Wilkins realized it most when their publicist tried to promote the album. Writers would question if they were listening to the same band because of how different the songs sounded.
“There are really cool aspects of having people say that about your project, but from a success standpoint, it makes sense to be a band that has a little bit more focus,” said Wilkins.
Meaning, he wanted a brand of rock-and-roll that wasn’t two bands wrapped in one. Adding the fact that he was in a relationship with Houser, he felt it was becoming too much.
“I also realized she had a lot of great songs and I had what I thought was a lot great songs. We didn’t have enough room,” said Wilkins.
Houser thinks they both started craving more control and separate musical identities that contributed to the split.
“I will say us being in a relationship together was a catalyst for us deciding to split ways as a band, but I think it would have happened even if Taylor and I hadn’t been dating,” said Houser.
“The Couch was already a band for five years when she joined it, so it was a Frankenstein by the end of it anyway,” said Wilkins. “That’s why it needed to be put down.”
When it came time to share the decision with drummer Jud Johnson and bassist Nick Joswick, they met over beer as Wilkins and Houser shared the news that Houser was leaving the band. They were caught off guard. It hadn’t been a year since Joswick joined The Couch when this happened. He recorded the last Couch album at 5th Street Studios, where he works, and was asked to leave the soundboard to audition for the band.
“I was slightly shocked at first, because I loved The Couch and I loved what we were doing so I thought it was a good fit,” said Jowick.
Johnson was sad he wasn’t going to play Houser’s songs anymore.
“I loved doing that, but I completely understand for the forming of an unit. Maintaining a band like that, you can’t,” said Johnson.
The Couch becomes Otis the Destroyer
With Houser out of the picture, the remaining guys continued playing shows as a three-piece. Since Johnson and Wilkins had initially formed the Couch as a three-piece when they became college roommates in 2007, they were used to that dynamic. But for Joswick, it was strange and eye-opening. He hadn’t been in a three-piece band before.
“It helped me grow as a player,” said Joswick. “I think Otis (the Destroyer) realized the sound that we wanted once we decided to change and do our own thing.”
Moving away from The Couch wasn’t an easy transition. During The Couch’s tenure, the band briefly played under the pseudonym Devil in the Drink as a way to clean the slate. The name didn’t last long.
“That was a failed experiment,” said Wilkins. “We played a lot of really good shows as Devil in the Drink, but it was such a terrible band name change that it was like, even at this point, it’s laughable.”
Wilkins and especially Johnson had hesitations about starting a band from scratch.
“It’s daunting to have to start over again, but at the same time, the band was going through so many different changes,” said Johnson.
“It wasn’t an easy sell, and neither was the name Otis the Destroyer, but it was kinda like the name that we all felt the best about and I figured it can’t be any worse than The Couch,” said Wilkins.
The band name derives from Wilkins’ dog, who Wilkins named after a nickname given to his dad.
Before the band debut, Wilkins told James Taylor what his new band would be called. Taylor, who co-owns and co-manages Holy Mountain music venue, was also booking shows for The Couch at the time. Recalling that moment, he’s pretty sure he hated it, but not as much as he hated Devil in the Drink.
“I’m not a huge fan of the name, but now they own it,” said Taylor. “Now they’re such a good band that the name is just stupid. Like it doesn’t matter, you know? They reached that threshold.”