Australian rockers Hands Like Houses have been touring the globe and hitting new heights since the release of their third album Dissonants earlier in the year, so we caught up with Trenton Woodley (vocals) and Alex Pearson (guitar) before their Cold World set in London last night.
What’s the band philosophy about mixing genres? You guys seem to do it effortlessly.
Trenton: I think it’s case by case, honestly. We’ve all got different tastes and different influences. I’ll listen to a lot more heavy stuff whereas Al is probably in between, Coops [lead guitar] listens to a lot more folk and indie stuff, Matty P [drums] listens to anything from pop punk through to Adele and pop. It either works or it doesn’t really, when we write there could be the start of a melody that references one thing so we bring in that vibe but then we cross it. It just is down to seeing what works.
Would you say your influences are very varied then?
Trenton: Well, yes. Like I said, we all have very different tastes individually and I think by us just writing music together we make it different. Even if we’re all trying to write the same type of thing, just coming at it from various directions means it sounds like a collaboration of various influences. That’s what creates our overall vibe.
What’s the reaction to your music been like here as opposed to at home?
Alex: Australia’s really picked up this album cycle and it’s becoming one of our strongest markets. Fortunately we’ve been able to come back twice [to the UK], we did a headliner not that long ago and now we’re back again. It’s nice to play to a totally different crowd on this tour so I think once we come back again then we’ll really start seeing a jump from where we’ve been on our own headliner to growing with Of Mice & Men‘s fans too.
Trenton: I think it’s always a balance between support and headliners. Supports are how you win new fans on the road but a headline tour is financially the better option. Headline sets you get to play more songs, old favourites, some of the more obscure tracks off the new album that aren’t necessarily going to grab new fans straight away. We’ll probably do a couple of supports then a headline and repeat.
Did you have any specific goals in recording Dissonants?
Trenton: Just finish the album [laughs].
Alex: Yeah, there were a few hurdles. I think obviously we just wanted to have a sick album, but a lot of the frustrations shone through.
Trenton: From the outset, we aimed for a more heavy, aggressive-sounding album to play live. Some of the frustrations from the process influenced it. It was an incredible amount of pressure both self-imposed and external with a time pressure that really forced us into the situation of making the best of it. It’s not that we weren’t prepared at all, we had just prepared for something other than what it was becoming. The aggression kind of came out of that, with ourselves and the situation, and that projected itself into what it became. In terms of a goal then, it was just to get a great live album that was aggressive yet had the emotional depth with it.
Were there any songs before you started recording you knew were particularly special?
Alex: We had the break in the middle of recording for Warped and we had recorded about half the album either side of it. We took one of the songs, New Romantics, that we hadn’t released yet and played it on Warped and I think that was a sort of guide for us to see directionally how people would be reacting to the material. It just created a really good vibe and the crowd seemed to dig it so I think that encouraged us a bit throughout.
How important is the Hands Like Houses sound to the writing process nowadays?
Trenton: I think we know it’s going to sound like us no matter what we do so it’s just a case of writing something and if it is sounding a little bit too outlandish it’s like ‘well how do we bring this in line with what we do?’ It’s usually more of a comparison than a direction. Our common instruments, our common styles – whether that’s Matty’s style of drumming, how Al writes riffs, the lyrical and melody ideas I have, Joel’s bass licks and Coops’ leads – makes us sound like us. Everyone has their own sound and own style so at least to us those subtleties mean that no matter what we play it sounds like us. However we write, whether it be upbeat, downbeat, slow or fast it will sound like us.
How have Rise Records been through the years and have you adapted your dynamic to fit with them?
Alex: They don’t really have a lot of input to us creatively at all, not that that’s necessarily a good or bad thing, it’s just how they were. That was fine for us because we weren’t really trying to take on board a load of advice and ‘you should write this’. We just kind of wanted to do what we liked. In that sense, it was nice nobody was pressuring us like that. To be honest though, labels are just like a bank: they give you money to help you out and you invest that in growth.
Trenton: Yeah, a label is always an important part of the team, especially as you’re starting out. The industry is always changing so the role of the label kind of changes with it. For us, Dissonants was our third album on Rise, and there are some really great people there. We’re just figuring out where to go in terms of this now, a lot of discussions to be had within the band and it’s pretty exciting to have so much in front of us.
Have you got any idea which direction you’ll be heading in for the next writing sessions?
Trenton: We’ve got a few inklings but at the same time we need to look at Dissonants: we set out to do one thing and it kind of shifted the plan a little bit. I think the big challenge is that we could easily write another Dissonants record but I think that we want to challenge ourselves in progressing what we did on it. I think the next one will be a very live-sounding album, bouncy, aggressive and energetic. We’re still figuring out exactly what direction we’ll take that. We’re starting to put together a few little demos here and there, but we’re not in a rush.
Alex: We’re not trying to hurry anything, more consistently working on it all. We just want to be a little bit more prepared.
Trenton: We’ve finished the contract with Rise and we want to have some songs properly written before we have a chat to labels, whether that’s talking to Rise or other labels around the place. We’ve got a lot of decisions to make, a lot of conversations to have which is really exciting for us but at the same time a big step. There are just so many ways we can shape our career and our music from here and it’s all just about decisions now really.
Throwing it back in time a little way now, what’s the story behind the Punk Goes cover you did?
Trenton: We were offered a space on the Punk Goes 90s compilation so we thought ‘okay, 90s…’ and had a look at top 40 hits of the time, especially things we remembered. Our first choice was Say My Name by Destiny’s Child but I think that just missed out on 90s by a few weeks or something but also didn’t really fit with what the organisers wanted. They wanted more grunge rock sort of vibes.
Alex: There was a Seal song we were looking at but then Trent suggested the Natalie Imbruglia song, and we said ‘that song kicks arse so yeah, let’s do it’.
Trenton: It was already a great rock ballad and we just needed to play through it and put our own kind of spin on it all. It just came together really easily.
If you could tour with one or a group of artists from history or now, who would they be?
Trenton: Either Queen or Linkin Park for both of us I think.
Alex: I also really like The Police so it would be cool to tour with them.