Interview

w/Alex Pearson of Hands Like Houses

                                                                                                                                                     (Sanchez 2015) 
​Lisa Sanchez

​Hands Like Houses just don't know when to quit. The band has been touring non-stop since the beginning of 2015, including a stint with Silverstein, Vans Warped Tour, and Download Festival, the biggest open-air concert in Europe. The Australian quintet is currently on their own headlining U.S. tour with I the Mighty and Brigades before their third album, Dissonants, is released in January 2016. 

Rhythm guitarist/backup vocalist Alex Pearson made time to speak with me before the band played Beachland Ballroom on November 10. When asked about the amount of accomplishments Hands Like Houses has achieved so far this year, the guitarist stated, "You barely think about it. We don't take the time to realize what we've done across the year." Pearson went on to say that all of the tours have been great, but Download Festival, where the band also camped out and watched the show, has been the highlight of 2015. Pearson explained, "We've never played Download Festival before and it was the most people we've ever played in front of before. It was an incredible experience."

Formed in 2008, Hands Like Houses have made huge strides in a few short years. They're on the cusp of  releasing their third full length album and have been on multiple national tours. However, Pearson said the journey has been surreal, "When the band started we didn't sit there and set intense goals for ourselves or limit ourselves. We were very much along for the ride to see where we could take it. It's great to look back over the last three years and see everything we've done."

Hands Like Houses have maintained a constant momentum, but recently (the same day as Pearson's interview) the band announced they would have to postpone the UK leg of their Dissonants tour. Pearson commented on the dates being pushed back by saying, "The album has taken a while to out, there have been a few hurdles because we wanted to organize everything. We're just postponing until the album has been released." The guitarist also explained this is the first time Hands Like Houses has been able to tour the country as the headlining band and play unreleased songs. Because of that, the band wants to be able to devote as much time and attention as they can to the tour and their fans.

As Pearson mentioned, Dissonants' release has had a fluctuating and elusive release date. Pearson explained that the band didn't want to commit to a firm release date and then not be able to deliver because of last minute edits and unforeseen circumstances. The guitarist said, "We had to keep changing the release date and it's unfair to the fans and the public. We decided to say 'it's coming out soon' instead of giving a date. We just don't want to let people down." Dissonants is now officially scheduled to be released January 22, 2016. 

Pearson spoke excitedly about Hands Like Houses' impending album release and revealed further details about the enigmatically titles Dissonants. "It's a continuation of what is explored on Unimagine. Basically it's just the idea that there's not just black or white, there's all of these colors, shapes, emotions, and that's what shapes people and the world. It's not as much of a concept album as Unimagine was. It's more of a collection of songs, which plays into the 'dissonants' of it as well, but in terms of song ideas it's no set, specific thing across the album," Pearson said.

Hands Like Houses' previous albums, 2013's Unimagine and 2012's Ground Dweller established the band's trippy, atmospheric sound for the world. Pearson said the band really honed their focus for Dissonants stating, "In the newer stuff we're trying to push atmospheric sound more and a little more bite from the music and vocals." Pearson also said Dissonants conveyed much more raw emotion than on earlier albums. The guitarist explained, "These songs are the most focused of all the albums. It [Dissonants]covers such a  range of topics. The main difference is the aggression that we're trying to convey. We had an intense, stressful, frustrating year at times. This album is just us having an outlet for that emotion. It makes it a little chaotic, but it has that aggression and raw emotion we were looking for."

The new album was a labor of love, but Hands Like Houses didn't have any hard goals for Dissonants when they entered the studio, the sound just evolved naturally throughout the process. The band initially worked on pre-production with a number of different producers including Mike Green, and current Beartooth vocalist Caleb Shomo. Pearson explained, "We switched it up a little bit...we took it to a variety of people that knew how to help bring out the best in us. It helped bring out their different take on our sound." For final production, Hands Like Houses went back to James Paul Wisner who produced Unimagine and has worked with Underoath and Paramore. "James was able to collect all of those ideas and integrate the songs with each other and support each song," Pearson said.

Considering Hands Like Houses are on the road for much of the year, recording under time constraints was the band's main struggle when creating the album. Pearson said, "We try to tour as much as we can and we always stretch ourselves too thin. We want to give the band everything and give people as much experience as we can. Our personal feelings can be pushed aside." Time restrictions or not, Hands Like Houses are on a mission to make an impression with their next release. "We just really wanted to have this album as a statement. The frustrating thing is as you surf the world wide web, people are like 'why don't more people listen to them?' It's like a backhanded compliment. We want to brand ourselves and make Hands Like Houses an actual statement instead of another band you hear in passing. We want people know who we are the songs we have."

The band has released a steady stream of material since Unimagine, including a reworking of the album called Reimagine as well as the singles "I Am" and "New Romantics" (which will be featured on Dissonants). I asked Pearson if it's always exciting for he and the band to release new material for the fans. Pearson responded, " It's so awesome. Before we released our brand new single, "New Romantics," we'd been listening to that song for four months before it was released. It's great for us to work and people to judge the work, we get the feedback according to the fans." The guitarist loves to hear the fans reactions to the new songs and again laments the fact that Dissonants was delayed. Hands Like Houses had all of these songs prepared, but were unable to release them to the most important people, their fans. 

Despite the delay, Hands Like Houses have included new songs into their current tour's set and the fans are loving it. Pearson said, "It's great. It's hard when you play a new song in front of people. But, people are excited to hear new songs. People will come up afterwards and ask questions about it and talk about how they enjoy it. It's super rewarding for us. It's stressful sometimes when people don't appreciate what you've put into a certain piece of music. But, I think we really nailed it so people are connecting with the new songs."

If you look up Hands Like Houses, you'll find they have a huge online following with millions of people listening to their songs and watching their videos. However, Pearson said that while they do have very dedicated fans, an online image can provide a false positive when it's time to go on tour. "Online you can sort of cater to a person as a band and make it look however you want it to look. It's a real struggle for every band or artist when using social media as a tool. It's still very difficult for people to make that live connection. It [the internet] makes music so downloadable, or you can watch snippets on your phone. People have almost lost respect for live music at some points. It's the reason we are a band so we can have that connection and seeing people's faces and hear people sing along," Pearson said.
​No matter how social media may inflate an image, the guys from Hands Like Houses do seem to come alive when they're on stage. When they performed at Beachland Ballroom, they were all smiles, jumps, and enthusiasm. The band led off with their recent single "New Romantics," but also played some old favorites from Ground Dweller and Unimagine like "Antartica," "Introduced Species," and "A Tale of Outer Suburbia." To my surprise Hands Like Houses also busted out their Punk Goes 90s Vol. 2 cover of "Torn" originally by Natalie Imbruglia.

Aside from the band's high energy level, they also integrated dancing, colorful lights into their show which worked with the band's particular atmospheric composition. To my delight, what Pearson said about Hands Like Houses' new songs being more heavy and aggressive is definitely true. "New Romantics" has a thunderous, steady bass line and powerful hooks and "Perspectives," the other new song Hands Like Houses performed, really blew my hair back. I look forward to everything the band can bring to the stage in the future with Dissonants.

The crowd for the show at Beachland Ballroom was dwarfed by the venue's spacious atrium, but the fans who were there were thrilled to see Hands Like Houses. Pearson mentioned this appeal the previous day by saying, "It just comes down to being genuine and open and honest as possible. We're not trying to preach or misguide people. We just sit there and we are who we are, five friends, five guys from a little city in Australia. People connect to that genuineness. That's the main thing people can relate to. There's no gimmicks or bells and whistles, what you see is what you get. We try to have the most positive interaction with people who come to the shows." Mission accomplished, fellas.

Hands Like Houses' new album Dissonants is set for release on Janaury 22, 2016. The band will continue their U.S. tour throughout November then gear up to head to the UK for part two of their tour in 2016.
Alex Pearson performing at Beachland Ballroom 11/10 (Sanchez 2015)