Within the opening seconds of their new single Drift, a cyclonic assault of riffage and groove, it becomes clear that Hands Like Houses aren’t here to fuck spiders*. The song isn’t a step, nor a leap but an almighty lunge into a new era of the band, first heralded by moments on their last full-length album Dissonants. Focused, sustained and deliberate aggression seems to be the bands new forte, and goddamn does it sound good on them.
Forget genre, Drift is the sound of a band with their visors down, having read the room and deciding it no longer cares what the room thinks. A sound not unlike that of hard-earned, and reaffirmed confidence. And soon, we can surely expect a full-length album of such sounds.
Currently on the road as part of Warped Tour, and with an Australian tour in October selling out very quickly, we spoke with the bands guitarist Alex Pearson about all these happenings, and how the Canberra outfit got to this point.
The Neversphere: I want to start by digging up the past a bit. I realised that we’re coming up to 10-year anniversary of Bear In Mind I’m A Lion, an EP you guys dropped as So Long Safety, pre-Hands Like Houses…
Alex: [Laughs] Oh man, you really did do your research…skeletons in our closet…
The Neversphere: 10 years is long time to do something. What’s it like to look back on that release, especially now after the release of Drift, and on the precipice of more new material, is it a bit of a head trip?
Alex: Yeah…It definitely is. In some respects, we’re the same people. It doesn’t feel like a whole lot has changed, but the more I think about it, we’re worlds apart from where we were musically, creatively as a band and personally. I feel really proud of how far we’ve come in that time. I mean, I wish we could have done somethings a bit faster, but I think it’s given us a well-educated learning curve on the music industry, and just general artistic creation.
The Neversphere: It seems like after 10 years in a band, everything that can happen would have happened, so you would be prepared for anything that gets thrown at you now, surely?
Alex: I’d like to think so. At the moment I’m sitting outside, we’ve got a bus for Warped tour, and it’s the first time we’ve done anything like that. I think back to some of our earlier American tours, we were sleeping on benches, floors, crashing at people’s houses…We’ve come such a far way and had so many trails throughout the whole thing, it hasn’t been easy, and it has required us to really stay focused for 10 years. I’d like to think anything that gets thrown at us now, we’d be pretty well prepared to take it on and make the most of us.
The Neversphere: When you think back to the EP, and to now, what’s the biggest difference in the lives of Hands Like Houses?
Alex: In general we’ve each grown as songwriters, and a song writing team. We’ve figured out what really works, in terms of our creative process…Being able to focusing in on what Trenton [Woodley, vocals] might want to say with his lyrics, or how we want to create character within a song from certain guitar chords or efforts, or rhythm and groove from the drums and bass.
The Neversphere: I imagine touring North American when you first started was a lot more work and a lot less comfort. Is it fun to look back on those days? Or are you quite happy leaving them in the past?
Alex: Oh, man, so much fun. It’s a very nostalgic kind of fun. Like when you listen to that first CD you ever bought; It gives you that nostalgic feeling. We’ve had a lot of achievements over the years, some of them have been really hard to come by. That first tour in America, I remember us getting over here…Man, we were just this little Canberra band, we didn’t know what we were going to do, all of a sudden, we were signed to an American label, now we’re spending four months touring North America. It was such a surreal feeling. There were some serious wake up calls after that but it’s a fun time to look back on for sure.
The Neversphere: From an outside perspective, it looked as though North America embraced you straight out of the gates. The States is a Mecca for Australian musicians, what was it like to achieve that success so early on?
Alex: It’s funny. For a while there before our first album, most of Australia thought we were an American band. We’d barely done any touring in Australia, and we spent 8 months of that first year overseas. We also had help from Rise Records, which was such a big label in America at that time. When we signed, whatever band Rise just signed automatically gained this great fan base in America. That obviously helped us out. It’s nice now that we’ve grown from that, and developed our own fan base in the US and in Australia as well. Before we could say we’re an Australian band, but it’s a lot more obvious now.
The Neversphere: What would you say to the Alex of 10 years ago, he’s about to bunker down with his mates to make the EP in Canberra, what advice would you have for him?
Alex: The biggest thing that we’ve learnt is to have more confidence in ourselves, and not necessarily just agree with what the industry standard is, or even other bands standards. Whatever it is, you have to pave your own path, and also back yourself; have a backbone on things. Obviously, people will disagree with you but that’s just part of it. I think the biggest thing I’d tell myself is have self-confidence. I think for a while there we were a little bit shaky on where we were headed and what was going to happen.
The Neversphere: It’s clear you’re being so thoughtful with your creative output, can we read that as a result of Hands Like Houses getting a new grip on where you were headed and what was going to happen?
Alex: [Laughs] I think we just have a new ‘Fuck you’ attitude. After Unimagine, and making Dissonants, there was so much internal frustration. That was when we started writing a lot more aggressive music. I think from that, we’ve taken that aggression, moulded it and focused it. We’re going to try and extend and expand on what we did with Dissonants. Dissonants is my favourite album we’ve done, I’m so proud of every song that’s on there and what it’s helped us achieve.
The Neversphere: How well does Dissonants set us up for the next body of work?
Alex: There’s obviously things that worked really well with Dissonants; the main one being us thinking about how the songs will translate live and getting the crowd involved. I think it will bleed into the new album, but we want each album to have its own personality. It will sound like us…
…It will be different without being unrecognisable
Hands Like Houses ‘The Drift’ Australian Tour Dates
Tickets available now
Friday, October 6
170 Russell, Melbourne
Saturday, October 7
UC Refectory, Canberra
Friday, October 13
Metro Theatre, Sydney
Saturday, October 14
The Triffid, Brisbane