Looking at the touring schedule for Hands Like Houses, it's hard to imagine where the experimental rockers ever find the time to write and record. This year alone has already seen the boys do a successful run of mostly sold out shows in Australia between January-February, the UK in April-May, and the US in May-June, and now back to aussie shores in September-October. It's understandable then that earlier this year the band escaped to a small farmhouse in the Snowy Mountains and almost completely disconnected themselves from the outside world. It was there that they took the opportunity to rediscover their Unimagine album, and out of it was born the alternative parallel Reimagine EP. On the eve of its release, we caught up with lead vocalist Trenton Woodley.
It's interesting that this time around you're revisiting 2013's album Unimagine for your latest release, the Reimagine EP. Why did you guys decide to revisit it, and how did you decide which songs would make the cut?
It was initially just a creative venture for us – we have always enjoyed stripping songs back either as part of the writing process, or just as an extra chance to 'rediscover' the songs. Our biggest motivation for being a band is enjoying writing music, this was a chance to do it without pressure or expectation of a full release.
How would you describe the reinterpretation of these songs, compared to the originals?
Honestly we'd love it if people listened to it as an entirely original collection of songs – obviously the lyrics and melodies are borrowed from Unimagine but everything beyond those (and even changing those too) we wanted to stand on its own with its own character, soul, energy and rhythm.
Were you intending to rediscover Unimagine when you set out to make more music?
We have always had album #3 in our sights after we finished Unimagine, but this was born out of a bit of time at home and doing what we do normally. It was a chance to write and record it naturally.
Reimagine is certainly a treat for fans, what's been their reaction thus far?
Amazing! People are discovering us by it, or rediscovering us by it. We try to avoid Youtube comments specifically but even there, people that have not enjoyed us/written us off previously have gotten into the new flavour to our music. People are getting that it's not just an acoustic EP, but completely reworked alternative versions and even having trouble deciding which version they prefer. If you ask us there's no need to compare, they co-exist just fine!
Yours fans have also been rumoring about a song that doesn't exist yet, named Ladders on Tables, and we read you might write it 'just because'. Should we maybe be expecting to see it pop up in the future?
Haha man... whoever edited our Wikipedia to create that rumour is having a field day. I had a pretty cool idea for what a song called 'Ladders On Tables' could be about if I did write it, so it's in the back of my mind. Would be a good story to tell if it happens! I wouldn't count on it though.
This month the six of you are touring Australia with pop-punkers Forever Ends Here, as well as Breakaway and Far Away Stables. Do you have a favourite place to go on tour (any country) and why?
Honestly I think Australia's our favourite place to tour as a whole, because there are so many friends who still come out to see us and hang. Maybe we're away so much it's their only chance to haha... but we've toured so many awesome places that it's a narrow choice to call a favourite.
In past interviews you've mentioned the challenge of finding time to write and refine new material between tours. Do you manage to write while out on the road?
Not as intently as we do at home, but different members have different approaches. Coops and Al do a lot of the skeleton work and they prefer being at home, as does Jamal with the keys. For me, I find being away from my 'comfort zone' is the most motivating to write lyrics. I think overall we just work with what we have and we don't know much else.
With so many tours under your belts and no doubt countless good (and not so good) experiences, what have you learned from touring?
How rad a country Australia is. We've seen the best and some of the worst of other places around the world and it does make you appreciate what is important to you. Also being such a diverse group of individuals within the band, we have had to learn a lot of patience and perspective so that we aren't constantly on different wavelengths. Traveling is one of the best types of life experiences. Would recommend it strongly to anyone.
Is there something in particular that you're most looking forward to on this tour?
We haven't had many AA shows recently here in Australia, so to be able to play AA shows in most capital cities this time around is really positive. Especially taking out Forever Ends Here, Breakaway and Far Away Stables, it's a good chance for us to feel old and wise but mostly old.
What's the most profound thing you've learned over the past few years? Is there any solid advice you can share with us, or anything you wish you knew sooner?
Personally I've been trying to learn as much as I can about everything I can – from a band perspective, in an industry, and even just new skills on my own. I do find the more you learn and understand, the less likely you are to be taken advantage of in whatever you do. There's always things you wish you understood years ago but there's no point regretting things, just improve on what is in front of your feet. Not pretending we have all the answers but it's certainly a big thing we've taken on.
Since the release of Ground Dweller in 2012 and Unimagine last year, you've progressed with your sound. What direction will you be taking your music in the future? Is there anything in the works at the moment?
We're putting together the beginnings of a new album for mid-next year, so feeling good about the early pieces of the puzzle. We hope that musically, it will be as natural a progression as from Ground Dweller to Unimagine. Beauty is in growth, if you aren't growing and progressing, you grow stagnant. We love challenging ourselves and our audience and hopefully the next music you hear from us will make perfect sense and ask all the right questions.
Lyrics: Reflect (Developments) by Hands Like Houses
We get in our own way, tripping on our feet.
Filling up our heads too much with words too hard to speak.
Drowning in a place, where the night can not escape,
Commit ourselves into the depths, exposed against a page.
Caught in a phrase, an echo in our minds,
A flash, a flood, and it’s burned into our eyes.
I can’t explain enough, and I won’t let it last the night.
I’ll show you that the image is still there unseen.
It’s darkest before the light, if we shut our eyes to see
The things that we have lost inside the lines between,
Between the black and white, where everything goes grey,
And everything’s unsaid, undone, and the negative bleeds away
To reveal the memory that we’ve waited for so long for.
The image shifts and the acid drips down the paper to the floor.
We’re so nervous to see if we we’ve let too much in
If we were out of focus or out of frame.
I know it’s a moment of truth, if a recollection captured reality,
Or if it’s lost forever.
I can’t explain enough. I won’t let it last.