Few bands approach music with the same sincerity that Canberra sextet Hands Like Houses bring to the table. Dedicated to playing music that they actually want to hear, their talent has earned them a following that continues to grow – both at home and overseas. With the Reimagine EP dropping this month and the band heading out on a national tour, we chatted with vocalist Trenton Woodley about revisiting their last record, coming home to Australia and his relentless pursuit of Skittles Mints.
Hey Trenton, how are you?
Well thank you, how are you?
I’m good. First off, you’ve just announced your Reimagine EP. What prompted you to revisit the songs off your last record?
I guess first it was, you know, we’ve always enjoyed re-exploring songs, from starting from an acoustic perspective and then developing it from there. We do listen to a lot of bands like As Tall As Lions, The Middle East, Paper Kites, Deaf Havana, alternative stuff –James Vincent McMorrow. It’s a massive world of stuff, outside of, I guess, the world we play our music in. So to be able to really spend some time actually re-writing our own songs from the ground up –to I guess, explore those sort of aspects of our tastes and preferences –it was just a great opportunity to be able to do that. We had a little bit of time, and it really was a little bit of time, but we really made sure we focused and locked down and got it done.
You did a similar thing with the Snow Sessions and Ground Dweller. What do you want fans to take away from listening to a different take on the songs?
Look, we hope people enjoy it for what it is and don’t just approach it as an acoustic cover, like it really is an alternative cover. We’d like to think that it’s almost like, if a completely different band wrote these songs would people still enjoy it? You know what I mean? At the end of the day, what people take out of our music doesn’t have to be the same as what we put into it. We want people to appreciate it and enjoy it, because you know, good music is good music and we love listening to what we do and hope people can appreciate it on that level as its own thing.
Speaking of the fans, how are you feeling about your national tour?
We’re very much looking forward to it. We get to hit a few regional places and do a few all ages shows, neither of which we’ve done particularly recently, so [it’s a] really good opportunity to get out there again, and we’re really excited about the bands we’re taking out as well. Forever Ends Here have been doing great things themselves, especially as such a young band and Far Away Stables and Breakaway are both young bands. We’re actually quite impressed with their songwriting and sound so we’re really excited to watch everyone play as much as go out ourselves.
We’re excited to see you.
Awesome, looking forward to it.
You’ve built up a huge following here and overseas. Is it a different atmosphere when you play in front of home audiences?
Yeah, definitely I mean, Australians can go off if they want to. You know what I mean? There’s that expectation around that if people are just having a good time they’re having a great time and that’s awesome. That’s what we want – to create that environment. But you know, every country that we tour in does have its kind of own identity in the way that it tours, you know, audiences, some of the logistical stuff doesn’t change but I think just attitudes and even just our travelling. You know in Australia, because it’s usually like a weekend, we’ve got a few days off in between so it’s actually quite relaxed and casual, especially because we’ve got our friends and family around. We actually really enjoy ourselves, whereas in the US it’s more you get very much stuck into a routine playing the same…like you know you’ll play a show, you’ll pack up at the end of the night, you’ll jump into a bus, you’ll drive overnight, you’ll get to the next venue kind of some point the next morning and then go to the venue and set up and do it all again. So you get very much into a routine, whereas over here it’s a bit more relaxed, we get to enjoy ourselves a bit more.
I read somewhere that you guys sing the Australian anthem before you go onstage when you play overseas. What was the thought process behind that?
Look, I think it was just something to kind of psyche up, especially on Warped Tour, particularly on Warped Tour last year. We’ve kind of slacked off of it a little bit more recently, as well as because there was a bunch of Australians on the tour. Occasionally we’d have members of Tonight Alive or some of the crew or other bands just kind of join in for it and just belt it out. You know, for us I think it was just the element of pride like ‘here we are doing this crazy thing on the other side of the planet so let’s be proud of where we’re from.’ Not overplay it, just for ourselves to say ‘we’re in another country playing music. This is awesome. Let’s do it.’
Was there a moment when you felt like you’d reached a point where you wanted to be as Hands Like Houses and a band in the scene?
Yeah, absolutely. We were chatting about it last night actually at practice, like we really have achieved everything artistically that we could have wanted to do. The great thing is if by some catastrophic event the band ended tomorrow we’d be stoked on everything we’ve done in an artistic sense. But I suppose it is a case of we’d love to see how far it can go, see what opportunities open up, we want to keep playing audiences, keep writing new albums and enjoy everything involved in that. I think the sky is the limit and I think we’ll always be just kind of seeing where we’re at and enjoying it. As long as we’re enjoying it, we’ll do it.
I’ve recently noticed that you interact a lot with fans in comments on Facebook –from opinions about the new EP to merch orders. How important is social media to a band like Hands Like Houses?
Sure! Well I wouldn’t say we’ve started recently, I think we’ve probably slowed down a little bit recently because there’s a lot more people kind of hitting us up, we can’t get to everyone, but yeah it’s definitely a huge thing. I mean we’re still kind of figuring out where we stand about it all because there’s that part of us sometimes that wants to pull away from social media a bit and not kind of be glued to our phones and computer screens all the time but it really is…you know, the internet has changed the world and social media’s kind of the next generation of that. I think it is important to definitely be present and it’s definitely important to get involved because while you don’t necessarily want to cage people with this sense of… they’re entitled to meet you or get this feeling of self-worth out of it…which is another conversation I suppose. But yes social media is huge and I think for us we want to stay connected. We do, we always have been connected with our fans and it is a great opportunity to be able to reinforce your brand and be real. I mean for me, I’ve been trying to blog and share insights and things about things that I’ve learned being a musician and things that as a musician I want people to understand and appreciate about what we do. You know, it’s a great outlet but it is a two-way communication. I think that’s a thing to remember as well.
Especially with an international fan base. I’ve also noticed that you’ve tried to give fans something different…like your colour changing merch.
Yeah, look we’ve always tried to stay on top of, I guess, putting out things that are a bit different or a bit ahead of the curb because you know, especially in the music world everyone’s competing. You know, because merch is a big part of a band’s income and so you want to kind of stand out from everyone else. So for us it’s always been trying to see what we can do. It’s actually with the 80’s/90’s trend that’s around at the moment we thought, well, colour changing shirts are something [that was] pretty cool back then, and kind of, [something] no one’s really done in recent times so we were stoked to be able to do those, just for a limited run, just for a bit of fun. But yeah, certainly trying to stay ahead of where things are moving and keeping our merch in line with that because at the end of the day we’d love someone to buy a shirt ‘cause it’s a cool shirt, they don’t have to love the band or even know who the band are.
Having been so successful, is there anything that you guys still want to tick off your bucket list?
Yeah, for sure. You know there are places in the world we haven’t toured before and I guess it’s obviously more obscure touring locations. We’ve love to get to South America, we’re actually going to South East Asia for the first time later this year in a few weeks, out to Singapore and Malaysia, which we’re looking forward to very much. Other than that, I think the bucket list is done, now it’s just a case of short term sort of things, like we’d love to headline a show at Koko in London or we’d love to play House of Blues in LA, although that’s closing soon so we have to get in quick. But you know, there are little things like that. There are always bigger venues that we’d love to play and places we’d love to go that we haven’t. We’d love to get to Japan. So yeah, I think then it all comes down to, you know, writing the best music as possible and trying to stay on top of everything we do so that we’re giving ourselves the best opportunity to go to places we haven’t and do things we haven’t yet.
Speaking of the future, what do you envision 2015 to hold for Hands Like Houses? Are you guys thinking about a new record now?
Yeah, we’ve just started kind of writing and putting together the skeleton for a new record, which we’re looking to release kind of mid-next year. But it’s already looking like a pretty heavy year in terms of busyness, we’re recording an album, a couple of tours are already looking to shape up for the first half of the year, and I guess depending on how the album goes, how the album comes together, that’ll have a big impact on next year. So a lot of things happening, nothing beyond planning to release a new album, there’s not a lot that we’ve got locked away to say anything about just yet, but it’s definitely looking like a big year and we’re pretty stoked.
This is kind of an odd question, but have you found Skittles Mints yet?
(Laughs.) Not yet! I did find someone; one person’s hit me up and said ‘look I do have a massive jar of them, but…’
Well the jar’s been opened because they were decorative and have been for the past five years. So I think they would have gone a bit stale and I thought ….I don’t want to take the risk. Surely its sugar and preservatives but I don’t know if it would be quite the same and I don’t want to disappoint myself. But that said, a couple of people have mentioned ‘oh I think that place…’ There’s a lot of places that advertise it but you actually can’t get them so everyone’s kind of showing me stuff I’ve already found but ah, getting there, hopefully, but you know fingers still crossed someone finds them somewhere.
Wow, good luck! To round off the interview, is there anything you want to say to your fans?
We hope to see you on tour – this could well be our last chance to really have an Australian tour for a little while, and you know obviously not wanting to make people panic about that or whatever, but you know, please come out to shows if you’ve got the chance. We’re really looking forward to it, it’s a great bill. Beyond that, please pre-order Reimagine or pick it up if it’s out already, depending on when this goes to print. We’re really proud of it. Even if you haven’t necessarily checked out the band or if you haven’t loved what we’ve done previously check it out because it really is a record in its own right and we’re really, really proud of it.
Thank you so much for doing the interview.
No worries at all.
Good luck with everything too.
Alright, talk to you later.
Reimagine is out now, through Rise Records.
You can catch Hands Like Houses on the remaining dates of their headline tour this month. More tour details here.