INTERVIEW – Hands & Teeth
It was a blast having Hands & Teeth perform last week live in Gore Park during the Downtown BIA’s Summer Promenade. I had to rush off to broadcast live-to-air on 93.3 CFMU, but it was difficult to pry myself away from the stage area – they sounded fantastic. Check out a video of their performance of “Easy” from their set.
Luckily I have another chance to see the band – and so do you! Hands & Teeth play at This Ain’t Hollywood this Saturday, June 7th, for I Heart Hamilton’s The Playlist 3.0 (Fundraiser for Food4Kids). I interviewed bassist and vocalist Derek Monson to catch up on what went into their new EP, Before The Light, and what’s next for the band.
I Heart Hamilton’s The Playlist 3.0 (Fundraiser for Food4Kids)
Featuring Hands & Teeth, The Medicine Hat, The Tallest Tree, Haolin Munk, Brielle Melle
Saturday, June 7th / 8PM
This Ain’t Hollywood, 345 James Street North
$10 Advance / $12 at the door
IHH: You’re based in Toronto now, but I didn’t even realize at first that two of you are from Hamilton! Can you give a quick recap of how the band met and formed?
Derek: Hands & Teeth formed following a series of random encounters in 2009. Adam, Kevin, and I all met previously while attending Western University from 2002-2006. At the time, Kevin played in his own project and Adam and I formed a band together. After we graduated I moved to Australia and Kevin and Adam made their separate ways to Toronto. Kevin eventually began playing in a band with Jeff and the two coincidentally met Natasha during a studio session. Around the same time, Kevin and Adam also randomly crossed paths on Queen St. in Toronto and decided that they would start jamming together. I returned home for the holidays in late 2009 and was asked by Adam to come out for a jam for old times sake. My first rehearsal was the first time that the five of us would play together as a band. Things went so well that we booked a show a couple of weeks later. Whatever this was, I loved it so much that I wholeheartedly decided to miss my flight back to Melbourne, quit my job, and focus on making beautiful noise as a part of what would eventually become Hands & Teeth.
You have several releases under your belt now as a band; how do you feel your music has evolved since the last album?
Before the Light marks a new, more streamlined chapter in our existence. We lost a founding band member and really took some time to re-evaluate what we were doing sonically and as individuals fulfilling roles within a collective. Oddly enough, I feel that we think less about our music now. In the past it was our tendency to really breakdown and compartmentalize songs during the writing process. As a result, songs often shifted quite drastically from the initial seed. We trust our instincts more now and don’t over-analyze.
I really like the direction your sound has taken with your EP Before The Light. It’s a great reintroduction to the band! All five songs sound awesome. Were you listening to different influences or is it more just a natural progression for the band to take with this EP?
I don’t think that we consciously listened to anything different. Each of our individual musical preferences is constantly in a state of flux and as a result I feel that the evolution of our sound was a completely natural one. All of us have such a wide range of musical tastes and Before the Light is a direct result of the negotiation of these preferences. Our influences range widely from James Brown to Blur to Black Sabbath.
You went through a lineup change – it must have been good to lay low and take time to regroup and figure out who you are as a band again. What was the writing process like for this EP?
Our writing process has always been comparable to that of a “painter’s palette;” each of us bringing a different colour to the canvas. Following Jeff’s departure last year, we were forced to fill in the white space. Someone will present a seed for an idea, which could be a vocal melody, verse/chorus, chord progression, etc, and we experiment with it until it begins to take the shape of a Hands & Teeth song. We recently realized that the seeds for three of the songs on this EP actually grew from a single idea for a song that we put together last year. A large part of our writing process is based on experimenting with different arrangements and seeing what works best.
Do you have plans next for a full length release?
While a full-length seems like the next logical step, we want to make the most out of this EP and play as many shows as possible over the next year. With that being said, we have already started writing new material and plan on working on something new simultaneously. As soon as we have the means to get back into the studio we will most definitely jump at the opportunity.
I first discovered your music when I saw you play at The Casbah in April 2012, and I remember that being a really fun bill with New Hands and Wildlife. I try to book a good mix with my shows, so I’m excited to have you play The Playlist 3.0 Fundraiser! Who are some of your favourite bands you’ve gotten to play with over the years?
We are so stoked to be playing The Playlist 3.0 fundraiser this year! We always love coming back to Hamilton and were excited to be invited! Over the years we’ve been fortunate enough to play alongside some pretty kick-ass Canadian acts including Zeus, Indian Handcrafts, Teenage Kicks and Hey Ocean. We feel that the most gratifying thing about playing music is that you are able to join a community of other musicians with similar interests and goals. We’ve formed some really great friendships over the years and always look forward to sharing the stage with our buds.
You’re about to hit the road this summer – will the tour take you to new locations this time around that you haven’t hit yet? Do you have favourite cities to play?
We currently have an east coast Canadian tour in the works for the late summer/early fall. A lot of the cities we will be visiting we have played multiple times before. However, we are aiming to include some American dates into the mix over the next six months, so that is pretty exciting. We really enjoyed playing at The Black Sheep Inn in Wakefield, Quebec earlier this year. Even though it was our first time there, the room was jam-packed with some very passionate music fans. And of course, Hamilton always feels like a hometown show for the band.
Favourite place to eat in Hamilton:
Work Restaurant – James St. North
Favourite breakfast food:
Bacon (on anything)
If you were an alcoholic beverage, what would you be?
By band member:
Adam – Jameson Irish Whiskey
Kevin – Single Malt Scotch
Natasha – Cider
Derek – Stout
Your go-to karaoke song:
I’m going to go ahead and alter the question slightly to “my favourite song to watch Adam perform at karaoke:” Reeling in the Years – Steely Dan
If you could speak flawlessly with any other accent, what would it be?
Favourite concert/live performance you’ve seen:
My first concert: Summer 1997 – Jimmy Page & Robert Plant at the Molson Amphitheatre
What is on your playlist right now:
War on Drugs – Lost in the Dream
If you could detour to anywhere in the world right now, where would you go?
Somewhere on the Mediterranean
Favourite mode of transportation:
What’s one thing on your bucket list:
Ride a motorcycle across America
Thanks to Derek for taking the time to chat! Very much looking forward to seeing Hands & Teeth again this Saturday, June 7th at This Ain’t Hollywood! Don’t miss ’em!