Bad Religion-inspired punk debuts I’ve heard in ages! Their powerhouse, scorch-throated, yet perfectly-enunciating vocalist Eric Epps is just terrific, effortlessly recalling the youthful exuberance and earnestness of Milo Auckerman (he can handle slower ballads too, such as the violin-drenched “Four Cheers for Innocence”). With ultra-catchy, driving rhythms, stirring choruses (see the aptly-titled “Three Part Harmony” and the fist-pumping “Tired Shoulders”), whirring keyboards and intelligent lyrics, this rip-roaring band is flat-out great. (housmansathletes.com) (Mark Suppanz)
- Big Takeover Magazine #62

"Housman’s Athletes bring literary punk rock from Phoenix, Arizona"

Housman’s Athletes bring literary punk rock from Phoenix, Arizona
July 14, 2008
Interview by Derek Jensen
Phoenix, Arizona is not the first place you think of for the latest cutting-edge punk rock, which might give the locals Housman’s Athletes an element of surprise in a now overcrowded and strangely competitive genre. Unlike many of their contemporaries, too, Housman’s Athletes are not some brainless brats; besides being more musically versatile than other young acts also proclaiming themselves to be punk, they are literary as well, taking their name from a poem by A.E. Housman.

Derek Jensen: I’m getting an Orange County vibe from Housman’s Athletes although you guys are from Arizona. Were you influenced by a lot of Southern California punk rock such as NOFX, Bad Religion, and Pennywise?

Chris Foley: Some of us more than others. I think we all, for the most part, had our phases, but I’d say that Eric [Epps] has a greater tie to that scene.

Eric Epps: Well, yeah. When I moved to Arizona from the Midwest suddenly there was all of this West Coast music available that was new to me and fast and fun. I love NOFX, Pulley, and so forth, but I feel music shifting with the coming up of bands like the Gaslight Anthem, A Wilhelm Scream, and the now-ubiquitous Against Me! Phoenix is often overlooked as a music town, but there is some great talent here.

DJ Foley: We are all influenced, to some degree by the So-Cal scene, and I’m sure anybody that has ever been to Warped Tour is, also. Our primary influences, however, range all over the board from bands like Neurosis and Amen to country acts like Waylon Jennings and alt-rocker Ryan Adams. We also listen to electronic artists like Assemblage 23. They just did a remix of our song, “Save Me, Destroy Me” for us, by the way.

Jensen: There’s no genre classification of “punk” noted in your CDBaby entry. Was this a conscious decision to remove yourselves from the current punk stereotypes?

Chris: I personally think that punk has become just that, a stereotype, and we don’t feel that we fit in it. Punk is first and foremost a state of mind, a way of living. It seems today that everyone has put the ethics of punk at bay and chosen to focus more on brand names and mohawks.

DJ: Well, we definitely don’t want to pigeonhole our sound, as it covers a wide spectrum of genres. I don’t think you could call songs like “Four Cheers For Innocence” or “Feet Dangling & The Color Purple” punk songs, necessarily. By no means are we ashamed to be included in the punk genre, but we’re a fucking rock band.

Jensen: Lyrically, Housman’s Athletes strike a more serious, thoughtful tone, less politically caustic than Bad Religion but certainly a group which can carry flags with Against Me! Has this songwriting for Housman’s Athletes always been this mature or did it simply evolve into that later, much like what Green Day did?

Eric: It always seems like bands are put into one of two camps: Either they write songs about girls, or they write political songs. We’re not afraid to do either, but we don’t want to feel tied to a specific subject matter. We tire of boring minutia. When I write, I write the things that are on my mind. For example, “Things No One Wants” is supposed to inspire people to do anything other than sit on a couch and stagnate, and I wrote “Four Cheers for Innocence” immediately after I finished reading the novel Atonement. I think our “mature” songwriting, as you call it, stems from the fact that we are educated guys that work to better ourselves each day.

Jensen: The band credits the video games “Guitar Hero” and “Dance Dance Revolution” as inspirations. Are you being serious?

Eric : Not really. I finished tracking vocals for our pre-production at 6 a.m. after 30 hours of straight recording, an hour before I got on a plane out of town, and I sent a text message to the band (they left a few hours before me) that said ‘Guitar Hero’ and ‘Dance, Dance, Revolution’ are having a hot baby and it is going to be our record.” From there, it just sorta stuck. We thought it was funny.

Jensen: The group is named after a poem by A.E. Housman. Do you see yourself quitting at the top of your game?

Chris: Not necessarily, but I would like us to be remembered at our best.

Eric: Yeah, in the poem, the “athlete” dies right at his prime, and as a result, he is revered by everyone that knew him. That’s a great alternative to fading away and becoming lame or whatever. We’re not trying to die or anything, we just want to find some sustainability when we hit our stride.

DJ: And it all depends on where the top of our game is. If it means we’ve accomplished everything we possibly can as a band, then yes. I’m not looking to be a part of the music business to half-ass it. I don’t think any of us are. I also don’t want to do what a lot of bands have done and give up too soon. Many groups I’ve loved over the years had a lot of life in them and parted ways just before creating what could have been their best stuff.

- Post Alternative


Housman's Athletes - Race To The Finish (2008)



The Housman's Athletes debut album is an eclectic cocktail of various forms of rock music with a hardcore edge that possesses a musical flow and is universal in appeal. The 5-piece group out of the Phoenix metropolitan area, Housman’s Athletes (Eric Epps, Chris Foglia, DJ Foley, Mike Kazmer, and Logan Kavanaugh), utilize their life experiences as a catalyst for a thought-provoking thematic record with a dash of dance and punk music.
“Thematically, the record really demonstrates the beauty of life,” Housman’s guitarist and primary vocalist Eric Epps explains. “In life, you have to take the good with the bad. There are depressing parts and good parts. You have to learn to deal with a multitude of different things.”
Under the tutelage of producer and owner of Crush Recording, Ryan Greene (NOFX, Lagwagon, No use for a Name, Good Riddance, Authority Zero, Me First and the Gimme Gimmes), the band was able to achieve the sound that they have been striving for. “We have grown so much in our sound since we first started playing together,” Guitarist DJ Foley said. “Ryan helped us get to a whole new level and we were able to make a kick-ass record. He definitely helped us out big on the drumming and the production, and now the record just sounds huge.”
Since the band's first record together as Army Of Strippers, they said they felt like they have grown substantially in their musical expression by working toward a sound that is completely different. The result of the band’s artistic maturity has been laughingly described as a procreation of the two video game hits Dance Dance Revolution and Guitar Hero. "Our sound is as if those two video games made a hot baby,” band member Eric Epps said. “It’s definitely a whole different entity than the first songs we wrote together. I think our latest project really reflects our maturity. We stopped trying to play as fast as possible and started writing the music we, and others, want to hear.”
Eric also said he felt the meticulous attention to detail was necessary in catapulting the record to the level they wanted. “With the recording, we spent so much time trying to find the tone that matches the sort of vibes of the song. We used different sounds for each song – different drumsets, basses, and guitar amps when necessary -- and we were able to shape each song with a unique feel. That is something that we never had the luxury of doing before.”
On the recording, the songs' lyrical content deals with a variety of subject matter, from the tumultuous nature of life in “Things No One Wants” (“It talks about things that no one wants – like wasting your life,” Eric Epps said about the album’s opening track), to an introspective point of view on the suicide contemplation process, "Feet Dangling And The Color Purple" (“It’s the biggest sounding song that we’ve heard in a long time,” DJ Foley said, comparing the song to mainstream music). Another song, titled “Four Cheers for Innocence,” uses World War I as a backdrop for a story of a young couple separated by life’s trials.
Formerly known as Army of Strippers, Housman’s Athletes derived their name from the poem "To An Athlete Dying Young" by the 19th century poet, A.E. Housman. The poem is about an athlete that wins all of his races and abruptly dies at the top of his game; never defeated, never growing old, never fading away. "Our goal as a band is for our music to have some longevity ,” Housman's Athletes guitarist D.J. Foley said of the music. “We want to never get old. We want our music to stick around forever.”