Hands Like Houses - 'Music can be a cathartic thing for people'

May 1, 2019

Coming from Canberra, Australia, Hands Like Houses has been mixing genres and providing a unique sound since 2008. Fortunately we had a chance to catch them on their tour in Budapest and to sit down and talk to Trent Woodley about the tour itself, their crowd, mental health, labels and other things. Check it out and we hope you'll enjoy it.

So, how's the tour been so far?
It's been really good, yeah, just reminding us why we should have come back sooner. Well, we were supposed to, but it got canceled two years ago and thrown us back a little bit. But these shows, they're so much fun. They kinda made us of sad that it has been so long, but we'll back as soon as it was possible.


So you've been around for 10 years, you've been touring a lot, right?
Yeah. I mean these days we're kind of trying to slow down just a little bit, to have more time at home and, I guess be normal. (laughs) But we were in a full-on tour cycle over the years. It's good, to get out there and play songs. And people are still turning up for shows, so that's awesome. (laughs)


But altogether, what would you say what tour do you especially remember or it was special for something?
I mean Warped Tour obviously, there's a lot of special memories because we made so many friends through the course of that tour. There's so much time each day to hang out over such a long run of shows. Beyond that, the last couple of Australian roads have been unreal, like really good fun. The last US tour we did... They all kinda blur together to me, but there were some great shows. The tour we just did in the UK, that's great as well, London was insane, one of the most special shows we ever played.


What band would you say you have a special relationship with and really enjoy traveling and touring with?
It's definitely a handful, rather than one or two bands. For example, Tonight Alive and Our Last Night are some of our best buds on the road. Incredible bands and great people, and I've had really good hangs with them. I mean there are so many others as well, but I think those are who we're besties with. I think we've been really lucky to tour with some killer bands over the years, and thankfully, we just seem to be around the bands that are not assholes, which has been great. (laughs)


You performed on A Day To Remember's Self Help Fest a few years ago. How important is mental health to you and how do you deal with it? Since touring can be exhausting both physically and mentally, right?
Yeah, I think it was the first one they did. I guess I'm kind of lucky enough to put my struggles behind me for the most part. But I think, with the touring cycle, you know, the day in, day out, and a lot of feedback that's coming, the thoughts people have towards you, it can be pretty damaging, and we've seen it have a pretty heavy effect. I mean, we see how it could affect us, and why someone wants to step back from it. But I think that's part of the reason why we are trying to do tours less often, rather than just drawing out anything and everything we can. We did find out we're reaching a point where we're really testing out our own mental health and sanity, and I guess, our own relationships within the band as well. So, just being able to have that breathing room in between tours has been a big thing for us.


But music has always had this strange other life, it's, kind of cathartic thing for people, where they attach so much more meaning and significance to what is essentially just vibrations, in a certain way. And it's such a strange thing for us to see the way we do that. That in theory, some of my thoughts and my own struggles, and the way that people take that, and suddenly it means so much more to them, maybe even more than it meant to me in the first place. It is a pretty crazy thing. So it's a really interesting relationship that mental health has with music, for better or for worse.


It's good to see a lot of bands within the rock world talking about it. That it's becoming more open and it even fading out into mainstream sense. Like that Logic song. That song, for example, was a huge step forward in the music world in a more broad sense. It's been really interesting to see how it's progressing and becoming a part of the everyday conversation now. I think the next step is to just say "Cool, we all have problems, we know that, and it's okay to talk about it." Now, let's actually do something productive about it, rather than just giving it too much attention, which almost romanticizes it. I think we need to go beyond that now actually, to say "it's cool we’re talking about it, now let's do something about it." And that's I think the biggest step forward, for sure.

And how does it feel to see people connecting and relating to your songs and your experiences? Like what's your relationship with fans like?
Um, I think it'd be easy to glaze over it, but you know, we try and have real conversations when we can. Otherwise, it does start to feel a little bit, I don't think shallower, but I would rather have real conversations when the opportunity allows. It makes you feel like you're connecting to people, it removes that separation of "this" and "that" side of the barrier. It reminds us that we're humans and that the audience were playing to is made up of individual humans And, to have that kind of one-on-one little chats, I think is more significant. I think more rewarding for us, as well. Obviously, you can't do that all the time. There are shows like this when you always have like 20 people around, like techs and everything. Then it's OK to take photos, to take selfies. It's a different type of interaction but that's also fine.


Would you say that people are different from continent to continent or country to country? The way they react to you and your music?
Yes and no. I guess the Internet has globalized the sense of community around music, and I think that behavior is very common among all audiences. I think that when you go to places like Europe or Australia and even some less built-up cities, I think that's where you find that people are a lot more appreciative of the fact that you're in their city, in their town, and in their part of the world. And I think that there's an extra sense of excitement because they know that you coming there is a rare thing. Like in America, people are so used to bands touring constantly that, you put a tour, and the people are like "Nah, I just saw them, I'll see them on the next one.”


I think that when you come to places like Europe, people have that appreciation because bands don't get here that often, so they go out there and make the most of it because this is a rare opportunity. I think that is actually a healthier thing for both, the audience and for the band, to have that enthusiasm. If you feel like you're doing it just to keep doing it, and people keep showing up, but not always... if you know what I mean… It creates a sense of apathy and it's on both sides. So yeah, that's why I love playing in Europe, why I love playing in Australia. People just know that it's something special, and that makes it more rewarding for us.


When you were at the beginning as a band, did you struggle with finding your own crowd? Because in Serbia, where we grew up, there's no chance that band like Hands like Houses would be so popular because everyone likes to put a label on things. People who are into punk, are into punk, people who're into pop, they're into what's on the radio, while everything that's in between gets completely ignored. Have you experienced something like that?
Yet when we started out, whether it's because of our label, or our booking agents, we always ended up on tour with very heavy bands. You know, like, we're in the UK with Bury Tomorrow, and the people that came to shows at that point, weren't exactly fans, they were more of metal fans. And at that point, almost none of our songs had any metal influence. So, yeah, it was a very different crowd, you know what I'm saying? Not too interested in what we were doing. There were some people who came just to see us, but that was a handful of people out of a few hundred.


So yeah, I think for, for a long time and felt like we were just always outsiders, no matter what tour we were on. Whether we were on a heavy tour, we were a light band of the tour. Whether we were on pop punk, or a pop rock tour, we were a heavy band of that tour. We never quite had that place where we felt like we fit, but I think now that music has shifted a little bit. We feel a lot more comfortable. We're still trying to do something that is different, no matter what you're listening to, but it's still very easy to a sing-along. Like, even the guys from Our Last Night,  I would say we're different, especially the last album, we have a lot more, like indie influences.


The rock music, especially this day and age, it's a bit more underground, you know, with the EDM music being the main focus, and at the moment pop music is taking a lot from it, globally. It's still big, we have massive rock bands in the world, but there is still that divide, and for us, we certainly feel like we've slipped through the cracks in some ways. Even between pop, and I guess the underground rock group, like the metalcore, emo, even pop punk, we don't really fit any of those, but I guess that's where it's just you make your lane, you know.

Did it ever feel frustrating? Like working hard, putting out music, playing shows, and see people still don't get it? Did you even think about quitting, or changing your sound because of it?
I don't think we ever changed our sound to reach the crowd. We certainly did it, but it was part of our creative process. If we're happy with what we're doing, then we'd come out with that. If we make a record that we love, and people don't love it, well, that's cool. But I mean, we haven't had that happen yet. Even this record that we just put out, it's maybe the most polarizing records for our fans, and they seem to be "love or hate" with it. But for every person that hates it, there are like ten or twenty people who love it. What has always felt right for us is to make stuff that we enjoy making. We're influenced by the bands that we tour with as much as we are by the music we listen to, and we kinda bring all that together. And obviously, as the music shifts around us, we shift with it.


And we've certainly had times where we, even in making the record before this, 'Dissonants,' there was a point in that process where we almost did give up. There was a lot of struggles to fight; we were trying to fit in with the tour life, trying to get time for ourselves outside of touring and recording and everything. And that went on for a full year, with a lot of stress. But, I think for us that was like a wake-up call to change the way that we work, and way that we tour. If we're not happy, we're not enjoying what we're doing, and then there's no point doing it. You know, this isn't this crazy lucrative, profitable job. It's a lifestyle, if you're not enjoying it, it's not worth doing it. That's, kind of, the way we've approached it ever since. And it's still working, we have some of the biggest opportunities we had today. So, it's great. Here we are.


You've mentioned your new record. What was it like to work with Colin Brittain, knowing that he also worked with bands like Dashboard Confessional or Five Seconds Of Summer?
Oh, working with him was great! At the end of Warped Tour last year, we went around LA and met a few different producers who made some records we loved. And we just kinda talked through. You know, just talked about music, talked about our perspective on life. So, just really just had a chat with a bunch of different people, and Colin had this energy and enthusiasm, and this fresh take on things that we hadn't really heard before. Straight away, he was like, - "this is what I hear in you guys, and I'd love to take it in a direction that more embraces that side of you guys, side that's a bit more dirty, a bit more raw, a bit more fun." I think we've always taken ourselves so very seriously from the music side of things, and I think this time around we just wanted to have fun with songs that are fun to play. There are a few songs that are much more lighthearted.


But um, just that energy, and that life he had, it made it a really easy decision, and we brought him out to Australia for a couple of weeks, and just wrote songs in my backyard. We had a tent set up outside, and we wrote a handful of songs out there. It was a very different process for us. The last few records, we've done in one place with one person for the whole thing, whereas this time around, I was working in with Colin at one end of the studio, the guys were recording the guitars and stuff at the other end of the studio with Alex Prieto, who's the assistant engineer. And then, just bouncing around, and just different people, the different guy coming in and doing a lot of programming for us. Just having a bunch of different people, the right person for the right job at the right time, made it really interesting, and a super relaxing process for us. And that was definitely really cool. So Colin was, I guess the central point of bringing together all our influences, all these different people and making it all happen in one place.

You were signed to Rise Records, and you recently switched to Hopeless. And then, in Australia, you're on UNFD. So what would you say, what are the most important differences between those labels?
I mean, I won't say too much bad about Rise. You know, they gave us the opportunity early on, and we had some frustrations with the way that they work. It just wasn't compatible with the way that we wanted to work. It just came to a point where it just felt like, switch to Hopeless was the right thing. We already had friends working at the label, and they, kind of, made some introductions, and they just share the same energy and enthusiasm for what we're doing. One of the things we love about Hopeless is that we've got a point of contact for every type of thing. So, when we wanted to talk about this thing, we talked to that person, when want to talk about that think, you talk to that person. We have great relationships with them all, but it feels like there are people, like there are humans on the other side of the email, of the phone.


I'm not saying that wasn't the case before, but just having the ability to go in and know the right person to go to, but also knowing who that person is, what they're like. Just talking with them as friends, rather than as the purely professional relationship. It's a much healthier relationship and yes, so far so good. They've been amazing, especially outside of the US. Like, Rise is very US-centric, whereas Hopeless has such a big global perspective. And then, having UNFD just for Australia has been really good as well because, again, we have friends there who have been a part of our journey. And just having some underground, local knowledge is very valuable for our country. So yeah, across the board we just have a really great team and have all that bases covered. Now, we can start to branch out of, I guess the core territories - Australia, UK, and the US. We've been able to do more Europe more. We started looking at South America, we're doing some stuff in South Africa. does it. We've had it been kind of facilitating those things. Yeah, it's been really, really cool.

Do you also think it's better in terms of the music itself? Like, your new sound is probably closer to the fans that Hopeless' bands gravitate to than the crowd the Rise bands gravitate to.
Trent: I
wouldn't attach too much importance to that. I think that in terms of genre and style, that's just a product of the time. Rise and Hopeless are both signing similar bands now because tastes change, and people are looking for different things. I think for us, certainly, we have a lot of friends at Hopeless, but the things that Hopeless do well suit ourselves, and a lot of the bands that come across in a similar sort of time frame. For us, it was not really a musical choice, at the end of the day, we were gonna make what we're gonna make. If we wanted to make a metalcore record, we'd still do it with them. They trusted us with what we're doing, and we trusted them with what they're doing, and that just made it a really easy and comfortable shift.

Follow Hands Like Houses:

Website: handslikehouses.net

Facebook: facebook.com/handslikehouses

Instagram: instagram.com/handslikehouses

Twitter: twitter.com/handslikehouses

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