Over the past two months, Hands Like Houses have been in Florida recording their highly anticipated third album with James Paul Wisner, who also handled production on 2013’s sophomore effort Unimagine. The day before the band’s scheduled flight home to Canberra in Australia, Guitarist Alex Pearson spoke to FDRMX about the recording process and what we can expect from album number three. “We’ve got the bulk of it done, we’re just going to be doing a few touch ups here and there to make sure it’s really how we want it. We don’t want rush anything out too quickly. We’re listening to what have and making sure it’s the best it can be.”
Debut album Ground Dweller was well received by post-hardcore fans and its successor Unimagine was even more triumphant. While previous success can be a wonderful thing, it brings additional pressure to continue delivering against a strong trajectory. “The first album, no one really knows who you are or what they’re expecting to hear. The second album is definitely a challenge but Unimagine was received very well so we’ve made it even harder for ourselves. The third album is quite a challenge.” Ground Dweller introduced the band’s sound as post-hardcore wrapped inside a blanket of electronics and programming, an effect that added a unique quality to the music, but sometimes felt overwhelming and cluttered. Unimagine maintained the overall sound but added clarity, dampening some of the heaviness and electronics that clouded the music. The third album is likely to sit somewhere in between: “It’s almost a combination of the two records. Unimagine was a lot cleaner, crisp and refined, whereas I think we’re heading for a bit of a darker side to the next album, with a little more aggression.”
In March the band released a video for new song “I Am”, to a surprised fan-base that wasn’t expecting new music so suddenly. “I was really nervous about it to be honest. It was such a quick turnaround between writing, recording and releasing the song. We didn’t have time to think about it or second guess it.” The song continues the clean, uncluttered production style from Unimagine, but with heavier guitar riffs and a controversial vocal moment. In the bridge, vocalist Trenton Woodley screams the track’s focal words “I am dissonance”, which caused debate among fans as it marked Woodley’s first use of aggressive vocals in a Hands Like Houses song. “We’re never going to be a screaming band but if a part calls for more aggression then we’re not going to shy away from that. We’re not going to become some clone of another band, we’ll do it our way.”
Releasing “I Am” provides insight into the fans’ reaction to changes in material, a valuable barometer while the band finish writing the new album: “You’d be stupid not to pay attention to what fans respond to, but it doesn’t solely dictate what we do. We want to make music that we want to make and hopefully people will enjoy, but if people aren’t responding to certain elements of it then that definitely influences some of the stuff we write.” While “I Am” is indicative of the new album’s general direction, listeners should expect variation on the album as well. “[I Am] is at the heavy end of the spectrum, but that kind of vibe is definitely carried through to other songs. We’re not going to release something that makes people think ‘holy shit this album is totally different to what they have been in the past’; it’s still going to be us, but I’d say that’s a pretty good gauge of some of the stuff that can be expected on the record.”
As of yet, no release date has been set for the new album, something that the band has deliberately steered away from: “That’s one thing we’re trying not to put pressure ourselves with. It will be some time this year but we’re not trying to get too ahead of ourselves just yet. We want to have it locked in before we start thinking about that, but probably around October I’d say.” It will be the band’s first release as a five-piece following the departure of keyboard player Jamal Sabet, who left to pursue a career away from the music business. While Sabet has not been replaced, the band’s sound will not be affected by his departure: “We still have all the elements that we had before; the keyboard, the programming, we don’t shy away from that, it’s part of our sound. We’ll continue as a five piece and just share that part around. It’s always a shame to have one of your friends leave the band, but it was on good terms.”
As a break from the toil of creating a new album, the band has booked a string of tour dates through June and July, with the vast majority of shows in the US. Before they head stateside though, there’s the small matter of a performance at the Download festival in the UK, the country’s biggest festival for alternative music. “I’m super excited about it it’s probably one of the biggest shows we’ve played to date. We’re trying to expand as much as possible in the UK because it’s got a really good scene for rock music in general, so this is a good way to start on that.” This will be Hands Like Houses’ debut at Download and with crowds of seventy thousand last year, it’s a big opportunity to win new fans. “A festival is exciting because there’s way more people who haven’t heard of your band so you want to showcase as much of the band as possible. It’s been a while since we’ve done one so I’m excited to get back out on a bigger stage and have the atmosphere of all the other bands around us. I think it’s going to be a great day.”
FDRMX will be reporting from the Download festival from June 12th to 14th and will bring you reviews and interviews from the event. It remains to be seen whether Hands Like Houses will showcase any brand new material at the event, but when the time comes to hear more from the band’s latest endeavours, it promises to be an exciting moment.
FDRMX Eyes: Hailing from Austin, Texas, Black Books made their music video for “Favorite Place” with stop-motion, featuring a rainbow collection of colored thread. The vibrant spools of thread flash before the camera. Check it out here: