Interview: Hands Like Houses
SOS: It’s been about two years since you guys have broken into the US market. In the interim you guys have released a new album, you played on Warped Tour all of last summer, and now you’re supporting some bigger names like Memphis May Fire. Do you guys think that it was hard to finally get going in the US, being a band from overseas?
Alex: I feel like it almost benefitted us, being from overseas. I guess when we originally started there were a lot of kids who were just interested because we’re a band from Australia. So it kind of just helped in the marketing side of the music industry. It gave us a bit of something different from other people. Plus like obviously our music, as well. I reckon it was definitely more of like a helping hand than a hindrance.
I know you’ve mentioned before that you spent a lot more time touring in the US than back home in Australia. Do you think you might have a bigger following abroad than back home?
Matty: Absolutely. We’ve always had more support in America than Australia but now Australia has come through really well but our main fanbase is definitely in America.
Even though you said touring in the US has been mostly beneficial, I’m sure that planning an overseas tour can be difficult from a logistical perspective. What have been some of the biggest issues you’ve had to overcome?
Alex: I guess really when we had first gotten signed I think all of us were like “Ok cool, all the work’s done, no worries” and then like this veil was just lifted from our eyes. We were like “We have so much work to do.”
Matty: And we’re still learning.
Alex: I just feel like there were so many things that we just had no clue about. It’s like a learning curve. Every time you tour with a band, you pick something up. Every time you meet someone you learn something. Meeting fans helps a lot. The whole time, unless you’re like a sponge absorbing everything, you’re gonna adjust.
What do you think you were most shocked by when you first got involved with the music industry?
Alex: I feel like the main thing to overcome is just acclimatizing to being on tour a lot and like the lifestyle.
Matty: (pointing to band members entering dressing room behind him) Like these guys coming in!
Alex: It’s just like..on our first tour, myself and our bassist basically just bought like little tortilla wraps and a jar of peanut butter and made that like every day. For the whole tour, and that’s like a month. So imagine eating peanut butter for all that time.
Matty: And we toured for like nine months straight, so that’s a LOT of peanut butter.
Alex: Literally everything was just so different from how our lives were.
Matty: It’s a lifestyle change. It went from us being regular guys, working, and then fitting practice and a little tour back home to, touring full time. You need a van, a trailer, you need gear, and you’re just like “Yup. OK!”
Alex: And you’ve got like three days to do it and then you’re on tour.
Matty: Somewhere in between there, find time to feed yourself, wet-wipe yourself down, and then there you go. Showers. We don’t get many.
I can imagine it’s hard to adjust considering it’s summer where you’re from right now and you had to cancel a show due to snow yesterday. I assume even little things like the weather can be hard to adjust to?
Alex: I’m wearing every jacket I have at the moment and it’s probably 80 degrees inside, so I’m still cold.
Matty: [stroking beard] I’m growing this out to try to keep my face warm but it’s just not happening.
Alex: At the moment it’s definitely an issue but we can adapt to cold weather, it’s not so bad, it’s just a lot of complaining.
Matty: The biggest thing for me personally, like yesterday, is just like driving in the snow. I’ve never done that before. None of us have I don’t think. So that was a big learning curve.
Alex: Yeah we had like a three hour drive and it took us like nine hours to get here.
Matty: We just took it slow and we’re still trying to learn how to sort of do it.
You guys take a lot more time out of your day to respond to fans on social media than most other bands do. I know it may seem like a bit of an obvious answer, but what compels you to take so much time to respond and interact with fans, considering a lot of other bands don’t?
Alex: Yeah it’s like an obvious answer to the question but for most bands, the only reason a band gets to do anything or be anything is because of everyone who comes along to shows. As much as some bands might sit on the bus and be like “Oh I don’t want to talk to fans” or “I don’t want to meet people,” the more you do it, the more you enjoy your time, and they go home being like “oh Ok he’s actually just a normal guy.” It’s the hardest thing to convey to people, like when someone meets like either of us and they just sit there and don’t know what to say, and we’re just like “just say anything, do something.” Because we try to be as approachable as possible. I just think the main thing is that…it sounds cheesy but we actually just want to be able to give back to the people who have done so much for us. We get all of this love and all of these gifts and all of this support like every night. We wouldn’t be able to continue without all of that stuff.
Matty: Yeah, we’re really just trying to be as normal as possible. We’re just trying to hang out.
Trenton enters the room.
A while back, you guys posted an open letter talking about how touring with Pierce The Veil influenced how you interact with fans.
Alex: Before you even finish the question. Every band should tour with Pierce the Veil and learn how bands should treat a.) other bands b.) the rest of the industry and c.) their fans. Even if I didn’t like their music, they are just musicians, people, and just a band to learn from. For someone who takes a music career, they’re just a perfect example of what you do.
Trenton: They take their art seriously, they take their music seriously, and they take their responsibilities as human beings seriously
Alex: Yeah I got a lot of positive things from them.
So given that you are really one of the up and coming bands in the US, you’ve made huge strides in the music scene recently. Yet you still manage to, as you said before, keep yourselves pretty grounded. Do you think that’s getting harder to do as you guys get bigger, you get more people rushing you after shows, and such?
Trenton: I don’t think so. There’s always sort of a spectrum. This is very much the age of entitlement and everyone just feels like what they experience belongs to them. I think as we get bigger, it gets a little bit harder to maintain personal relationships.
Alex: And integrity…
Trenton: Things get thrown in your way and everyone wants you to either take sides or talk shit and you know, at the end of the day I think that we’re gonna be the same people. It doesn’t mean that we’re always going to be able to give everyone that sense of recognition that a lot of people seem to want but I think for us it’s about staying true to ourselves as artists, staying true to ourselves as just people interacting with other people. Whatever opportunities we have, we want to be the best people we can be.
Can you elaborate a bit more about what you meant by maintaining “integrity?”
Trenton: Oh the pressure’s on!
Matty (to Alex): Yes what DID you mean?
Alex: Well for us it was like, we released Ground Dweller and then Unimagine and both of those albums were like musically different but in a progressive path. There are fans of some bands who will be like “why did you release the same album?” We were able to grow. We spent a year and a half touring. Like, if we released the same album, we wouldn’t remain true to ourselves. We have learned and it’s just like progression. It can be hard, or it can be I guess. I feel like Unimagine progressed us so much further than Ground Dweller. Also opening for other bands means that there are so many more eyes on you. There are some people who are like “oh I liked their first album better,” and we’re like “cool!”
Trenton: It’s great when people actually go back and listen to Ground Dweller over and over again and find new things in it. It’s a very dense album thematically and musically and I think there are always new things to find. It’s the same with Unimagine. I don’t like this idea that you always have to produce more of the same just because people want to hear more of it. I still go back and load up my playlist with albums I loved when I was like 19 or 20 and I’ve been loving just listening through that stuff and thinking “this is the stuff I grew up on.” I like rediscovering it all over again. I guess to kind of touch back on what Al was saying about musical integrity: it reflects a personal thing as well. For us, Ground Dweller is very much about that we want to stay true to our art and our role as artists and musicians. We always want to go out there and be playing songs that we know are the best, or even just the songs that we enjoy. Or the things that we think are the most substantial representations of ourselves. If we’re going out there and playing stuff that is just a hit song…then that’s not what we want to do. You know this tour we’ve gone out and played a bunch off of Unimagine that wasn’t necessarily out there. With Warped Tour last year, that was our last US tour and played two songs off of Unimagine and a whole lot off Ground Dweller. Now we’re only playing two songs off of Ground Dweller. That’s not to say we’re trying to leave it behind, but it’s just these are the songs that are true to us and mean a lot to us. These are the songs that when I’m on stage, and I think it’s true for the other guys as well, I’m able to really let those songs come to life as an expression of myself and ourselves. I think people are seeing that and I think that people are really connecting with these songs because of that. More people are singing and jumping along and interacting and I think they’re seeing that emotional outlet that makes the music what we love.
I’ll admit, this one is out of personal curiosity more than anything else, but in “The Definition of Not Leaving,” you quoted a line from Where The Wild Things Are (“stay, don’t go/I’ll eat you up I love you so”). What about this line, or this concept for that matter made you want to include it in the song?
I love that movie and book. I guess the movie extrapolated on some of it but I liked not necessarily the intended themes of the book, but just kind of the idea of the innocence of childhood which can be extended to anything. We are just human beings and while we learn different behaviors we’re still the same like, conscious soul. So I think I love the idea that this kid is just exploring what’s in front of him and he still wants to belong, he wants to rule, he wants to run, he wants to just experience everything. That idea of “stay, don’t go, I’ll eat you up, I love you so” is just kind of reflective of not necessarily a negative side of humanity, but a side of us that is self-driven. You know we see the world through our own eyes and feel the world through our own senses? That’s kind of what it is. “I’ll eat you up, I love you so,” is just me being who I am in my life. It means that it may have negative effects but I still want to love and be loved. It’s a huge idea but I just felt like the movie expressed that complete freedom to feel and freedom to be. I think that “stay, don’t go, I’ll eat you up, I love you so” was just such a beautiful, balanced expression of what I was kind of contending with in the rest of the song.
Getting back to you guys giving back to your fans: what do you think have been some of the most rewarding experiences from touring and meeting fans so far?
Alex: As a tour as a whole, Warped Tour gave us the most opportunities to actually interact with fans. It was the first tour where we really got a chance to have “meet and greets” [air quotes]. Anyone can come up and talk to us but it just gave us the possibility for people to line up and just have some time to talk, without, you know, bands in the background. Well I guess there were bands in the background, but you know. That whole tour people just came up and would tell you things that meant a lot to them. I felt like it made more people comfortable expressing what impact we’ve had on them and made it easier for us to say things to them as well. It made it more real.
Trenton: We love the hell out of the festival. We love just being able to walk around the grounds and see bands that we’ve never seen before. We happen to be friends with Echosmith, because one day I was just wandering around in San Diego in between commitments and I just happened to come past the stage. I just saw them playing and thought “Wow this band is awesome,” so I told [the other band members] about them and we saw them the next day. It kind of just clicked from there. It’s just a great environment to be a part of. It’s a little bit harder for club shows like this to have that connection because everyone is in a tight space and there’s music playing. That’s when you do things like take photos and sign stuff because it doesn’t take that involvement in a confined space. It is a great way to interact and we like being out there and enjoying it on our own terms. I think that puts us in a better headspace. When people come up and want to chat with us, we’re in a great headspace and we don’t mind doing that without feeling the pressure of trying to talk over music or contending with anything else.
Alex: I just lost what the question was after all of that.
Trenton: We were just talking about what’s been rewarding so far and how we interact with fans.
Alex: Oh for me I think it was definitely Warped Tour. It was just a great platform to meet fans and to get our music out there.
Trenton: For me as well, I think one of our most rewarding things was doing our Australian headliner that we just finished up. We just did a tour to capitalize on the Australian warped where we had big audiences. We just wanted to see what we could do on our own in Australia where we hadn’t really had the time to really grind out a solid touring schedule. So going into this headliner to have it sold out and have every single night, every single new song we played people were screaming it back like they’ve known it for years…that, especially since so many of the new songs are so close to my own struggles, and how the lyrics are an extension and expression. Having everyone singing that just reinforced every meaning and every feeling. It’s a community thing, and being a part of that and sharing a part of that is just seeing a reflection of what we put out there. It’s such an affirmation of what we’re doing and that’s really rewarding for me.
I know you guys mentioned on twitter that you’re trying to get back to Warped in 2015. What would you guys hope to achieve from a second run?
Trenton: We just want to do it again.
Alex: Well also because it’s time for a new album so what better time than Warped tour?
Trenton: It’s a great platform for launching albums. You can get it out there.
Alex: Yeah it’s just a good time really.
Have you guys started working on a new album then?
Trenton: Yeah, we’ve started fleshing out ideas a bit. We’re in the early days of it. We’re getting our touring rig set up because we’ve made some changes in our back line and stuff so once we’ve got that all locked down, the time that we have before shows and in between playing, we’ll start tracking some of our early ideas and jamming. We’ve got time over this summer because we’re not doing any the American Warped. I guess if you’re not doing Warped it’s a bit of a dead zone for touring so it’ll be great for us to kind of go home, spend some time, flesh out some songs, come back later in the year, maybe try one or two out on the road and then just be prepared. We didn’t rush Unimagine but we didn’t have the amount of time we would have liked to really refine and perfect every tiny detail. We’re going into album three wanting to be prepared and get it all together early so we can give ourselves time to not only write it but to really enjoy the process as well.
Are you guys touring in a bus or a van right now? Are you able to really write on the road?
Trenton: We’ve got a shuttle bus. We’ve converted it with a bunch of bunks and a futon. We’ve just installed some lights underneath things. It’s a bit tricky to write, but we actually had a full band jam acoustically on the bus today. We put it up on Instagram earlier. We’ve kind of set up the van in a way where we have a lot more community space now. We took out a couple of bunks to put in a couch and things like that. We’re still not quite there yet but we do have enough space that once it’s time to get into that we can kind of get started just playing.
It’s probably a bit early at this point, but any big plans for the rest of the year?
Trenton: I think at this point it’s just you know, writing in those gaps between touring. It’s pretty much solid touring and chasing whatever opportunities we can. We’ve got a couple little projects and stuff we’re working on in the meantime just to see what comes together and what happens with it. We’re really excited about what’s going on and I think it’s just about being as present as possible in a music sense and getting out there and playing shows. We’re creating new content, creating new avenues to connect with people. It’s great.
Check out our gallery from the Unconditional Tour below!