Introducing… Eric Howl

Our Introducing... series focuses on artists who we think are worth shouting about. Here we have Eric Howl, Philadelphian poet and rock'n'roll revivalist.

Posted on Apr 22nd, 2013 in Features and Interviews, Eric Howl / By Larry Day
Introducing… Eric Howl Here at Bearded we aim to shed light on acts who don't necessarily have giant labels or muscley budgets waving banners behind them. This Introducing series will focus on artists who we think are great, regardless of how much hype surrounds them or where their origin story lays.

Name: Eric Howl
Location: Philadelphia, USA
Genre: Indiebilly, rap-wop, Bhangra-rock
Similar Artists: Vampire Weekend, Bob Dylan
Contact: Facebook, Official Site
Events: Album, I'm Goin' Down, due next month.

Eric 'Howl' Venuto is not your average rock'n'roller. He fuses elements of Indian folk, '50s doo-wop, garage and hip-hop to create something exciting and intriguing. The basis for his genre-subverting musical smoothie is family and friends. “When I grew up, my Dad listened to jazz, my brother listened to hip-hop, and my girlfriends listened to rock'n'roll.” But the thing that makes his sound even sweeter, is the fact he's also an established poet in Pennsylvania – his collection of haikus (Haiku For Teens And Prostitutes) is available on Amazon – and that lexical wizardry bleeds through into his lyrics, dotted with colourful imagery and thought-provoking phrases.

When asked about his influences, his answer is pretty varied: “Bob Dylan, Leadbelly, Elvis Presley, Timbaland, Jay Electronica...” There's a Dylan-esque twang to his voice – at times he can drawl like he has a mouth full of marbles, other vocal moments are crystalline. In his critically-lauded single 'You Already Know The Way To The Brahma's House', a hypnotic bout of trance-rock with Bhangra organs and eloquent rapping, his words are both lost in sonic smog and at the same time, clear as day.

This isn't Eric's first incarnation as a musician. “I used to be a battlerapper on the streets of Philadelphia. People loved my first album, but I felt like I was married to a dead brew-ha and a chainsaw... I wasn't fulfilled. So I locked myself in a cave for four years, learned how to play guitar, and how to sing.” He's returned rejuvenated – and his journey is the stuff of legends: A middle-aged schizoaffective man named Cal set him off on a soul-searching voyage with a mere sentence (“Your generation doesn’t want to study all you want is to be famous tomorrow,"), leading Eric to absorb aging country noises and rusted Americana like Buddy Holly and Woody Guthrie. He grew weary of the machinations of East-Coast life, fleeing to The Big Easy after a Reiki master in Chicago prompted him to become a healer. He spent months on sojourns with strangers around his home nation, sleeping rough and learning valuable life lessons and the foundations of the blues. Now he's found a harmony inside himself, his goals for his Eric Howl project are simple: “To be the shaman of filth and to make Persephone dance. I wanna make a liveable wage, and we want to play for the Queen.”

His style of musical majesty is unique in a day and age where the industry churns out cookie-cutter acts moulded to sell merchandise. In a world where the general consensus on taking a leap into the unknown is negative, Eric cannonballs in with fingers crossed and eyes closed. Quizzed on where his ideas come from, he coyly responds: “Two pigeons come and peck my eyes out and bury them in the back yard. A man comes to my window and whispers all the lyrics and melodies and steals an apple.” But behind that veil, he truly appreciates his friends and family: “My Band does the rest, which is: Nick Cislak on bass guitar, Dustin Venuto on drums [his brother], and Bobby Cerruti on lead guitar. Help from other friends is also the key – like on 'Brahma', my Kundalini yoga instructor plays shaahi baja, so it's genuine punjab-like sounds!”

The past may be tarnished with uncertainty, but the future is shimmering for Eric Howl. “My new solo album, a disintegrated plunge into American music called I'm Goin' Down, is coming next month. My band has an EP coming in June called Need Love that we are super excited about. We're looking to book a tour in the UK at the end of the year!” It appears that he's well on his way to his dream of playing for the Queen – performing in the UK is a good start. Eric Howl has released two fantastic cuts so far this year ('Brahma' and 'I'm Goin' Down'), and with his upcoming record on the cusp of release, he's set to be propelled into the spotlight.