Catching Up w/ Somerville Based Indies Pale Hands
Kicking things off today with an interview featuring Somerville based indie collective Pale Hands. The trio have been conjuring up indietronic dream pop landscapes for a few years now, enveloping listeners with their incredible sounds that are starting to create an aura and buzz around town that is almost impossible to ignore. Two thirds of the trio Mike and Nick were nice enough to spend some time as we get better acquainted with the group, how it formed, their creative process, what it was like to record their upcoming LP "Graphism", and where they see themselves moving forward. Here is the transcript from our chat:
Give us your names and roles in the band?
Jen - Synths, sounds and vocals
Nick - Guitars, sounds, and tone
Mike - Drums and sounds
Take us behind the formation of Pale Hands and how it all started?
Mike: It began as a bedroom project ... a way to express and voice some lingering ideas. Jen started with an iPad, some synths, and some songs slowly evolved out of it. Jen and I knew Nick from other musical projects and we joined forces and brought his unique approach to guitar and use of soundscapes alongside the synths and sounds to create what is now Pale Hands.
Describe your musical influences that shape your sound and how the individual influences have shaped you?
Mike: I'm drawn to melodies first and foremost. It doesn't necessarily have to be a vocal melody, but any melody that really sticks with you once you hear it. As a drummer, I'm also influenced by the mixing of traditional drums with electronic percussion and samples. My goal is to meld electronic sounds into an otherwise organically manufactured aural landscape based around loops and melodies and kind of reference primitive and elemental sounds.
Nick: For me I think I go towards anything that makes me feel something. Sad. Happy. Angry. Resolution. I'm looking for music that has the ability to tap into something that I may not be able to put a finger on. I don't care if it's Radiohead, Jackson Browne, George Harrison or Sylvan Esso - I'm just looking to better understand myself through songs.
Take us behind the recording of "Graphism" and what the whole experience was like?
Mike: I treat the recording process as the creation of a repository of sounds, sample, loops and ideas. Jen and Nick lay down ideas based upon a theme or structure we might have come up with during rehearsal, and then we start to pull them apart to see what works and what doesn't. A lot of the finished sounds are generated by mixing various sounds and resampling them over and over until the final result doesn't resemble the original. Every time is different as well, it's just in-the-moment type of thing – we know it when we hear it.
Nick: Answering only for me but it was a new way of writing songs: piecemeal but as a whole. I liked giving Mike snippets of things and then him arranging them as he sought fit. I think it goes back to having a lot of musical trust in both Jen and Mike as a newcomer to this project. While we've worked on things in the past before that has set a precedent for their work ethic and taste, it was fun to hear things that I wrote that I didn't recognize at first or I may have cast off as "silly". I also like relearning these songs and reforming them to play live. We're quickly learning that what works in your headphones may not work in a live setting overall.
What are some of your favorite songs off the new record that best encapsulate the spirit of the album?
Mike: I really like the laid back feel of Seaside Cure. That's one where we ended up slowing the tempo down and stripped back the verses and left the resampled bass part to bounce along. The flute melody was created using a couple different parts that we sample, chopped up, and reformulated after send through a long chain of effects. I also really like the how Nick’s bridge guitar solo intertwines with the flute sample - the organic playing off the manufactured and anomalous - the contradiction of incongruities.
Nick: Reformation is sort of a departure of any song I've ever written. The Hologram Dream Sequence guitar pedal sort of shaped that song for me (and is all over the record) mainly because it allows me to play the guitar in a different manner than I had before. Reformation also speaks to how you can find new meanings in a song every time you listen to it. Sometimes I hear it as an angry song. Sometimes it's a journey. And sometimes it's hopeful. Maybe it's just a reflection on what you need the song to be at the moment you hear or play it which I think is what I wanted out of this grouping of songs.
Besides music, what do you like to do for fun and leisure in your spare time?
Mike: I love riding bikes (with either 1 or 2 wheels) and going on walks with our elderly beagle.
Nick: Repairing guitars, riding my bike.
What's coming up on tap for the rest of your year, any shows around Boston to promote the new record?
Mike: For the the rest of the year, we'll be reapproaching our live set. We're always searching for new ways to express the songs in a real and tangible way that will connect with the audience. We've been trying new things live and have a few new tricks up our sleeve in the works ... many of which will be revealed at a special New Year’s Eve show. Details to follow!
Lastly, what did you learn about yourself and each other since forming this group?
Mike: Pale Hands has taught me to let go. Much of our process revolves around the unknown - trying to tap into the unconscious ideas that are trapped by our own preconceived notions. Stepping away from live drums and programming beats has allowed me to approach music with fresh ears and opened up a side which was otherwise hidden.
Nick: I learned that playing guitar and music as a whole with these two people still fills a void for me. By the time Velah ended I was pretty burnt out/jaded and felt like music wasn't going to happen for me. Once we finished Windows and Seaside Cure I think it hit me that this was still where I needed to be.
Thanks once again to Mike and Nick for taking some time out of their schedules to do this interview! The trio are definitely moving fast up on my list of favorite local acts, and they offer up something different that no other local band can deliver and make the listener feel like they're part of the act. Definitely an act worthy of checking out when they roll through town. For more info on Pale Hands, please 'Like' them on Facebook over here and check out their music over on their Soundcloud site at this spot here.