Interview: Hands Like Houses on UK tours, their favourite acts right now and writing latest album An
Alt-rockers Hands Like Houses released their fourth studio album, Anon. on 12th October. It was warmly received by fans and critics alike. We sat down with Alex (guitar) and Trenton (vocals) before their show in Bristol to discuss touring the UK, the shaping of their new album, and some of their favourite bands of the moment!
How are you guys feeling about the show tonight?
Trenton: Yeah, I’m feeling good! It’s been a while since we played Bristol actually. It was… When was it? Alex: I’m never exactly sure, last time I remember being in this venue specifically was a very long time ago. About five years ago?
Trenton: It was with Pierce the Veil!
Ooh, that was a long time ago! When was the last time you guys were in the UK?
Alex: It was about 18 months ago, with Lower Than Atlantis. It was their album release tour.
Ah right okay! So how does it feel to be back here headlining and doing your own thing?
Alex: It’s nice! I think that the whole getting over here, and the jetlag thing... We had to drive to London then drive from London all the way up to Glasgow. So, the first show was definitely one where we were like “where the fuck are we?!” But after that, we kind of settled in.
How are the shows going?
Trenton: They’ve been really, really good!
Yeah? What’s the reception of the new album been like, has it felt quite cool?
Trenton: Surprisingly cool considering it’s only been out for a week! We’ve been playing loads of songs that we’d not played before the album came out. We weren’t expecting no response, but it’s been more than we thought.
Alex: We’ve had a long time off. Now we’re coming back straight into headlining and we’re not playing the whole of the new album front to back, there’s a lot of older stuff as well to refamiliarize with.
Sweet! What was it like recording Anon, were there any pivotal moments that shaped the album or…?
Trenton: Yep! So, there is one song on the record called ‘Sick’ that we wrote in my back yard. We had a tent set up where these guys were jamming away while I was working on some other songs in my studio that I have at my house. We had our producer Colin there, he flew out from the US. The guys were jamming away, and we decided to do something with it. It came from nothing and in like a day and a half it just connected, and we decided “this is what the album should be”.
We had a few things going in different directions at that point, and it just felt like this was it. That was definitely a cool point, and overall, we just tried to relax. The last couple of albums we’ve done amongst heavy touring schedules which put a lot of pressure on the immediacy of it all, but this time we had twelve months from deciding to do a record to actually finishing the recording. It just meant we had time to figure out what kind of album we wanted to make.
One of the songs that we picked up on from the album was ‘Monster’. The themes there are quite interesting. Can you expand a bit more on them?
Trenton: To be honest, that one was a bit of fun! It was nice to just relax with writing that song and not try too hard to make it this big self-serious, introspective thing. Musically, it’s a lot of fun - upbeat, boisterous and a bit rough around the edges.
We wanted to make lyrics that fit with that. I like to try and include a darker side and include the idea that something you’ve created is getting out of control and getting beyond your reach, and that it’s a part of you. I kind of like embracing it as well as running away from it. It’s just something that felt right for the energy and the tone of the song.
Alex: ‘Sick’ is a cornerstone of the album, and when we were recording ‘Monster’, we had the guitar riffs and the whole song musically written, we were thinking “I hope the vocals work out!”. When we started recording it, the tone which the verse has, was a different way in which we explored Trenton’s voice. That then brought confidence to other songs as well.
Sweet! Did you try any different writing techniques or anything new for this record?
Trenton: I wouldn’t say different writing techniques, we’re kind of always stuck in our ways! For us it’s just looking in and each of us doing our own thing to get an idea to a point where it feels like it’s ready to take forward. Al does a large chunk of that. And likewise, I do this with some vocal ideas, but other times it’s taking an idea and developing it until it’s like “okay, cool. I’ve got a structure of a song here, let’s flesh out everything else”.
Alex: I think it was bizarre that for an album that is based around being less pressured or less serious, there was definitely a lot of pressure with the writing aspect of it.
Interesting! How do you guys feel that you are progressing in terms of both your music and your live shows?
Trenton: For us, we’re just focusing on enjoying things ourselves! We’ve been a band for ten years and we’ve put a lot of energy into trying to create a brand and experience that is connected with our fanbase. I think we’ve reached a point where for us to have longevity in this band and still be passionate about something we’ve been doing for so long, we just need to enjoy the process. If we’re not enjoying what we’re doing, and we’re not as excited to put music out as people are to hear it, then there’s not really much point in doing it.
Alex: This sounds like the biggest band cliché, but you do fall into the trap of chasing a carrot that’s not necessarily exactly what you may want. I feel like now we’ve refocused, and this is definitely where we see ourselves being as a band. It’s nice to be able to then play live and see people enjoying it and it feels like everyone’s on the same page!
Talking of live shows, what are your favourite songs to play at the moment?
Trenton: I’m really enjoying ‘Sick’, and ‘Bad Dream’ is a lot of fun because it’s a filthy bar fight of a song!
Alex: Yeah, I’d probably say ‘Bad Dream’.
Trenton: We still love playing old favourites like ‘Colourblind’ and ‘Drift’. Those are ones that will be part of the setlist for a long time.
Alex: ‘Drift’ is one we haven’t really played much over here as well, potentially if at all. I’m just realising this is the first time we’re playing it in the UK!
Oh, that’s cool! So, what’s really been inspiring you guys lately?
Trenton: For us, it’s always just listening to good music. We try to write that way. There’s a bunch of cool music out recently, like Thrice and Beartooth’s albums have been great, the new Bring Me the Horizon tracks are very cool.
Alex: Yeah, that last one was interesting!
Trenton: A band called Hellions from home, their record has just come out and it’s really interesting, a really cool record. Yeah, for us it’s just listening to what’s coming out and paying attention to why it’s seems to work, what parts people are connecting to, and what we enjoy as listeners as much as anything else. That always becomes part of our collective “inspiration”.
What about the bands you share stages with? Did you choose the bands for this tour?
Trenton: We’ve got Jule Vera from Alabama, they’re rad. We got to play a bunch of shows on Warped Tour with them a few years back. Then there’s Normandie, they’re a fairly new-ish band out of Sweden. Jule Vera were already joining us on tour with Our Last Night in Europe, and since we’re already friends we wanted them on the UK tour. Normandie were part of a shortlist we were given a few months back. We thought the tracks were fantastic and the band seemed really cool.
Alex: They’ve got a new album out too, so everything just fell into place.
Awesome, well that’s all we’ve got, thank you so much for taking the time to chat to us!