Fit for Hounds are a young synth-pop and rock band out of Issaquah that got their name from William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. When Brutus decides that Caesar's ambitions necessitate his assassination, he says, "Let's kill him boldly, but not wrathfully; let's carve him as a dish fit for the gods, not hew him as a carcass fit for hounds." It sounds harsh, but this band isn't. They're as well mannered as can be, and they're hungry to play and be heard. Their sound is a polished and tight Strokes/Killers/1980s-dance-influenced blend.

This year, Fit for Hounds entered EMP's 10th annual Sound Off! competition and were chosen as one of 12 semifinalists to compete in February's battle of the bands. The winner gets to play at Bumbershoot and live on 107.7 The End. (Multiple winners also receive studio time and gear.) The band consists of 19-year-old William Conrad Doerrfeld, who writes the songs, sings, and plays synth, his 17- year-old sister Alicia Doerrfeld on guitar, 18-year-old Scott Sherman on bass, and 17-year-old Zach Barokas on drums. Zach had an Algebra II exam the morning after this interview, so let's hope he did well and that no carcasses were hewed.

How did you all become Sound Off! semifinalists?

WCD: Sound Off! has always been a goal of mine. I applied the last couple years and didn't make it in. So when we started this band, we said, let's apply and take it really seriously and hope to get in. This year, we did! There's an online application process through EMP. They want to see a history of performances and hear your songs. There's a youth advisory board that goes through all the applications. They filter it down, and then it goes to another panel, and they choose 12 finalists. This year, there were 130 bands that submitted from all over the Northwest. We're really excited.

Now there will be a gigantic death- match battle of the bands?

ZB: There are three semifinals now. Ours is February 19. Then the finals on March 5 to decide the winner.

AD: When we went to the orientation, one thing they said is that they don't like calling it a battle of the bands.

There was an orientation?

ZB: Yeah, the 12 finalists had an orientation where we met a panel of media professionals who talked us through the process and what happens if we win. We got to meet the other bands, too.

WCD: It was cool. They really want the bands to talk to each other and get to know each other. They said, "This is the future of Seattle music—you all will be working with each other a lot in the coming years." The bassist from Schoolyard Heroes spoke, too.

Was there any trash-talking? What's it like playing in a battle of the bands?

WCD: It was great to get to meet these other bands. Usually with battles of the bands, there's a weird dynamic between all the bands. You want to be really friendly and supportive and say, "Good luck, bro." But at the same time, you want to win.

ZB: Usually after the show, people are more supportive. But before, it's really awkward. We go into it thinking, "The other bands are just as good as we are, and they've been working just as hard." We don't want to overdo it, but we want to play well enough to make an impression.

AD: You can tell everyone's checking each other out. But in the end, it's key to just go onstage and have fun.

SS: You're definitely sizing everyone up. What's their gear like? Do they look like they can play? I'll check out their music beforehand and do some scouting. I always try to gauge what we're going into.

When I was 15, I was in a band called the Beaver Trappers. We were terrible, but we entered a battle of the bands at a Methodist church. I was scared as hell. These 25-year-old dudes in a metal band called Throttle Your Mother's Puma walked in with all this pro gear and entered the contest right at the last minute. They were totally friends with the judges and got them high, so they won. It was a rip-off. Does this kind of thing still happen?

WCD: Sound Off! is under 21, so I don't think Throttle Your Mother's Puma will be playing.

Who judges Sound Off!? What are they judging for?

ZB: Industry professionals. Maybe Natalie Portman's Shaved Head? They're judging for creativity, originality, composition, audience involvement, and musicianship.

And breakdancing.

SS: I hope not.

Who chooses the order the bands play in? What's the best slot to play?

WCD: For Sound Off!, the bands are drawing straws.

AD: No one wants to play first. I think last is the best slot to play. You're leaving the last impression.

SS: If you don't do something that's more memorable than the bands that play after you, you don't have as good a chance. It's a fight to do something that makes the judges think, "That set definitely stood out."

What's next for y'all? What do you want to do with your music and your band?

WCD: Sound Off! is all we're thinking about and getting ready for now. At some point, we'd like to make this what we do for a living, to make it a profession. So we're going about it like that, dedicating everything we have to it.

SS: I've been putting a lot of time into thinking how to market us. I work at the Jamba Juice in Issaquah and always have CDs on me, in case there's someone I need to give one to.

You have the hookup on juiced wheatgrass there. What's so healthy about wheatgrass?

SS: It has vitamin K, so it's good for detoxing. And they say that one ounce of juiced wheatgrass has two and a half pounds of vegetable nutrients in it.

You all won an Eastside battle of the bands, right?

WCD: Yes, and one in Issaquah, as well. They were a lot smaller.

So you all have the battle of the bands thing down. Will it be weird for you to play an actual club show?

WCD: I don't think so. That's what we want, to just play as many good shows as possible. We've played around 15 or 20 shows so far. We've gotten to play at the L.A.B., El Corazón, Ground Zero, Old Fire House, Kirkland Teen Center. We're hoping to play Vera soon.

What do you hope to win at Sound Off!?

AD: To get to play Bumbershoot. That would be huge for us. The studio time and the gear would be great, too. But Bumbershoot is what we're really hoping for.

How do you all write songs?

WCD: Up to this point, it's been me writing the songs. I'll record a demo version of the song using Logic Studio on my computer and then give it to the rest of the band. And they all put their spin on it.

SS: He gives us the skeleton of the song, and we flesh it out with our own feel. He's open to our interpretation.

ZB: We all get to have a say. It's a group thing. It's never Bill's way or the highway.

Since Bill and Alicia are brother and sister, how does that affect things? Is there ever sibling squabbling?

AD: We're actually really good friends. I think it just makes the band tighter, and the music. We hang out a lot.

In "Clap if You Hear Me," you sing, "Long ago, my heart fell oh so low" and about "cities burning." Is this song about a dark time in your life?

WCD: I took a year off after high school and went to Guatemala with a not-for-profit agency to do community service. I raised money by selling car washes, and had a benefit concert, and made a website to help pay for my trip. The second semester there, they canceled the program. So I came home and was kind of alone. My girlfriend dumped me and started dating one of my sister's friends. So yeah, it's about a dark time. I took that money and time that I had left over and started this band. And channeled the energy that way. I'm dedicated to Fit for Hounds. We all are.

Have you ever thought of getting an ice cream cone tattooed on your face like Gucci Mane? That's dedication.

WCD: I think I would get a hound tattoo.

How long have you guys been playing your instruments?

SS: I've been playing bass for two years; I started piano when I was 5.

AD: I've been playing guitar for seven years.

ZB: Five years on the drums so far.

WCD: I've been officially singing for a couple years, but I guess I've always sung. I started with piano, then got into trumpet, then drums, and kind of taught myself how to play guitar and bass.

The drums are solid on these songs. Zach, how did you become so dialed in?

ZB: I guess for me, learning to play was an escape. I didn't have a ton of friends, but I had drums. And I played all the time.

What are some bands you've played with that you like?

WCD: Shotty, Box, Jar of Rain, the Steelwells from Orange County.

Has there been a battle of the bands for y'all that hasn't gone so well?

WCD: Yes. We entered a "Classic Rock-a-Thon" at the Old Fire House and it was a cover-song thing. We had the idea to play '80s dance pop songs, like A-ha and Depeche Mode. Everyone else was playing like Nirvana, Alice in Chains, Metallica, Pink Floyd, even Beatles. We played, and no one clapped. It was sad.

Metallica is classic rock?

AD: I guess. They said we could play anything between 1950 and 1995.

WCD: Learning the songs changed the way I started to write songs, though. So it was good. Even if there was no clapping. It made me start listening to a bunch of New Order and Human League.

How often do y'all rehearse? Are y'all rehearsing any differently for Sound Off!?

ZB: At least three times a week. Sundays, we go all day.

SS: Lately, we've been doing this thing where if we make a mistake on a song, we play it over until we get it right.

WCD: We are definitely rehearsing differently for Sound Off! What Great Waves did was really inspiring to me. They won last year. They had dedicated an entire year to just playing music. Sound Off! has been a yearlong goal for us. I'd say we're way more serious now. recommended

The semifinals for Sound Off! are February 12, 19, and 26 at the EMP Sky Church. The finals are March 5.

This article has been updated since its original publication.