Interview: Hands & Teeth

SCENEFEST: Hands & Teeth
[Note: The band was actually bought shots the day after the interview at S.C.E.N.E. Music Festival.]


I had the chance to sit down with 3/5 members of Hands & Teeth before a packed Horseshoe show supporting Hey Ocean! If you’re not familiar with Hands & Teeth, they released Enjoy Your Lifestyle last fall, an EP I instantly liked. Their EP garnered great reviews, but its their live show that first got my attention. Having been on my radar for a while, it was nice to chat with the band.

Jeff Pinto (vocals, keys, guitar) describes what makes Hands & Teeth unique. “We’ve got 4 people who, at one point or another, take lead vocal duties, so we’re trying to create one voice for the band while using different voices to create it. I don’t know if that’s what makes it unique, but that’s what challenges us. That’s what keeps us up at night.”

He continues to describe how this ties in with their live show. “Well, it’s kind of like delicate music played indelicately. We started with very careful arrangements. We still have very careful arrangements and very finely tuned pieces, but I don’t know we have fun when we play, so we end up sexing it up a little bit and rocking it up a little bit.”

Kevin Black (vocals, guitar) adds, “And I think we all know each other so well and we’re all really good friends, of course, so I think that comes across on stage. There’s a really good rapport between us and I think we’ve heard from the audience that they really enjoy seeing that and it comes across.”

All of the members of Hands & Teeth have been in previous bands, usually as the frontperson. Jeff says, “We all bring the different influences that we had in the bands that we previously had. But we started doing this out of frustration with what those bands could do.”

Natasha Pasternak (vocals, guitar, violin, keys) emphasizes that they’ve been able to bring experiences with what has and hasn’t worked to the table. Natasha also indicates that, while the band is certainly not old, they’re a little older than some of their indie music counterparts, which helps keep them from making some mistakes they might have made at a younger age.

Hands & Teeth is new to the Audio Blood community, but they know from experience how important community is. Kevin says, “I think it’s so integral. For one, you get inspiration from other bands that you’re around. But just having that support is to feel like you’re part of something larger than just what you’re doing when you’re in one room writing the songs. It’s nice to share experiences with other bands, support them, have them support you. And it’s beyond just the practical aspect. It’s nice to have that sense of family.”

Jeff adds, “For sure, especially since it’s such a grind. It’s hard work, so it’s nice to have a little support because you’re going to be broke, you’re going to be exhausted a lot, you’re going to need to borrow gear here and there. It’s essential to have a support group for that, one day at a time, one gig at a time.”

Jeff reveals that they have a follow up to Enjoy Your Lifestyle in the works. “We’ve finished pre-production on an 8-song follow up. It’s 8 songs, so it’s more than an EP, but it’s a bit less than an EP, so I don’t know whether you could call it a full-length. But it’s going to be out very soon. We’ve got all the pre-work done.”

Natasha describes their songwriting process as “organic.” She says, “It’s pretty organic. We’re never like, ‘Okay, let’s write tonight.’ Something happens and we all start playing and then someone comes up with a vocal melody and then someone comes up with a harmony and the next thing you know it’s sort of creating itself as we go.”

As I sit across from the 3 members of Hands & Teeth, Natasha sits between the 2 guys. I had to ask what it’s like being a female surrounded by 4 guys. Natasha states that “the music business is a man’s world and you learn certain things.” She follows with, “But I’m kind of a dude, anyway.”

Jeff then teases, “Yeah, you’re the dude who was combing 2 bandmates’ hair on the drive back from…”

Natasha interrupts, “I was picking their afros, first off. That’s a good bandmate.”

Jeff then retorts, “That’s not dude behaviour. As a guy in the band, I would never touch their hair.”

Natasha exclaims, “I saw you caressing AK’s hair.”

Jeff then says, “I would never touch the hair of another person in this band. I would touch yours, but I would not touch Kevin’s.”

Kevin responds, “I appreciate that.”

Natasha jokes, “I think you should. I feel like you would have a breakthrough if you did. Right now – intervention.”

Kevin says, “Maybe on stage during our set.”

After all the teasing, Jeff says, “Tash holds her own.”

Natasha claims, “I like it. I always grew up with guys being my best friends. I only had one female best friend and she’s in the music business too, so she’s totally like a dude as well. I love women, but I like being around guys. It’s pretty simple. It is what it is.”

Jeff jokes, “Yes, we’re very simple.”

As far as drunken stories go, Kevin says, “I don’t think we can remember most of them.”

Natasha adds, “We get into mischief, but never anything dangerous” followed by “We’re pretty boring.”

Kevin then says, “We try and keep ourselves under control when we’re playing, so we don’t associate the drunkenness with the band. We associate the partying with after, I guess.”

After wracking their brains, Jeff comes up with this story. “It’s not a drunk story, it’s a hungover story. We had a night where we got together on Good Friday and had a really long jam at the place we used to practice, my parents’ basement. And Derek (Monson – vocals, bass, guitar, dulcimer) showed up. We saw him drive down the street, but he never came in. We went out and looked and he was sleeping in his car in the parking spot because he was so green, he was so fucked up. We got him inside and downstairs and we all made brunch together. We fed him brunch and we were thinking it’s going to be the worst practice because he was so out of it, but then we ended up just jamming for so long and a bunch of the ideas we wrote in that session ended up being songs on this next EP. It all came in a burst, at a very unlikely time.”

Kevin then adds, “Hangover causes inspiration, I guess.”

Jeff agrees, “Well, I think it’s true. You see things differently when you’re hungover. You’ve got softer eyes.”

Natasha also agrees, saying, “Yeah, it’s true. You’re more open to things because you’re vulnerable.”

Jeff continues, “Yeah, stuff affects you more. You’re still kind of disinhibited too because you’re body’s still figuring out what’s going on.”

“Some of the small things don’t matter anymore. All that matters is feeling better and whatever you’re doing at the time,” Kevin finally says.

While they didn’t provide a drunken story, this story does give a peak at the development of the new music they’re looking to release soon.

Although Kevin indicates that if he’s feeling really tired, he likes tequila to wake him up, the band’s shot of choice is Jameson. Apparently Jager makes Natasha angry, so don’t bring her that… unless she’s sick.

Jeff signs off with some reminders. “We did a series of interviews for NxNE. If you want to know more about Hands & Teeth, go to handsandteeth.com. We interviewed each other. I’d recommend checking that out. And go to Bandcamp and check out the music that you can stream for free. And then keep an eye out for some new music.”

As Hands & Teeth ready their next release, pay attention to their online presence. Kevin adds, “We’re going to try to keep consistent with our blog entries, so there will always be something to check out online.”

Stay tuned for what this band has coming your way. If it’s as attention grabbing as the Enjoy Your Lifestyle EP, we’re all in for a treat.

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