Rise Records is known for signing metalcore bands that all sound the same, you can't avoid that fact. Rise has recognized this and has recently been signing bands over the past year that people wouldn't expect, such as Cheap Girls and Hot Water Music. A staple in most, if not all of Rise's metalcore bands is "screaming" -- Australia natives Hands Like Houses don't subscribe to that way of doing things, they'd rather break from the mold.
I talked with guitarist/vocalist Trenton Todd Woodley about their debut album, Ground Dweller, as well as topics such as future tour plans in the United States.
First off, where'd the name Hands Like Houses come from? Was there any significant meaning behind it?
Initially it came from a reference to a movie The Science Of Sleep by Michael Gondry. Great film, highly recommend it. The protagonist in the movie had a dream about having giant hands, and discusses it with his mother - 'as big as towers', 'not towers, houses'.
I guess as far as meaning goes, it's grown along with us over the last couple of years, it's taken on somewhat of a 'safe hands' idea for me, keeping hold of the people/things you care most about. It's not meant to be any big statement or idea, just something that we felt gelled with the direction we were trying to take.
You're signed to Rise Records, which has been well known for it's albums sounding similar to each other, with a few exceptions. How does Hands Like Houses separate themselves from bands like Woe, Is Me and Memphis May Fire?
We get this a lot, and it's been said in a few reviews and I feel it's the best way to wrap it up; we're not trying to reinvent the wheel. While we're definitely trying to do something different, our music is just a product of the music we listen to, some of which comes from the Rise world, which is a large part of which comes from a much broader musical background... whether it be it indie, folk or rock. Recording at Chango is probably part of why people often see it as 'the same old' because Cameron definitely has a signature sound. But that's why we approached him in the first place.
Obviously the decision not to scream is something that does separate us, but it's made a bigger deal of than it needs to be. At the end of the day it's the subtleties that make something unique, and we're incredibly proud of Ground Dweller exactly as it is and we're looking forward to seeing where to take things from here.
Following up with a similar question; you're from Australia, which a lot of people associate with heavier bands like Parkway Drive, Confession, I Killed The Prom Queen, and Deez Nuts. Have people outside of Australia automatically assumed that you're a lot like these bands just because of your geographical location? Have these bands had any influence on your band? If so, why?
I don't think so; I think Australia has an incredible pool of talent and it's awesome that people are starting to notice that. Because it's a geographically large and spread out country, touring is quite expensive and difficult and we have a sometimes fickle music scene so it breeds toughness into Aussie music, and so the bands that make it are usually quite talented. There are always exceptions, of course, but definitely proud of where we've come from. We've grown up seeing a lot of those heavier bands like Parkway Drive go from playing 100 cap rooms to selling out arenas, and it's definitely inspiring in that sense, if not so much musically.
Your debut full length album "Ground Dweller" was released a few weeks ago in the United States -- First off, were the first week sales what you hoped they would be? I know you guys posted about that a few times online and how important it was.
Yeah, definitely! We had exceptional pre-order numbers, close to 800, so we were really unsure of what to expect from first week. Given our drawn out process in recording, shopping and releasing the album and our insanely dedicated fans, it meant that usual 'rules of thumb' about preorder to first week ratios were impossible to predict. But yeah, we are totally stoked on how it's been received, and it helped close the deal with Dave Shapiro and Gabe Apodaca at the Agency Group for bookings...so we couldn't be happier. Already got big things lining up, and it still hasn't sunk in yet!
Lyrically, what's the general idea behind the album?
We didn't really write the album with a core concept, as some of the songs are 3 years old, whereas the newest we finished early last year. From a lyrical perspective, I generally just try to write very visually. I believe imagery can be more powerful than literal stories or dialogue and it allows the meanings to grow or become completely different depending on the listener.
Alright, then let's talk about the backgrounds behind two of the songs I liked most from the album -- "A Clown and His Pipe", and "The Sower". Can you please detail those songs lyrically for everyone?
"A Clown and His Pipe" is about expressing yourself under pressure, be that creatively or personally. You just want to say the right thing but sometimes finding the right words is difficult, and the pressure gets to you. In some ways this song was just venting frustration toward other songs on the album i was struggling to finish satisfactorily in time for recording, haha. But there's definitely a personal element there.
"The Sower" is probably one of the more lyrically poignant songs on the album, at least for me personally. It's about the role you play in someone else's life when you're close to them. You can't go through life without leaving a trace, you have to take responsibility for the person you are and the people you love and the part you play in their lives, not just your own. For me, it's a promise to stay the same person and a promise to come home.
...so we can sortof deduct that Ground Dweller as a whole aims to bring some sort encouragement and hope to listeners, correct?
I hope that it does, I want people to take the world a little more seriously and appreciate it more. I'm so sick of petty and empty lyrics that are selfish, abusive and immature. I wouldn't say it's our aim - we're not a political band, we just want to give ourselves and anyone who listens the chance and encouragement to enjoy the good things. Don't waste yourself.
Jonny Craig, Tyler Carter and Matty Mullins all are guest vocalists on this album; how has their involvement helped the album? has it hindered it in any way, such as people being quick to judge it without actually listening to it?
I think it's helped legitimize us in the eyes of a lot of people, they're all incredible vocalists and I think that it's helped reach a lot of people that we may not have otherwise. It's definitely possible that people will write us off because they just assume that we're clones of their other bands but I think the positives outweigh the negatives. Tyler and Matty were really great about everything, they're good dudes and definitely glad they were a part of it. Jonny has his struggles but we're still just as grateful to him for being involved as well. I hope I I've been able to hold my own so that those tracks don't just become the "one with tyler in it" etc.
That being said, it's probably worth noting that these guys were involved because they wanted to be, we didn't buy our way into anything, short of getting ourselves to the U.S. to record - we were lucky enough to be at the right place at the right time to ask them.
You're pretty involved with interacting with fans through social media. As your band gets bigger, will your commitment level remain the same as far as connecting with them goes?
We'll definitely try - the new facebook timeline has made it substantially more inclined towards 'prescence' rather than 'interaction' so we've gotten hopelessly far behind on there. that said we still read everything on twitter and tumblr and reply where we can. we're still unsure of how time and accessibility will effect it once we're on the road full time but it's definitely something we want to stay involved with.
What's your current touring plans for this year? I know you guys have a U.S. Tour confirmed...
We'll be in the US in a month through the Fall, with some awesome possibilities in the works; but still early days on those. We land in just over 3 weeks, and are shooting a music video and playing a small handful of shows on our way to New York to kick off the Rise Records tour with The Air I Breathe, My Ticket Home and Palisades. Can't wait, going to be our longest tour to date but definitely the most exciting to look forward to.
As a band that hasn't hit the United States yet, what are your expectations for the crowds over here?
Hard to say! I think we're looking forward to seeing consistently decent crowds as the US is much more densely populated than Australia, where it can be a little hit or miss sometimes. But we're not expecting big things just yet because like you said, we haven't hit the US yet. We're just hoping that everyone who is into our music and can make it to a show - does!
What is one book and one band for anyone that listens to your band and why?
I think as far as a book, I'd say House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski - it's an awesome book, heavy read but definitely worthwhile. Very unusually creepy.
As for a band, I think Blocks would be a great suggestion - "Hourglass" is the first song on our tour playlist. It makes us happy and has lots of good tour memories. It's Daniel Nigro's (of As Tall As Lions) new project, awesome stuff.
Wrapping up, is there anything you'd like to say?
Just want to encourage everyone to get out to a show, we can't wait to get out there! Oh and I will guest list anyone who can get me a packet of Skittles mints - they were discontinued a few years back but I'm convinced in my heart that they are still around somewhere!
I'm pretty sure Trenton only sings for the band. I know he plays guitar (he may have played some of the parts on the album) but I don't think you'll ever catch him with a guitar on stage. Might be wrong though.
Quality interview. Saw them at a small show a while back. They'd just come from doing a show beforehand at a venue across town and we're absolutely fucked, but still killed it. If I were in the US, I'd definitely be seeing them soon.