By Rob van Alstyne
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Fans of 89.3 the Current will undoubtedly be familiar with the Idle Hands, even if they don't recognize the band by name—their new single, "Loaded," has been spinning nonstop since lead singer Ciaran Daly sent over a burned copy of his new CD on a whim.
"We sent a CD-R to the Current, in the hopes that they would maybe play a track or two...and they just started putting it into heavy rotation," explains Daly over a glass of wine at a bistro near Loring Park. "It literally was a CD-R with Sharpie on it that we sent to them, so we weren't really expecting that at all. We were shocked and delighted." He grins modestly, a strand of his jaggedly cut hair hanging over one eye. "It's kind of weird hearing yourself on the radio. But I think I could get used to it."
"Loaded" is the first single off the band's debut full-length album, The Hearts We Broke on the Way to the Show, which was just released locally this month. The Idle Hands have existed in one form or another since 2002—they opened for Brian Jonestown Massacre at their very first show—but the process of getting a full album recorded and mastered took a good portion of the last decade.
"We did the first four songs with Mark Needham—a friend of ours hooked us up with him. He did the Killers, and Cake's Fashion Nugget," Daly explains. "We flew out to L.A., and he recorded four songs for us. He did that for free, in the hopes that a major label would give us bags of money, and then major labels stopped giving people bags of money." The rest of the tracks were recorded at the Devil's Workshop with prolific local engineer Chad Weiss, and then sent to renowned producer Tony Lash (Elliott Smith, the Dandy Warhols) for mixing.
When asked how his band managed to work with such talented studio professionals, Daly just shrugs and smiles. "We were really lucky."
The handiwork of all involved is evident on Hearts. The album has a classic feel; strains of similarly disenchanted singers like T.Rex's Marc Bolan and Pulp's Jarvis Cocker are present in Daly's scoffed lyrics, while the band churns out tightly woven post-punk and new-wave-influenced pop. Songs like "Loaded," "The '80s Killed Your Boyfriend," and "The Fall" showcase Daly's wry sense of humor and general disdain for all things mainstream.
Daly says that a childhood spent moving from country to country gave him a unique perspective on his place in life. Though you could classify Daly as a local scenester (his CD-release show at the Kitty Cat Klub a few weekends ago was filled with the city's hippest fashionistas, and he seems to be friends with every musician and artist in town), you'd be hard-pressed to find a spot of pretension in his demeanor.
"My earliest memories are of Vienna, in Austria," he says. "Then we moved briefly to Ireland—my parents are Irish—and then after that we moved to England for about four years, and then we came here. So that was a culture shock. I was 12. I was the sort of 12-year-old kid with a bowl cut who was used to wearing a school uniform. I was the dorky, troubled outcast, loner weirdo in high school. But I think that's a pretty good rite of passage for people, because hopefully it stops you from repeating the mistakes of high school over and over again—caring a little bit too much about what people think."
Now that his music is being fed to the Twin Cities masses via the Current, Daly says he has already seen an increased interest in his band. Right after the Current started spinning "Loaded," he says, "we played at the 331, and I remember looking around being, like, 'Who the hell are these people?' Where did they come from? As much as I love the local scene, and I have a lot of friends in it, it's nice to play to somebody besides the few hundred people that you know. That's been very noticeable."
The Idle Hands plan to release their CD nationally this September through Pretty Kids Collective, and follow up with a national tour. Daly says he has high hopes for the future of his band. "We want to do this for a living. This is what all of us want to do. And I want roadies, goddamn it," he says, laughing. "I want a toothless dude named Nigel from Stoke-on-Trent with a bad coke habit who can wire amps by hand to carry my shit around for me. I want that going on."