INTERVIEW: Hands Like Houses

HLH_artwork_2Formed from the leftovers of two previous bands respectively, Hands Like Houses had  the fortunate experience of trying it before.

They took three years to cement themselves before they released any official material. In 2011, three years after their inception, the outfit released singles “This Ain’t No Place for Animals” and “Lion Skin” on iTunes which gathered pace and generated thousands of sales. Early 2012, Oregon-based Rise Records came calling and snapped the act up before releasing the album ‘Ground Dweller’ in March 2012.

Now 2014 and latest album ‘Unimagine’ hitting outlets in July 2013, Hands like Houses have announced a UK tour this April including stops in Ireland playing O2 Academy 2 in Dublin on May 2nd before heading north to Belfast’s Oh Yeah Music Centre on May 3rd. Mark Dean caught up with Matt ‘Coops’ Cooper of Hands Like Houses before their show for a little insight into the band.

Your music comes across as an eclectic mix of genres and musical styles but how would you describe it?

We normally find it easiest to describe ourselves as alternative rock.

Following on, are there any other musical genres that the band would not embrace – and if so, why not?

Hmm, I don’t think so. I can’t really think of anything that we would be completely and emphatically against. Though I know for sure there’s some genres we would suck at. We’d give anything a go; even if just for the challenge as musicians.

What has been the biggest personal challenge fo the band since it’s inception?

The most common personal challenge for anyone is time away from those they love; whether it be fiances, family, friends etc. Ultimately though, when asked these sorts of questions along the lines of ‘What’s the hardest thing about touring/being in a band etc’ always makes me a little uncomfortable. In terms of real world problems; having an understanding of whats going on in other parts of the world with inequality, corruption, poverty – our lives and personal challenges pale in significance. We are extremely, extremely, extremely fortunate to be able to do what we do.

If you could go back in time, what would Hands like Houses do differently?

Probably try and release both of our albums a lot earlier (assuming the time travel laws allow us to do that, for once we do it then we wont be needing to use the time machine in that time line; meaning we never do go back and do it, and the world will explode). Though ultimately I think the duration of our albums did really help in our development as musicians and people would’ve been nice to get started a little earlier when we were a bit younger, like 6 or 7 and be child prodigies.

What’s the side of you that is never revealed to the public?

Our lives outside of music aren’t really revealed to the public at all. We are six very ordinary dudes, we all work when we’re home, play sport etc, a couple of the guys are engaged, myself and a few of the other guys usually try to spend as much time possible backpacking and exploring other parts of the world when we’re in some downtime. Really, we’re 6 dudes in our 20’s that grew up playing music together. There’s no mysteries or anything of the sort.

When are you as artists completely satisifed with your work?

Super tough question. ‘Satisfaction’ isn’t really an emotion that writing music evokes for me. Everything we’ve ever released we can look back on and go ‘hmm, would have liked to do something else there, or maybe an alternate melody there etc’. Theres no such thing as a perfect song, especially when you work in a band and its a collaborative effort; its all subjective and there will always be parts that not everyone connects with.

However, I guess upon reflecting, once we had completed the last tracks on Unimagine; we turned out the lights and listened to the record start to finish with our producer and a visualiser. I’m not sure it was satisfaction, but it was an incredible feeling to be able to sit there and listen to everything we had worked so hard on; all connected, all intertwined on one album. wild.

What individually drives and motivates you – how hard do you push yourselves?

We’re a band that is driven and motivated by having realistic goals, I think we all have a pretty acute awareness of how much time we’ve devoted to this project, all the personal sacrifices that we’ve needed to make. Its almost at a point now where we need to justify all of that.
Since the start we’ve had goals; the first was to record our debut album; to get a physical representation of all our ideas. We did that, and then set a new goal to get signed and tour. We did that and then spent the vast majority of the following years in a van somewhere in the world sleeping on peoples floors, eating peanutbutter wraps and playing shows. so glorious. The next goal was to create another album that really pushed us as musicians and enabled us to utilise all that we’d learnt up to that point; that was Unimagine, and now we’re about 7 months post that release. Our new goal is to be able to headline tours in various international countries; we really want reach a point in our career where we have a lot more freedom to experiment with our performances and shows; until then we’re always restricted by playing supports slots. This is definitely something that is both driving and motivating us.

Why have you succeeded in a field were so many have failed?

We still very much struggle with the idea that we’ve succeeded in this field. It’s such an abstract concept. All we did was make music that we wanted to create, worked hard and saved up to put on CD and give it to people if they wanted it. If there is a band that is sincerely driving to do the same and to create a unique sound that feeds their musical souls then they will succeed too, even if its subjectively. “Real success” in this industry can not be measured by albums sold or money made (if making money even exists!), though the people (non artists) that drive the industry will disagree with that.

Art and music have an impact on both young and old. Everybody loves the cult of celebrity. What advice would you give the youth of today?

My advice to anyone would be to think abstractly and go against conventional paths. Learn an art, some form of expression that exposes your humanity, strive to do that and be happy.

Why should people attend your forthcoming shows across the UK?

Its our first time headlining over in the UK which means we have the opportunity to play a much longer and rounded set. We’re incredibly excited to have this opportunity.

Hands like Houses play the Oh Yeah Music Centre on May 3rd after playing O2 Academy 2 in Dublin on May 2nd.

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