Hot off the heels of the release of Hands Like Houses’ latest full-length album Unimagine, Music Feeds caught up with guitarist Alex Pearson to pick his brain about what went into the release. Following up from their debut, Ground Dweller was no easy feat though, much to the relief of Pearson, it appears lightning has struck twice.
It’s been a big year for the band who have spent a serious amount of time touring internationally. Pearson gives some insight into life on the road so far from home and drops a little hint as to when they will return Down Under for a tour.
Music Feeds: Thanks for taking the time to chat, Alex. Your sophomore album Unimagine has just been released. What’s the climate like in the band? Was this a case of the difficult second album?
Alex Pearson: Everyone is bouncing off the walls! This album was a lot more rushed than Ground Dweller but everything just clicked. Obviously there were loads of extremely stressful and trying moments throughout the writing and recording process but I think that just added to the experience and final product.
MF: You teamed up with James Paul Wisner for the release. What did he bring to the table once you hit the studio?
AP: He was really professional about the whole process. He really poured himself into the songs and wasn’t afraid to be upfront with his ideas and critiques. While we had never had anything like this before I think it really worked for us. I can’t imagine this record sounding like it does if we’d gone anywhere else!
MF: You guys kicked in the doors of the scene with 2012’s Ground Dweller. Did you find yourselves looking to this release for guidance, or did you want to try something totally fresh?
AP: For us we are always going to be proud of what we created with Ground Dweller but with Unimagine we wanted to have some kind of progression and show a little more focus musically. We tried to write songs being conscious of coming out with a cohesive piece of music rather than jumping from part to part and section to section. I’m really happy with how it all turned out!
MF: It seems like you had a lot of stories and messages to get into the new album, as individuals and as a band, from your last two years. What inspired the title Unimagine?
AP: Through our travels and experience over the last couple of years we’ve learned a lot about ourselves, about music, about the world and about people. I know that sounds broad but being away from home and your comfort zone exposes you to new ideas, new beliefs and new challenges and you have to question what you understand or know to adapt to those new influences.
Unimagine is about pausing to deconstruct and understand our present and the ideas and directions that are driving us so that we better understand them and ourselves. As a band we’ve been through this time and time again, and it’s refreshing when you start to break down the misconceptions and misunderstandings you may have been taught and start exploring other ideas and perspectives.
MF: Let’s talk about the first single Introduced Species. Tell us the tale behind this particular track. What made it stand out as a single?
AP: This was actually one of the last songs to come together for the album. It’s based on the idea of our generation waking up to the controlling environment that has been built over the last century. It sounds lofty but it is something important to us, if only at least to understand and see the way people try to manipulate and control each other.
As far as choosing it for the single, I think it was just the chorus. Our team loved the catchiness of it but also the darker edge of the song made it a good ‘bridge’ from GD to Unimagine.
MF: This was followed up by the release of A Fire On A Hill. You mentioned this track is special to the band. What inspired it?
AP: This song, musically, came out of Al’s admission – after years of self-deception and denial! – that Thrice are amazing and he wanted to write something with the same heavy tone but organic rock roots.
The lyrics came from the pressure of creating a second album, with all the expectations and not knowing for sure if we could make lightning strike twice. In a way, through the song we found this emotional connection and confidence in our abilities. Definitely surprised us as a second single as it was written as the closer, but I think that emotional injection comes through and people have obviously made that connection with the song.
MF: You’ve had plenty of experience touring throughout the US these days. Considering you’re from the other side of the planet, was it ever a struggle to crack that particular market? Or was your talent instantly noticed?
AP: It’s hard to know for sure as we are still learning the ropes of the US music industry. Coming from Australia is a challenge in its own right with the additional costs of flights, visas and travel insurance meaning you really have to hit your straps to make it viable.
But, that said, we have had a dream run of opportunities since coming here. So, while it hasn’t been easy, we feel like we have definitely been noticed. I think we are just playing the right music at the right time, the music scene is changing from the scream-sing formula and people want something a bit more real again.
MF: You’re still performing at Vans Warped Tour in the US. That must be an amazing experience. Is it everything you hoped it would be?
AP: It has been beyond fantastic. While it’s been a gruelling tour of long days and rough overnight drives, we have seen some incredible shows of support with awesome crowds and great reception. So it’s equal parts challenge and reward but totally worth it.
MF: How are Aussie bands such as Hands Like Houses treated on overseas events such as Warped?
AP: Well, there are actually a ton of Aussies on the tour – Tonight Alive, The Amity Affliction, ourselves, an Aussie guitar tech, an Aussie merch guy and a handful of other guests and ex-pats in and out through the tour. All the bands are doing fantastically well and it’s definitely inspired a little home pride in all of us! Plus everybody loves an Australian here, so it’s not hard to feel welcome.
MF: When can we expect some headlining shows from you guys Down Under?
AP: Not sure about headlining shows for the near future, but we do have a support tour and some other possibilities in the works for the remainder of the year. So excited to release the album at home and to tour off the back of it. We will always, always call Australia home and to be able to play shows at home will always be worthwhile for us!
‘Unimagine’ is available now. You can read our review right here.