What music they make

The Transylvania Hellhounds rock Hanks Pub

Transylvania Hellhounds (l-r) Allen McCowan, Eric Barnes, Keith Byerman, Greg Vaughn. Photo: Jay Allen Herndon

By Mike Ritchie

Spawned and foaming from the worlds of horror and rock n’ roll, the Transylvania Hellhounds have changed lycanthropic formation a few times dedicating countess hours and energy to their second album.

Their howling began with drummer Eric Barnes jamming with cousin Chance (bassist). Guitarist Keith Byerman had written some rock songs and they started jamming. Chance’s dedication started to wane and Jamie Johnson came in on bass, and was eventually replaced by current bassist Allen McCowan. “When we got it all together, it was awesome,” Byerman says. “I couldn’t ask for a better band to be in,” McCowan says.

After a name change from Bloodhounds, Barnes says 2014 was the year The Transylvania Hellhounds came to be, “In 2015, a year before the [first] album came out is when we got rolling.”

The sound needed a name people could identify with, “I think we sound like what we’re trying to do with Greg’s lyrics, going with a horror rock metal vibe with a bit of rockabilly blues,” Byerman explains.

So far, the road has taken them to Cincinnati, Piqua, Troy and Columbus. Though in demand, they stopped gigging to record the new record, setting up for the perfect sound.

“When we first started, we got nothing but shows with metal bands,” vocalist Greg Vaughn laughs. “It wasn’t until last year, we started getting shows with bands more towards our direction. It’s weird when we’re the heaviest band on the bill.”

Like a cosplay, cowboy hat wearing Vincent Price, Vaughn is the bands grim narrator, “I’m more metaphorical, like a story-teller.” He tells the tale of Medusa on their self-titled debut on “Reptile.” “It’s got horror mixed in but somebody that’s not a horror fan will still like it.”

Long hours have been logged insuring a superior product, “We just finished all the drum tracks in the last two months,” Byerman says, “We got the guitar sound. In the next couple months, we’ll be mixing tracks with a better headset and window of time for hard pressed copies,” he assures.

They hope to venture out farther with this album. “We’re gonna push hard,” Vaugh says. A CD release party is on the agenda, “We definitely want one. We wanna do something large.”

“Hopefully it’ll be out by early next year at the latest,” Barnes predicts. Due to an offer opening for Jackyl the first albums artwork was rushed but this time, there’s no hurry. “Whatever will be, will be. We’ll make sure we put out a good quality product,” he says.

The band have tested waters playing half the tracks live to positive reaction, “They’re digging it. It’s gonna be different,” Byerman says. They’re looking to multi-task, offering fans more entertainment though the music. Expect humor with horror, spaghetti westerns “The Man they could not Hang,” surf songs and their own zombie apocalypse ballad.

New album tracks, “A Haunting we will Go,” is about The Evil Dead and “The Blind Dead” is about the movie with a subtext about how people are adrift, lost in their phones. There’s even a ballad about the wolfman.

“We don’t have an album name yet, we just have twelve songs of awesomeness,” Vaughn says.

They’re not afraid to experiment, including acoustic tracks if it enhances the song. The songs take you back to the ‘50s sock hop, “Earth Angel” style then speed up, cooking up some road burners and they promise they’re not a zombie shoegaze kinda band.

The sound goes beyond rockabilly, psychobilly and possibly Thunderdome, “It’s gonna be very diverse,” Byerman promises. “It’s still The Hellhounds but it’s about us doing different things.” Experimenting with DIY audio sampling is another tool they may use.

They want to go beyond the normal music format, branching into a web-series, staying E-social, “Make The Hellhounds more of something that’s an overall entertaining package,” Byerman says. Barnes’s back-roads lair will provide the perfect backdrop.

Vaughn shares the story of the bewitching voodoo of the “Swamp Thang,” “The basic story is people took a woman, did some nasty things, burying her in the swamp. There’s a guy who lives there and saw her come back to life. He’s kind of her protector, watching her do her thing, helping her do it.”

Live, they want to enhance the show with projectors, a bubbling cauldron and cemetery fencing with LED lights behind the drums.

“This is about a positive organic experience,” Vaughn says. “Stripping away the virtual world, back to the roots of human interaction, thrills and chills. Rock n’ roll should feel like a haunted house. When it’s over, you leave excited.”

They’ve played for packed houses and intimate crowds, supporting Junkyard, Little Caesar and the Texas Hippie Coalition.

Inspired by the creatures and killers gripping the edge of your seat, they indulge in everything from The Evil Dead to the vintage horrors of Hammer and Universal Classic. The Exorcist and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre wield heavy weight, especially the bewitching Suspiria.

They’ve all been around awhile and know what they want from the band, “I’m not gonna quit my job and become a rock star,” Vaughn says smirking. “We’ll push and push hard, if something comes, cool, if not we’re happy doing it.”

The Transylvania Hellhounds play Saturday, November 11 at 9 p.m. at Hanks Pub, 2529 Patterson Road, $5 at the door. The Gringo and Stonecross are also on the bill. 

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Reach DCP freelance writer Mike Ritchie at MikeRitchie@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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