Band of the Week: Hands & Teeth
By Sabrina Nanji
Hands & Teeth (Image: Courtney Lee Yip)
Being in a band is like being in a relationship, and once you move in with your significant other, it can go one of two ways. For Natasha Pasternak, vocals and keys with Hands & Teeth, couch-crashing in the Parkdale house where most of the experimental pop-rock group lives resulted in their first full-length (ish) album.
It might only be eight songs, but Hunting Season has something for everyone, littered with vocal harmonies combined with fuzzy electric guitar riffs that give it some edge. Natasha’s voice (which might be what Gwen Stefani and Tori Amos’ offspring would sound like) keeps it balanced with whimsy romanticism.
With many of the members jumping around between vocals and instruments, these guys just create music they want to hear themselves. They are rock purists.
Tell me about Hunting Season. What was it like putting out your first full-length (ish) album?
We put out an EP a few years back and we thought it was time to do something with a few more songs on it, to do something a little more in-depth. We had just started the band, so the EP was very much an in-studio record — a lot of the sounds and songs were created in the studio as opposed to tested live. So with Hunting Season, it’s a collection of songs we’ve been playing live for a year. When we were releasing Hunting Season, we knew a little bit more who we were.
Hunting Season seems like it has something for everyone: there are some really laid-back folksy songs and some more upbeat electric, gritty tunes. I’m curious to know who some of your musical influences are?
Yeah, definitely, I think it’s exactly that, a reflection of our influences individually coming together. I know as far as my upbringing, my mom was a folk musician, which definitely got me into what I do today. She’s like, “Didn’t you know not to do this?” And I’m like “No, mom, you made it way too much fun!” So a lot of my influences are Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan — my mom was a ‘60s and ‘70s musician. We travelled all over America. Fleetwood Mac, Rumours, was like non-stop playing. And The Beatles, of course. I remember “Here Comes the Sun” was my every-morning wake up song.
It seems to me that the five of you all play a bunch of different instruments and jump back and forth on vocals. How does that affect your songwriting process?
It’s unlike a process or a band that I’ve ever been a part of. We’ll be writing a song, and someone will hear certain parts, and go over to the piano and start plunking out the part and say, “This is what I hear,” and next thing you know, you’ll be playing that in the song. It’s a very bare-bones idea. It’s been a very interesting process — I’m almost afraid to identify it too much, because it’s its own beast. We didn’t sit down and say, “Okay, we’re going to write this type of album,” we just wanted to be as organic as possible and write music that we really liked. It was a bonus that other people got where we were going with it.
And four out of five of you live together in Parkdale, right? What’s that like?
Yeah, the four guys live in Parkdale. It has a studio jam space on the third floor. It’s where we recorded the album, except for a couple of drum tracks. Dragging people’s amps and putting them on top of people’s beds — it was a really cool process. During the recording and the writing of Hunting Season I spent many nights sleeping on the couch, hanging out there. Being in a band is like being in a relationship, and then living with the person who you’re in a relationship with [laughs].
Can you give us any hints about this top secret show with Cai.ro on Friday?
It’s top secret! [Laughs.] It’s a new revolution of shows, doing alternative spaces and not necessarily playing in an environment that’s usually used as a band’s venue. We’re an unconventional band, so to play somewhere unconventional is perfect, and we’re excited to do more of that type of thing. And being creative in your space, I feel that you can play bars and do that sort of show, or use your imagination and get people excited about being in a different space. It just creates a different energy. It’s kind of like we’re not supposed to be there, so that makes it even more exciting.