The new We All Have Hooks for Hands album, The Shape of Energy, starts with a surprising blast of fingerpicked country-western-style guitar in the first strains of its opener, "Howling and Bellowing." It's a refreshing start to the third album created by a collective of musicians from Sioux Falls, whose members are constantly reinventing their structure and sound.
As a group, they now number seven, after once containing at least ten members and contributing artists early on. Their current lineup includes Logan Borchardt (guitar), Tory Stolen (drums), Eli Show (guitar, vocals), Tony Helland (bass guitar), Isaac Show (drums), Dave Lethcoe (keyboard, trumpet), and Tim Evenson (guitar, vocals). As you'll read below, their sound is not immediately easy to pin down—where their first album, The Pretender, feels more lo-fi, acoustic, and eclectically indie, the new album has a finer sheen and pop attitude despite being mostly recorded live.
What matters most for WAHHFH is the energy they exude on their albums, and especially onstage. It is their collective mentality that drives their writing and their live stage presence. We caught up with the group for an email interview answered collaboratively by members of WAHHFH before their current tour of the East Coast.
City Pages: How does the music scene in Sioux Falls compare with the Twin Cities'?
We All Have Hooks for Hands: The difference is the lack of people, venues, and bands in Sioux Falls. We still have fun, though, and I think there were a lot of influential local bands while we were growing up in the scene. From when we first started, the older kids in the scene really supported us. And everyone is very do-it-yourself, so it all really pushed us to where we are now.
CP: How would you define We All Have Hooks For Hands' sound?
WAHHFH: We seem to have a diverse musical background in the band, or at least an interesting combination of influences. I don't think we try for any genre specifically, though; we try to just write songs and let them go where they should go. At the same time, we're always trying to push ourselves to do something different.
CP: The band has shrunk in size, down from ten members to seven. What brought about the change?
WAHHFH: Well, people are traveling right now and graduating college. I think everyone is still in the band; they just don't play with us all the time. We started out somewhat as a collective, so we had a bunch of people play in the band knowing that it wouldn't always stay constant. The core people are still in the band, and everyone feels strongly about being involved.
CP: Your newest album, The Shape of Energy, has a more polished sound than its predecessor, The Pretender. Was this a deliberate shift?
WAHHFH: The difference on this album is that we were able to have time to write and practice the songs, plus we recorded it in a completely different way. For the first record we single-tracked everything and had almost 35 tracks per song. The new album was recorded live, where everyone played in this single room, and it built this different kind of energy. We still single-tracked the vocals and a few other things, but it was a way different approach than on the first record.
CP: Some bands use a clear vocal track to deliver a message and others simply use vocals as another instrument among the whole. Is there a message your band is trying to convey, or are the vocals one more track in the sonic collage?
WAHHFH: The lyrics mean something for sure; where they are placed is just a preference. I think when you tend to hear vocals sometimes way too loud in the mix you lose a lot of the nuances from the instruments. We have a lot of members, so why put a focus on one thing unless it's supposed to stand out?
CP: Playing in a collective group such as yours, has it been difficult to write songs that everyone's happy with, or is it a collaborative effort?
WAHHFH: One person usually spearheads most of the song, and then we come together and mold it into something as a whole. We tend to throw away a lot of stuff just based on how everyone reacts to a song or if they can remember it. Memory seems to play a big part in how things come out. We love writing songs and sometimes argue about which ones we dislike and which ones we enjoy most.
CP: The sleeping situation on the road for a band your size can be a tough thing to manage. Where do you sleep?
WAHHFH: Anywhere and everywhere. Ladies?