Spreading like a wildfire in the heart of the music industry is pop/punk-alt rock outfit The House United. Featuring the exceptional talents of 16-year old singer/songwriter/keyboardist Carmel Paradise Buckingham, Brandon Adams on guitar, Joe Gregory on bass and Austin Arnold on drums, The House United molds a fresh progressive sound derived from a diversity of influences ranging from My Chemical Romance to All Time Low to Red Hot Chili Peppers to Paramore, to Angels and Airwaves, to Switchfoot, to Relient K, to Rush to Muse to The Maine to Rage Against The Machine. It’s a diverse list of influences, yet these acts all have one thing in common…formidable songwriting and an undeniable chemistry. Like their namesake, The House United are unified in mind, music and majesty. They have a proclivity for dynamic delivery.
Born in Anchorage Alaska, THU frontwoman Carmel spent her childhood in Slovakia before moving to Nashville to attend high school. Through mutual friends, Ms. Buckingham soon made the acquaintance of Adams, Gregory and Arnold, three music students at Belmont University, and formed the band in early 2014. Armed with a batch of songs she had penned over the course of several years, the quartet fleshed out the instrumentation and headed into prestigious Blackbird Studios in Nashville to record their debut album. Rooted in punk rock spunk, sonic precision and layered sophistication, Made of Matches is awash in a diverse palette of colors, with reggae riddims (“Fallen”), funk grooves (“Made of Matches”), bristling pop doused in rock (“Stay Alive” “Emergency” “New Hampshire”), atmospheric expositions (“Bullet” “Catastrophe”), sweeping ballads (“Come Back Home” “Scarecrow”), and hard rock riffage (“Girls” “Phoenix”) accenting the hallways of their musical mansion.
Lyrically, the album’s themes touch on the effervescence and insouciance of romance and relationships but regardless of the subject, one thing rings true throughout, Carmel’s lyrics portray a distinct pilgrimage. She does not mince words. When she emotes in the title track, “my heart’s on fire and I’m made of matches,” it’s apparent that an explosion is on the horizon. When she yearns in “Bullet,” “I thought you were fighting for me, I guess I was wrong, I thought you were on my side, but you were moving on,” it’s apparent that love has come undone, but not for long as she’s “rising from the ashes and staying fearless” in “Phoenix.” In these songs and throughout her repertoire, her deliberate use of visceral metaphors lays a sturdy emotional foundation for the music to intuitively build upon but none more so than in the soaring closing track “Who Am I” which champions universal acceptance in the face of religious views that skew.
No time for being a scarecrow. It’s time to avert askew and invest your being in something new. Steer clear of the automatic and become an addict as The House United sling frenetic, wax poetic, and unite the emblematic aggregate. Time to light a match and rise up.
Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with The House United frontwoman, Carmel Buckingham, to discuss his roots in music, the formation of the band, the creation of their debut album, their songwriting process and what the have in store for us in the year to come!
Music became a huge part of your life. What are some of your first memories of music and what made you want to pursue music professionally?
Music has always been a very prominent part of our household. My sister is very into music and, I’m not sure if you know, she is pursuing a career in music as well. I think it was when I was much older that I decided to do it as a career because I never saw it as a plausible option. After I saw my sister deciding that she really couldn’t imagine herself doing anything else, I thought, “Yeah. I can do this. I can actually enjoy my life and enjoy music as my career.”
Who had the biggest impact on you musically early on?
One of my first memories of music that I really like and want to create was Joan Jett. Even to this day she is one of my biggest influences. That was amazing because when I first discovered her music, I had no experience with anything like it before. They call her The Godmother of Punk. I heard her for the first time and thought it was incredible. From then on I went on to discover different bands and artists but she was the entry point for me into this genre of music and what inspired me.
You are off to an amazing start in your career with A House United. What can you tell us about the formation of the band?
When I decided that I really wanted to do music as a career and pursue it full-time, my mom and I decided that I should go for it. My mom has been my biggest supporter and she is also my manager! We decided we would go for it! I always knew that I didn’t want to be a solo artist. I wanted to be part of a group. I wanted to create something that was bigger than just one person and had more than one person expelling the music out. Most of my favorite artists are parts of bands, and I always imagined being part of it, so I shared that. We found the guys at Belmont University. They already all knew each other but, when I first met them, everything clicked and worked immediately. We got along really well. We started writing music together and everything just built from there.
What can you tell us about the other members of the group and what they bring to the table for a project such as this one?
They are incredible! As time has gone on, we have become so comfortable with each other. We have been together for about a year now. As cliche as it may sound, I honestly feel, at times, they are like my brothers. They are very funny but they are very committed. They are very proud of their work, of their art. They are very committed to making something of their music. I really think, as we continue to write together and improve, everything is going to keep getting better!
How did you decide on A House United as the band’s name? What is the story behind it?
The name actually comes from an Abraham Lincoln quote: “A house divided cannot stand.” We actually had a pretty tough time deciding on a name for our band because we couldn’t really agree on what represented us. We are a punk rock band but, at the same time when you meet us and talk to us, we are so goofy, loud and not every dark or emo at all. We were trying to find the perfect name to represent us, our music and what we were trying to say. We were brainstorming and throwing names out there and this one was the one that stuck. It was kind of what we wanted to say. We wanted to say that we were a united front, that we know what we want and are standing together and here for anyone who needs help or comfort from our music.
For those who might not have heard the band yet, how would you describe your sound and what is it comparable to?
This is an interesting question because we always get asked this and whenever we are together we just look at each other with questioning looks on our faces! [laughs] How do we describe what we make? I like to say punk rock because it is the closest we get to what we are trying to sound like. The genre I would say is punk rock but, at the same time, we infuse a lot of other genres. We have a reggae sounding song or a funk beat in some of our music. There is something in there for everyone. Basically, we aren’t trying to sound like a specific band, we want to sound like ourselves obviously, but we drew on some of our influences. I know that our guitarist, Brandon, really loves Relient K, Rush and Switchfoot. I am sure he draws inspiration from there.
You have been hard at work on your first album, “Made of Matches.” What were your expectations or goals for the record going into the process?
This album was done on a ridiculous deadline. We had such little time to make this album. The lyrics I had already written before I had even met the guys. We got in there and started writing the music and hit the studio as soon as we were done. We recorded the album in two days and went from there. Sometimes it is even hard to remember that we did release an album. It’s like, “Whoa! That happened really fast!” [laughs] I think our expectations were to make a product that represented who we were, what we wanted to say at the time and what we were trying to achieve. I think for our first album we achieved that. Obviously, we continue to grow and discover new things we want to say and new sounds we want to try. That is always going to happen as we grow. I think we really got what we wanted from the first album, which was to get ourselves out there and say what we needed to say!
Of the songs on “Made of Matches,” which songs most resonate with you?
Because it has been a year since we have worked on them and even longer since I wrote most of them, my perspective and stories have changed a lot. It is kind of interesting when a song has a new meaning to me when I play it today as opposed to when I first write it. I definitely think “Who Am I?” and “Phoenix,” those anthemic kind of songs, are immortal in a way. They are indestructible in the way that they mean the same thing no matter when you listen to them. They are really great to play live because, when you play them and see the peoples reaction to the lyrics of the song, it is incredible to see the reaction and see how people connect to it. One that is really fun for me is “New Hampshire” because no one has any idea what is going on and I love that about it. Even though you don’t know the stories behind it necessarily, you can relate to the bitterness, angst and music of it. You can really relate to it even when you don’t understand it, which is one of the things I love the most about music.
Where are you in regards to creating new music? It seems like you are focused on the future?
Oh, definitely! We are currently writing and playing local shows here in Nashville. It is a lot of fun because we get to go out and play our old stuff and then hang out on a Sunday and write new stuff and think, “How do we want to be different? How do we want to be the same? What do we want to say? What are we looking to express?” It is really great to have that mix of both the old and the new.
What can you tell us about your typical songwriting process and how has it changed when it comes to working in a group setting?
I play the piano only at a very mediocre level. When I would write songs I would usually use the piano. You are very limited on the piano. It is a great asset as opposed to not playing any instruments but, now that I write with the guys, I don’t necessarily need to use the piano alone, so there is a much broader sound you can achieve from that. You can create something so much louder, faster and harder. I think what has changed the most is the songs will sound more different than they used to. That is kind of weird for me to say because most of the songs on the first album are very different from each other. I think they have a broader perspective now. Most of the songs on the first record have the same theme and follow the same idea. I think the newer stuff will have more of a unique perspective on life, per song.
How has the scene in Nashville impacted you as an artist?
It has been really incredible! I used to live in Slovakia and it is a very small country with a very small music scene, so there was very limited exposure. The biggest genre there is obviously pop. It was extremely hard to find a good rock scene, let alone a punk rock scene. That was completely unheard of. When I moved here, even though Nashville is known mostly for country music, it is Music City. If you look, you can find what you are looking for. Getting to play places like The Exit Inn, The End or The Basement was great because we get to see people who like or play our kind of music. There is a great collection of people you can understand, who understand you and what you are trying to achieve. That had a huge impact on me when I first moved here because I thought, “Wow. Here are people that want what I want and like what I like. We are all kind of in the same boat.” In Nashville, everyone is a struggling songwriter, so everyone knows what you are going through! [laughs]
What does the future hold for the band in regards to touring?
Expect news and expect surprises because that is what we are expecting! We have no idea what is coming, which is kind of the magic of it! Obviously, right now, I am in school and the boys are in school but in the meantime we are working on new music and playing local shows. Playing is one of our favorite things and it always gets everyone so hyped up. I would love to tour and I know the boys would too. It is all a matter of scheduling and all that boring stuff. We are working on new music, so I think there are possibilities for touring and possibilities for new music coming out soon. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see!
Obviously, you are still you but you experienced a lot along the way. What is your biggest evolution so far as an artist?
That’s a tough one. I think that the aftermath of making the album has been the biggest change for me. Most of these songs I had been playing with in my head for awhile before the guys came along and we suddenly put them all out there. I had other people listen to them who had their own stories that came from these songs that were originally my stories. I think my biggest evolution as a musician was discovering that not everything means the same thing to everyone. I think you always sort of know that and know that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure but, at the same time, it is interesting to see how people react to the songs. You will have no idea how they got that interpretation. It is beautiful! For example, we will play “Stay Alive” at a concert and someone will come up to me and say, “That is exactly what happened between me and my ex!” I will say, “Oh, that is so cool!” — even though I wrote the song about music! People will relate it to anything from their parents to a relationship to writing or music, like I did. I think it is really great to see that music has a way of reaching people in different ways. I feel like knowing we have that ability to do that is really the greatest thing.
It is really interesting to catch you at this point where you are experiencing so many new things career-wise. You can serve as a great inspiration to so many young artists. What is the best advice you can pass along to aspiring musicians looking to pursue a career in the music industry?
My advice would be that you aren’t going to get anywhere unless you work for it. It makes me sad sometimes when I see people in my school who are incredibly talented and gifted in some way who aren’t utilizing their gifts. I am like, “Wow! You should do something with that because it is incredible and when you are gifted like that I think you should share it.” A lot of times, people want to achieve things but they aren’t willing to work for it. That isn’t going to get you anywhere. The music industry is incredibly competitive and, in order to really make it, become what you want to become and achieve what you want to achieve, you have to work hard, continue to try, adapt and grow. That is my little piece of advice.
Are you involved with any charity work we can help shine a light on?
The guys and I have been planning to go to the Nashville Animal Shelter and volunteer there. I think it is a great cause. Previously, I have volunteered at GraceWorks and Nashville Cares, which are two great organizations. My sister has been working with www.care.org, as well. Those are some charities we are involved with and trying to promote and lend a hand to.
Where are the best places to catch up with you and The House United on the web?
We are on most of the social media platforms. Definitely check out our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/thehouseunited. We are also on ReverbNation, Twitter and Instagram, which is pretty fun. We also have a band SnapChat, as well. It is mainly run by our drummer. Only add us if you are prepared to receive dozens of SnapChats a day! [laughs]
Thanks so much for your time today, Carmel. You have been terrific and certainly have a bright future ahead of you!
Thanks so much, Jason! Talk to you soon!
Jason Price founded the mighty Icon Vs. Icon more than a decade ago. Along the way, he’s assembled an amazing group of like-minded individuals to spread the word on some of the most unique people and projects on the pop culture landscape.