By Tyler Laing
Hands & Teeth are a Canadian band on the rise. Last year saw the group play some well-known events north of the border, and 2012 is looking even brighter with both Canadian Music Week and South by Southwest on the horizon. Renegade Radio caught up with Adam Kolubinski, drummer of the Ontario rock and roll outfit, to discuss the band’s musical approach, its plans for 2012, and some of the things Hands & Teeth have learned along the way.
It sounds like your approach has changed a bit between Enjoy Your Lifestyle andHunting Season. Did certain experiences or lessons from the debut shape this most recent EP?
When we recorded Enjoy Your Lifestyle we had only been together for a pretty short period of time. Basically, we started jamming, we started writingsongs. We were liking what we were putting down and we kind of wanted to get that stuff on record as soon as possible. The difference between that approach and the one that we took when we were doing HuntingSeason is pretty much that every song on Hunting Season was live-tested before we put it down on record. The songs might be a little bit pointier, a little bit more rough around the edges than the ones on Enjoy Your Lifestyle, and I think a lot of that has to do with how those songs came to be in a live environment instead of a studio environment.
Once a member of the band has a song in mind, or some facet of a song in mind, you guys have an interesting way of developing it into a complete Hands & Teeth entity. Can you tell me how that works?
Whether it’s a riff or a verse or a chorus or something, it’s basically bringing it into the room and saying, “Hey I’ve got this, it sounds like this, what do you think?” We’ll kind of jam on it, and because of all of our different influences and whatnot, it will be something we can sort of twist and mould and shape, and end up looking and sounding like something completely different when everybody has had their bits on it.
How does everyone respond to that workshop-style process?
It’s important to remember when you are in a creative environment, however hard it is, to separate yourself from your work. When you’re used to calling the shots all the time and you come into an environment that’s a little more collective, it can be shocking and it’s important to not take idea changes or suggestions personally. At the end of the day, all we want to do is write really good songs and music that people like. And I think everybody recognizes that, and as soon as you can take two steps away from the baby that you bring in, the result is just going to be so much stronger.
Do you guys have a certain approach when you’re preparing for a live show?
We aim for dynamics in our set, and that’s something that we’re being very cognizant of. We’re not huge talkers. We’re not up there cracking lines between songs. What we’re basically doing is performing a program for people. It has its ups and downs, it has loud and soft and it has fast and slow, and we really try and battle those dynamics throughout the set so that we are not bombarding the crowd with the same frequency for too long. We’resort of turning it into a little bit of a push and pull, a bit of a tug-o-war. There is also a lot of artistry put into the songs and that is something we try to make sure comes across when we play them live.
What were some of the more memorable moments from 2011 for you?
We played with a great band from Japan called the Zoobombs. It was actually just after the tsunami hit so they were a little bit down, but just playing with them at the show at that time and seeing how they can kind of just put their feelings aside and get on stage and really giv’er; that was pretty awesome for us. We were really happy to be there, to give them support and join them musically at the same time.
What are some of the things you are learning as you get to play alongside different acts?
We are learning a lot about not trying to always compare what we’re doing to what other people are doing. I think that’s a track that a lot of new bands fall in to. They’ll play with a band that has been around a bit longer than them, maybe a bit more popular than them, and they’ll almost look at them and be like, “Oh, we should be doing that. If that’s working for them and we’re doing something similar, how come it’s not working for us?” The more you play these shows and the more you hang out with these other people, you realize that there is no formula for success, there is no formula for being popular.
You guys have a couple big events coming up, such as South by Southwest. What are your plans going in?
South by Southwest is interesting because we’ve never gone down to the States before, let alone Texas. We’ve never crossed the border as a band, never had to get visas. Almost everything about this is a new experience. We’ve never even been in a van that long together. Driving down is going to take us two or two-and-a-half days. What we are trying to focus on is making sure we can sort of stay visible at SXSW. There are so many amazing bands playing, and beyond the big ones there are thousands of other ones that probably have as much visibility as we do.
What are some of your other plans for 2012?
We’re starting to write new material a little bit. Hunting Season came out in January and all the songs that appeared on that album we sort of had in our repertoire for a while. We’re getting really excited about the prospects of coming up with some new stuff, especially on the heels of this album.
When can we expect to have you guys out here on the west coast?
I would love to go to the west coast. Doing a coast-to-coast tour is almost like a rite of passage for any young Canadian band. I think we’ll come out to the west coast when the demand is there. I know we are all very interested in going out west, it’s just a matter of logistics and that it’s the right time. I’m sure that time will come.