Hands Like Houses latest record, 2018’s ‘-Anon.’ is a face value album: what you see is exactly what you get. No BS here. It’s a record that’s been doing the Australian rock band well lately, as they’re just about to embark on a huge national headline run with Ocean Grove and Endless Heights in support of it. Before they hit the road, and with the sounds of ‘-Anon.’ still fresh in my mind, we got in contact with rhythm guitarist/backing vocalist, Alex Pearson, to chat about the fun of creating this LP, how their inspirations have morphed over time, working with producer Colin Brittain, and the differences between Australian and American audiences.
Back in October of 2018, you released ‘-Anon.’ When you announced the record, you said it was the most fun you’ve had creating an album so far. What about the writing process actually made it so enjoyable? Was it the location you were recording in or the headspace you all had that made the most impact?
It’s actually a little funny how relaxed the recording process was and the lead up to recording considering there were quite a few months, over our given writing time, where I was very anxious about how the album and demos were shaping up. I think working with Colin Brittain and having him fly out to Australia for a week, for demos, was really the turning point in the process. Then when we entered the studio over in LA we had a beautiful apartment we were staying in, the weather was perfect, there was always delicious food and bars, and really the atmosphere in general just gave us this ease. We didn’t feel pressured we were just following our instincts with everything happening very naturally.
Likewise, how would you compare that to what it was like writing your last couple of records, ‘Dissonants’ and ‘Unimagine’, for example? Do you look back at the creation process and still see fun in those memories?
With ‘Unimagine’, we went in pretty under prepared. We had a lot of ideas and directions but not whole songs, so that process was stressful but gave us the right amount of pressure. We all worked together and it was such a great experience to work with James Paul Wisner (Paramore, Underoath, The Getaway Plan) for the first time. Fast forward a couple of years and we’d been touring heavily without much break to write, but also still needed to have a new album ready. This was the first time we’ve really struggled. It got pretty dark, and we had a few internal issues as well as some tough decisions and positions with our label and management at the time. I think that’s part of the reason the album has such bite – we felt frustrated and angry, so when it came down to a creative aspect it certainly took on a much heavier aspect. I’m super proud of that album because I think we really stepped up as songwriters and we learnt a lot throughout the process.
You guys experimented with your sound with this new LP, incorporating more influences from rock, pop and alternative. Which I really liked, by the way. Compared to past releases, was there any new or different art and music that you’d been consuming whilst making this record that impacted said changes?
I’m glad you liked it – it really was such a joy to create! I think with this record we finally had a bit more time away from the band so that gave us space to get back to all of our individual tastes rather than just listening to bands we toured with. We really dove in to Australian music like DZ Deathrays, Violent Soho and Tired Lion while incorporating aspects of some grunge (Nirvana, Silverchair, Smashing Pumpkins) and I got pretty heavy into a The 1975 obsession. I think you can hear different aspects of this throughout some of the songs and album as a whole.
You recorded ‘-Anon.’ with Colin Brittain (who’s worked with big bands such as All Time Low and 5SOS in the past). Would you say that his work influenced your shift in sound and if so, how? Do you think some may see his part here as being indicative of HLH changing up the established sound?
I don’t think we would’ve had the confidence to push as far without Colin. He was constantly driving me to write more music and create more demos, he pushed Trenton vocally which gave us a whole new aspect to his voice and brought a new dynamic and texture to a lot of the songs. I think internally we were all wanting to keep moving forwards and exploring different aspects of HLH, and this album felt like exactly the right time to do that!
Looking back on what made you start HLH, does new inspiration come from the same source or has it changed over the years for the band?
Yeah definitely! We have all been growing as the band has grown and I think that is a common theme with bands when you start making music quite young. There is a lot of learning and refining that you do with each album. I think we are a lot more open with each other about some pretty out there inspirations, whether it’s strange music or bizarre films we’ve seen. I also think being on the road and watching the band grow has become a pretty big inspiration and motivator for us, we get a lot of drive from playing live and as our shows have gotten bigger and we’ve started playing broader festivals, that has certainly contributed to inspiring and driving us forward.
With the meaning behind the album and its title, I always saw it as an anonymous expression; that it’s meant to be taken as is. Is that the case? How would you define it to another person?
It’s very much meant to be a face value album. We wanted to try and find a way to encourage people to see the album as a new step, not forget the old HLH but move with us; leaving their expectations behind. It was a hard concept to describe quickly and easily so we settled on -Anon., which we felt expressed that and the listener would focus on the content of the record rather than the author.
At the end of the year, you finished up a headlining tour in North America, and you’re just about to embark on your biggest headline tour of Australia. What are the biggest similarities and strongest differences you’ve noticed between the crowds in both countries? If any at all?
Of course Australia is our favourite place to play, it’s home and we’re so proud to be having so much success here. I think the difference between here and America is that America is very saturated – every band is trying to get over there and touring all the time so it can sometimes overwhelm people who go to shows. In terms of people at shows though it is quite similar, both territories go pretty skitz! We’re super grateful that we can have an international career but hot damn are we excited to be on the verge of this mega Australian tour – BRING IT ON!