This interview previously aired on idobi Radio and is for everyone who was too lazy to tune in. Enjoy!
Hands Like Houses are gearing up to release their Hopeless Records debut -Anon this Friday. Now before you think there isn’t much more to that statement than just the facts, really look at it for a second.
This Friday, Hands Like Houses will be starting a new chapter of their career with a brand new label and a record that some fans might not have seen coming.
Stepping away from the constraints of the “post-hardcore” genre, the Australian act has really taken a leap of faith with their new release in hopes of shedding any previous notions about the band.
“The big thing about the record was kind of that idea of Anon [which] came from the idea of us kind of wanting to sperate expectations of what we are, where we come from and what defines who we are,” explains the band’s soft-spoken frontman Trenton Woodley. “It was a big part of our process, just like separating from our own intentions and expectations of others and we very intentionally let go of what we thought we were and what everyone thought we were so that everyone would approach this with an open mind.”
With one of their biggest singles to date, the rock-driven thumper “Monster,” blowing up on active rock radio (specifically Sirius XM’s Octane), longtime HLH fans have certainly had to make an adjustment as to who the “new” Hands Like Houses are. However, does that mean the band who wrote Rise Records staples such as 2012′s Ground Dweller and 2013′s Unimagine are gone?
Absolutely not – at least, according to Woodley they’re not.
“I think more people, as they spend time with [”Monster”], are actually kind of hearing that the lyrics are certainly Hands Like Houses and very much us. I guess surface-level, it’s quite different and that’s kind of where if you listen to it a few more times you think to yourself, “Okay, this actually is the real band I’ve spent the last three, five, ten years listening to.”
Now before you make any judgments or preconceived ideas of what -Anon is all about, we highly suggest letting Woodley explain it for himself. To do so, make sure to check out our in-depth interview with the multi-talented vocalist below. Afterward, be sure to pre-order -Anon and grab tickets to see Hands Like Houses tour the US with Emarosa, Devour The Day and Arlington here.
So we’re getting closer to release day. What are you like leading up to the release of an album?
To be honest, it kind of snuck up on me but I think I’m ready. We recorded the album back in April – I’m sorry, back in May I should say – and in the meantime, obviously, it’s just been about getting the marketing, and the videos and the strategy and all those pieces lined up to make it happen. So we kind of got to that point where it’s not up to us and we’re just ready for it to come out. I’m very excited which is probably pretty predictable. The initial excitement of having it done has kind of worn off and now it’s like that anticipation of like, “Alright, let’s do it!”
Do you find yourself searching the internet reading comments before an album is released?
Certainly, yes. I usually find the first 24 hours of putting something out is the best time to do that. After that, that’s just when the idiots come out. I feel like trolls generally have about, more or less… just give it 24 hours cause that’s when the trolls and the facepalm comments [are posted]. So the first 24 hours or so is usually the best time to get in and see what people are actually responding to because the first 24 hours are usually the core fans that enable you to be in a band and make a job out of it. Those are the people to first latch on to it and the first to give you honest feedback.
Well it must feel good to know “Monster,” one of your more unique singles, is doing so well despite what some of the comments might say.
Definitely. Certainly. We released “Overthinking” and “Monster” for different reasons. They’re both at opposite ends of the spectrum that is the album as a whole so it was probably a bit of a jarring jump for some people to go from “Overthinking” to “Monster” and fans seem to have one clear favorite over the other depending on which stage of the journey they jumped on the wagon. So yeah, we’re stoked that both have done such good things. It’s almost kind of jilted our release plans a little. We were actually planning to release our third single [earlier] but they’re both doing so well that we can kind of – the third single is the one we’re most excited for; it’s my favorite song on the record [and] we think it’s got the highest ceiling of where it can go. But having to almost sit on that [song] an extra bit longer has been a bit of an exercise in patience and playing the game carefully because we’re so stoked how well the other songs are doing. It’s made us kind of rehash our release plans just ever so slightly to give it the best opportunity and give these songs time to play out. Especially now that “Monster” has landed the license and syncs for the WWE Show-Down that’s in Melbourne. It’s been blasting all over the WWE on TV. Yeah, it’s pretty exciting to be a part of that. Whether it’s through [Sirius] Octane or Hopeless or a bit of both, it’s pretty exciting to see where that takes us.
It must be bittersweet to want to drop a single but have to wait because the other single is doing so well. It must be even more rewarding considering “Monster” was a bit experimental for you guys.
Yeah, and each song is kind of blowing up for its own reasons. I guess we were anticipating “Monster” kind of doing the most and having the most reach but it’s been 50/50 [between “Monster” and “Overthinking”]. So yeah, it’s developing for the right reasons. And there’s some of that initial reaction and I always expected that from “Monster.” I know that we kind of took risks with it and there was very much a reason. It’s a very intentional song in terms of what we made it to do. We wrote it for reasons to be a fun rock and roll song that didn’t take itself so seriously and I think that’s where people, you know, a tiny subset of our fans, have kind of latched on to the seriousness of everything or just the fact that we’re having fun with what we’re doing. It kind of created a little bit of that, I don’t know, not a disconnect but I think it’s just kind of people’s interpretation. Like, you know, if you’re about to bite into a chocolate and it tastes like bacon, it’s not that either are a bad thing, it’s just when you’re ready for one thing and you get the other, I think that creates a little bit of a “hang on” moment. I think more people, as they spend time with this song, are actually kind of hearing that the lyrics are certainly Hands Like Houses and very much us. I guess surface-level, it’s quite different and that’s kind of where if you listen to it a few times you think to yourself “Okay, this actually is the real band I’ve spent the last three, five, ten years listening to.”
Yeah, that’s an interesting way to look at it. Maybe fans are just on their toes a little after you guys released a heavier song in “Drift” in 2017, a softer song in “Overthinking,” then the radio-ready track “Monster.” Do you like kind of keeping fans on edge as to what you’ll release next?
Certainly. The big thing about the record was kind of that idea of Anon [which] came from the idea of us kind of wanting to sperate expectations of what we are, where we come from and what defines who we are. It was a big part of our process, just like separating from our own intentions and expectations of others and we very intentionally let go of what we thought we were and what everyone thought we were so that everyone would approach this with an open mind. And I think kind of putting people on their toes and kind of knocking them off balance with the songs we put out was very intentional so that the record would have the most opportunity to be interpreted as its own thing, its own animal. It’s just like, at first listen, it doesn’t matter if you’ve heard of Hands Like Houses before or you haven’t. You still get that same feeling of “What is this?” That feeling of originality, it’s like that idea of falling in love with someone for the first time. It’s not something you can recreate. It’s kind of like having that fresh opportunity and that excitement and that fear and anticipation [which] makes it worthwhile when it does become a part of you. And that’s kind of the hope with how we set up the record and how fans take it.
So talking about the musical style of “Overthinking” vs “Monster,” do you notice as much of a disconnect between the “active rock” and “Warped Tour” worlds in Australia like there is here in the US?
I wouldn’t say there’s a disconnect here. Certainly, there’s always going to be different things and different demographics and different sort of stuff but in Australia we have this unifying thing in Triple J radio – that is like our government funded station that plays Australian music; it’s like a big single radio station that plays alternative music in Australia and it’s created this kind of interesting demographic where there are people who will listen to band’s like Tash Sultana and then listen to Drake and Kendrick Lamar and then Hands Like Houses and The Amity Affliction within an hour of each other. And all that gets played on the same station and you’d be surprised how many crossovers there are between those different [audiences] and I think we have, as a country, a bit of appreciation where a good song is a good song regardless of what style it is. Sure, we all have our tastes and we all have our things but in America, everything seems so divided. Like, your entire culture is built around dividing people along the demographic line where if you dress like that, then you listen to this and you hang out in these places. And if you eat here, then you do this and watch that. It’s so broken up and now that the Warped Tour has kind of I guess, let’s say ended – I think there’s obviously going to be a continuation in terms of a few select dates or something. But I feel like with Warped Tour going away as a national tour, I think it will kind of be a bit of a settling period where people kind of drift back and forth between other demographics and sort of sounds and there’s been an intentional effort to bridge that active rock and Warped Tour world over the last few years. You are seeing bands like us, bands like Sylar and Palisades, crossing over into that world of the active rock and the radio rock and doing quite well in that regards on the stations like Octane. I don’t know, I think the bridges were being built before Warped Tour ended so I think that there will certainly be a change in the way people address it but I’m kind of curious to see how it plays out.
It’s kinda sad to hear you say America is built around dividing people, especially considering who our president is. But talking about active rock vs Warped Tour, you’re going to be going out on tour with Devour The Day (primarily an active rock band) and Emarosa (primarily a Warped band). Was that intentional to kind of help bridge the gap?
Yeah totally. And having Arlington along as well is pretty exciting. Their a unique, young band who just signed to Rise and put their first single out. They’re bringing kind of a cool crossover into the indie rock, West Coast kinda world who kinda dip their toes in the world in Coachella more than say Rock On The Range. We wanted to make a bill that made sense and not so much, “Oh this band only gets to play with this band because they sound like that band.” That was something we certainly wanted to break away from in that sense of genre divides along the demographics. Let’s just put together a bunch of great bands that write great songs in their individual genres and I think that will make more sense than having a bunch of bands that sound like us but not sound like us. So yeah, it made a lot of sense for us and I’m pretty excited to see how it goes down because I think no matter which band you go for, you’re going to at least enjoy one or two of the others.
It’s awesome you guys are taking out Emarosa considering they’re on a similar trajectory as you guys sort of branching away from the sound people heard when they were on Rise Records…
Just wait until you hear the new stuff!
I’ve only heard a couple snippets when Bradley was recording down the road from us. Yeah, it’s very different but it’s pretty exciting. I think they’re feeling [good] with what they’re doing and I feel like this was the perfect opportunity for us to tour with them together on the back of what we’ve done before but with putting our best foot forward into where we’re headed. It’s pretty exciting to kind of put that all in one room… or many rooms considering how many shows we’re doing [laughs].
So going back to the album, can you touch on the title a little more? Where did -Anon come from?
Yeah, totally. For me, I think the idea of -Anon came as I was flying to meet the guys in the studio. And I was kinda going through the whole [writing and recording] process, and I was feeling stress and pressure on me because I was basically coming in with two weeks to write 2/3rds of an album because a lot of the songs that were already written had been kinda dropped along the way and I was kind of freaking out. And I’m like, “Well look, I’m always struggling with figuring out new ways to write about the same thing because I’m still me and I still have my own experiences, my own challenges, my own mental perspectives on how I connect with the world around me, so there’s only so many ways to skin that cat” [laughs]. But for me, I don’t know, it came out of the balance of wanting to create this thing that people have no idea – you don’t have to know who we are to get it and if they know who we are that just adds deeper meaning because when you first listen to an album of any band, it’s like when you first fall in love with the band, you can’t ever recreate that. But when you find something and you’re like “Hey this feels right,” we wanted to almost kind of recreate that experience as best we could and separate that idea of who we are from what we do and -Anon kind of came from that. Like, as if this album came out anonymously and no one knew who it was, then how would they take it and that kind of helped shape my lyrical input and it shaped the way that we viewed the album and the fans’ expectations and things like that. And it shaped the way that we approached it with this pure instinct and intentions that kind of make it into this thing that no matter who you or what you know of the band, you can still take this on and still kind of be on your toes with fresh expectations like “I don’t know what’s going to happen next.” I guess that was the catalyst moment for me and for the record and I guess that’s what kind of gave birth to the title.
So -Anon is short for Anonymous, yes?
[laughs] Yes, I forgot to mention that. -Anon is short for anonymous specifically – for example, there’s a whole lot of anonymous poetry out there from 50 to 100 to 200 years ago and no one knows who wrote it but the reason it still exists today is because there was something about it that’s worth sharing regardless of who originally wrote it. So if you remove the context of it and you only have the words – that’s kind of, in a modern context, like memes. No one knows who created any given meme because it’s just impossible to know because everyone removes watermarks and removes watermarks and no one knows [who made them]. But the reason it exists and the reason it’s shared is not because of who created it but what the actual content is and what it’s relatable to and that’s kind of what we wanted to recreate. Just that sense of poetry in that if you don’t know who and why, it’s still worth sharing and still worth relating to because the content is there and not who created it.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.