Musician Patrick Doyle and I recently had a conversation about the artistic community that Silverlake has cultivated and nurtured. Several great musical acts have emerged from the area over the past year, including Doyle’s own band, Handshakes. The group just finished a December residency at the Silverlake Lounge and released their second EP, Villains and Crooks, and in addition to discussing those achievements, we also talked about Handshakes’ upcoming shows and plans to work with 98.7.
Tell me a little about the history of Handshakes. How did you guys come together as a band?
Well, let’s see, it must have been in 2011. Max and Drew, our two lead singers, knew each other from college. We’ve all been in different bands, and both Drew and Todd had been in a band called Wintergreen. That band broke up, and Max was in a band called Controlling the Famous that had broken up as well. The three of them started jamming together, and then I had been recommended through a mutual friend, so the four of us started writing together in the middle of 2011.
That’s around the time you released Cryptozoology, right?
Yes, I think maybe because we’d been in bands before, we were trying to come up with, not a streamlined approach, but just a correct approach to going about things. We actually wanted to write songs and have an EP out first before we really started hitting the LA scene. We were really fortunate that the label that Wintergreen was on, Old Flame Records in New York, put out our first EP, and that took us a little further than I think we were expecting. We wanted to get something under our belts a little better than a demo to play for people, and right off the bat, I would recommend that for other bands; it’s definitely something that helped us with our buzz.
And that helped synchronize you as a band?
Totally, yeah. It helped us figure out our venn diagrams of how we worked together musically as well.
With Cryptozoology, you released a few remixes with some other band collaborations, correct?
We did, and most of those are different friends or mutual friends. It’s something that I think is great. It’s a skill set that is very unique and special, and if it continues to grow the way that it has, I think that would be a seamless transition from bands and artists putting out albums and then having remixes done after.
Do you plan on having remixes done of any of your new material?
You know, we honestly haven’t talked about it, but I would like to. We’d definitely be open to it.
You just finished your residency at the Silverlake Lounge. How was that for you guys?
It was really amazing. It was our first residency, and it gave us a great opportunity to kind of tie together our scene of bands in Silverlake and Echo Park. We wanted to do it right and follow along with our plan. I don’t think any of us thought we were going to write an EP and just send it off to 500 random A&R agents. We want to have a good live show, have a solid fan base, and be respected in our scene. The residency was perfect. All the nights were wonderful.
Now you have an upcoming show at the Satellite?
We do. We decided to take January off and regroup, and we’ve added a couple of new members over the course of the last few months to beef up our live show.
I noticed at your Silverlake Lounge show that you guys added a small horn section.
We did, yeah. We’re comfortable writing in the studio, so a lot of times we’ll write different parts or add different orchestration just because we think it’s cool or think it sounds appropriate. Then, of course, you have to figure out how to pull that off live. We’ve added some very, very talented musicians.
What’s next for you guys. Are you touring soon?
We’re not touring right now. We’re doing a video in the next couple of weeks, then on Monday [January 14th] we’re the guest DJs on 98.7’s Close to Home feature, so that will be fun. I’ve never done anything quite like that. I think it’s a good idea on their part to try and get the local scene involved in their station. They’ve been very generous towards us.
I saw you guys made it to their Top 25 local artists list.
We did. I saw that earlier. There are some really great bands on that list, so that was very exciting for us.
Listening to your album, the first couple of tracks are very different in comparison to the last three. You have a really broad spectrum of emotion and vibes that you cover throughout the EP. Would you say that you’d like to continue that larger range or rather hone in and establish a signature sound as some bands do?
I think the way that we write is very organic. Todd, Drew, Max, and I get together and really hash out the songs and arrangements organically. We may not have everything done, but it gives us a sound to start with. It’s after the fact that we usually go in and record drums and some of my bass parts. Then we start really tearing into things, so often times, I think that’s where that assortment of sounds comes from, us writing a lot in the studio and adding some different textures.
I think in terms of the future, I see some different directions we could go. I think we’ve started to get a little darker and into some synth stuff. I think if we wanted to go down the TV on the Radio sound of things, we could approach that, but I think playing these songs live during the residency was so beneficial because you just have no idea how they’re going to come across live. Then all of a sudden you can really see that a moment when maybe something was slowed down or the vocals go acapella or something really grabs your audience. I think in certain ways we’re going to start writing a little bit more in consideration of how it will be presented in our live set and think about what moments we might need more of to carry a really good set.
Who were some of your influences for Villains and Crooks?
I would definitely say there’s an element of old Weezer. We all respect the artistic nature of that. It’s done in a very concise pop sort of way, and it’s not these long, extended jams. I think we’ve got some Pinback in us. Probably some Spoon, White Rabbits, those sort of bands.
Who are some bands you can recommend to our readers that you plan to play when you DJ on 98.7?
We love this band called Warships. We played with them one of the nights of our residency. Wires in the Walls is a band that our guitarist Dave plays in as well, and they’re doing a residency in February. In our upcoming show, we’re playing with some really great bands: Wages and Max and the Moon. Bedcake is a spin-off of the band Ozma, and also Fire in the Hamptons, which I think is a great name. They’re the last band on the bill. I really like a band called Races as well.
I think that right now, LA is experiencing the best music scene since I’ve been here. I’ve been here about a decade, and I really do feel like right now there’s a focus on Silverlake. People are starting to pay attention to some of the bands and acts that are coming out of there. Over the years I think they’ve set a pretty high standards of quality for acts they’ve been putting in those clubs. It’s really exciting. I think that this next year is going to be really good for LA and the music scene.
Do you see yourselves putting out a full-length album in the future?
I think so. We’ve already started writing again. We’re trying to be ahead of the curve and have a release that we’re promoting on one side of things and also playing shows to promote. We know that if we’re going to be a successful band or to reach the level that we’d like to, we always have to be writing. We know that talented bands, successful bands, are writing all the time and constantly rehashing old parts that they remember or think are kind of cool. We also record all of our rehearsals to sift through old things we do and revisit.
To learn more about Handshakes and what they’ll be up to in 2013, check out their website.