While such groups as the White Stripes, the Black Keys, the Kills, and the Evens made the notion of a guitar-and-drums duo fairly commonplace in the early 21st century, the idea of two guys making music without the help of a bassist was considered unusual indeed when Bryan Harvey and Johnny Hott formed House of Freaks. Fueled by stripped-down blues and folk-rock songs propelled by Hott's muscular drumming and the chock-a-block guitar work of Harvey, House of Freaks (the name was drawn from an old circus poster) was formed in the duo's hometown of Richmond, VA, in 1986. Harvey and Hott pulled up stakes and moved to Los Angeles, where they scored a contract with Rhino Records, releasing their debut single, "Bottom of the Ocean," in late 1987, with the album Monkey on a Chain Gang following in early 1988. The album earned rave reviews and college radio airplay, and a more polished follow-up, Tantilla, which featured Marty McCavitt sitting in on keyboards, followed in 1989. In 1991, House of Freaks jumped ship to a major-label deal, signing with the Warner Bros.-affiliated Giant label for their third album, Cakewalk. However, Cakewalk was a critical and commercial disappointment, and the group went on hiatus, though both Harvey and Hott later emerged as members of Gutterball, an alt-rock supergroup fronted by Steve Wynn that released two albums in 1993 and 1995. An independent EP, Invisible Jewel, appeared in 1993 and proved to be the last recordings from House of Freaks; they officially broke up in 1995. Hott went on to play with Sparklehorse, Cracker, and Lauren Hoffman, while Harvey recorded an unreleased solo album in 1997. Harvey, who had grown to dislike touring, moved back to Richmond, and played occasionally with a new band called NrG Krysys while spending more time with his family. On December 31, 2005, Harvey and NrG Krysys played a New Year's Eve show in Richmond; the following day, he was murdered in his home, along with his wife and two daughters, victims of two thieves on a crime spree that also claimed the lives of three other Richmond residents. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi