Heavy Hands

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The Stooges/Blue Cheer/Groundhogs schools of rock have been pillaged by a good number of wanna-be's who feel a need to try and re-invent a sound that at its basic core should not be reproduced, but should remain sublimely dirty and raw.

It would seem that Heavy Hands understands this, and that is why on their debut full length Smoke Signals (Language of Stone/Drag City), they have produced nine songs of dark and hazy psych rock that is steeped in traditions laid out by not only the holy trinity mentioned above, but also electric blues of the 1960s and traces of Krautrock used sparingly.

I sat down with the guitarist/lead singer Sterling and bassist Mitch (drummer Matt was absent) to find out what it's like being “heavy.”

Can you back up the rumor that you are the tallest band in New York?

Mitch: It's hard to prove that but, 6'2″ is the average height.

Sterling: We feel pretty confident that if we aren't the tallest, we are up in the 99th percentile.

You guys have a weird face/symbol that adorns both your drum kit and the new album cover. What is that?

Sterling: It's a Sri Lanken mask. It's the kind of thing you use to ward off evil spirits.

You guys conjure up a lot of evil spirits when you play?

Mitch: Well, it's not bad to have some on your side.

This has got to be the most rock-oriented album on Language of Stone, an imprint that's become more known for folksy dream pop. What do you think about your place on the label?

Mitch: It's cool. On one hand it's good because I think we stand out. The other bands are a bit mellower so maybe we stand out, but they are coming from a similar place.

Sterling: We've played with a few of the bands on the label and it works out pretty well as far as making for a good bill. We're definitely hoping our sound will help us differentiate ourselves.

Do you think it works to your advantage to be the heavy band in the room?

Sterling: Well when you read some of the people who write about it, they say neither [member of Espers and label owner] Greg Weeks nor we don't come anywhere near to being folk music.

I know Greg has produced and guested on a good number of the releases his label has put out, was that the case with you guys?

Mitch: No, we actually had the album done by the time he talked to us about putting something out.

Sterling: He saw us live and sent us a line afterwards. We were going to shop for labels but Greg was interested so we decided to go with his.

The new album is called Smoke Signals. Is that an allusion to anything?

Sterling: Maybe. I think it speaks for itself.

Mitch: I have no comment.

Should I just take a guess?

Sterling: Maybe. Use your own allusion.