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.”
Daviss 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.’”
Handsome Hound plays April 30 at the Kingman Island Bluegrass and Folk Festival.