Homegrown experimental rock band Hands Like Houses have spent the better part year exploring, touring extensively overseas. Currently in the US as part of the Vans Warped Tour, and with sophomore album ‘Unimagine’ due out later this month, Killyourstereo.com chat to vocalist Trenton Woodley to get the lowdown on the past twelve months for the band, as well as the driving forces behind the new record.
You guys are about a third of the way into touring the US as part of the Warped festival. How’s that been so far?
It’s been great, man. Definitely a challenge with the heat, we’re really copping it and it’s the worst part of the country for it. We’re getting back up towards the north east now, and it’s starting to get a bit cooler, which is refreshing. Certainly a lot of work, but it’s also been the most rewarding tour we’ve been on in the same way. We’re loving it.
Any particular moments that have stood out so far?
It’s just been awesome hanging out with a whole lot of bands. Most of the bands playing we’ve toured with or hung out with when we’ve been here before, and it’s been great seeing the bands we love and look up to every day and just enjoying the experience.
Sure. So you’re about to put out your second album ‘Unimagine’ through Rise Records in the US, who also put out your debut ‘Ground Dweller’ last year. Does it feel like you’ve sort of settled a bit more into working with a ‘bigger’ label? Is it kind of business as usual by this stage?
Yeah, it’s interesting. Rise have been great to us the whole way, they’re really looking out for us. While they’re considered a larger label, they very much run like an independent label. They have implicit trust with us. We scared them a bit with how long it took us to get demos ready for the new album, but the music finally did all come together and we sent it through and they were stoked, and I think more than a little bit relieved. They’ve trusted us with our own direction, our own image, our own intent and basically just let us do what we do, and it’s worked out fantastically.
Given you complete kind of creative control over your material?
Yeah, very much so.
Good to hear. The record was produced by James Paul Wisner, who’s worked with bands like Underoath and Paramore in the past. What was it like working with James?
Certainly a challenge to start with. He’s very much a creative genius in that it takes about a week to get used to working with him. He can be quite hard on you, but it’s all for the best anyway. It can just be tough initially adjusting to that definitely constructive, but quite critical ear. Once we settled in there and got into the patterns of how we were gonna work out the songs, the last few details worked out great. We ended up hanging out with him a lot towards the end outside of the recording process and he’s become a good friend so yeah, very cool.
As far as the writing process is concerned, you’ve said it draws a lot on the last year or so for you guys as a band.
Obviously you’ve spent a lot of the past twelve months touring all over the place – can you give a brief snapshot of what the past year’s been like? Were there any specific events or experiences on that are reflected on ‘Unimagine’?
For sure. For us, a lot of the learning experience has been about shifting into this very different lifestyle of living on the road and not having a lot of time to settle in at home. With that, you learn a lot about yourself. When you’re exposed to music all the time – different bands, different countries, different experiences – you tend to write a lot about yourselves and about music in general. That influences how you view the world. It’s definitely more of a thematic thing.
The other inspiration you’ve said the album draws from is a theme of finding happiness. Did you want to expand on that?
It’s very much about finding happiness in your own way. For me, I’m currently engaged, and I’m looking forward to spending a lot more time at home in the future, but negotiating that balance of two different dreams and what could easily be two different directions and solidifying that for myself has been a big part of finding my own happiness. It came down to a thing of trying to encourage people to create happiness in their own existence, without following a sort of norm.
Unique to their own experiences.
So that’s as far as the album’s concerned lyrically – In terms of putting the actual music together, were there any styles or influences you guys deliberately drew from?
I think we tried to go back to the music we grew up with. Around 2006, 2007 in particular there was a tonne of great albums coming out. That clean production was getting huge, without necessarily using the crisp, technical production that’s become sort of norm now. We listen to a lot of Underoath, early Thrice and stuff – then going out of that completely, listening to a lot of ‘rock’ bands. Foo Fighters, Thirty Seconds to Mars and things like that. There’s also been the bands we’ve been touring with like Pierce the Veil. Touring and seeing the same bands every night, you appreciate different details about their performance and kind of grow on that, little musical details they’ve injected into their sound and that then, I think, inspires you to do your own thing. We wanted to write a rock record that was accessible, without leaving behind what we’ve already done.
Late last year, the band did a headlining tour in Australia after spending a lot of time overseas. Was there a different feel coming back to do a tour here after spending eight months in other countries? Was there that feeling of home, or does it feel more natural to be on the road at this point?
Yeah, I mean, home is always home. Home is always a great place to be. A lot of the band still live with their families and I live with my fiancee, so I think home always has that relief of not having the same expectations. In a way, home is like a holiday but I think we’ve gotten the hang of coming and going. It’s always hard. You do have days where you feel a little confused because you’re just not sure what you should be doing.
Can we expect another tour on home soil this year?
Yeah, definitely. We’re trying to finalise something for early Spring, we’re just kind of waiting for details to get locked in for that but we’re almost definite that it’s happening. If that doesn’t work out we’ll definitely be doing something closer to Summer. We probably will anyway. We want to start playing more shows at home. Obviously with such a busy schedule over here it’s been tough in the past year or so, but we definitely want to make Australia a big focus. It is always home, and always will be.
Hands Like Houses will release ‘Unimagine’ July 19 through Rise Records.