Interview // BROKEN HANDS
“You don’t have to be one thing, you don’t have to fit into one box”, we sit down with Broken Hands to discuss new music and their much awaited return.
“We’ve been under a rock making rock music but we’re happy to be out playing!”, Broken Hands’ vocalist Dale Norton exclaims as the band prepares to take to the stage at London’s Scala.
It’s been three years since the Canterbury’s rock quintet released their critically acclaimed debut album, Turbulence. Underpinned by a dark groovy tinge and bluesy rock ‘n’ roll grittiness, the record placed them at the forefront of alternative rock scene. The extensive tour that followed only strengthened their position, yet the band felt like it was time to step down and re-evaluate their goals and desires.
Comprised of brothers Dale (lead vocals) and Callum Norton (drums / backing vocals), Jamie Darby (lead guitar), Thomas Ford (bass) and David Hardstone (rhythm guitar / keys), Broken Hands are now ready to re-establish their status on the live circuit.
Highly ambitious and creatively recharged, they have returned with two new songs, ‘Friends House’ and ‘Split In Two’, which act as an introduction to their new musical vision. Frankly, a lot of things have changed. Leaving an independent record label, SO Recordings and signing with a major world player, Atlantic Records has been a real game-changer that has lied down as many opportunities as challenges they have had to face. Pushing their boundaries without ever forgetting where they came from, a new Broken Hands era has truly begun.
Opening up about the changes the band has gone through, Dale delves into the main themes that have shaped the new album. “First two songs are out for a reason. A lot of this record is about indecision inside a person. Whilst our last record was about activity that happens externally to someone, on this one we want to talk about more internal things.”
Reflecting on one’s inner doubts and uncertainty, the new body of work finds the band inspired by current affairs and an imbalanced state of the world. “By no means is this a political record or a social record, but there’s a lot of division around everywhere, you know”, Dale elaborates. “Sometimes it can be within a person, whether you’re coming or going, whether you’re happy or sad. When we were making this record we were torn between wanting to play live and knowing that we wanted to make a record that was right before we did it. This album is about being caught between two places, but we’ve learnt to accept it and you know what, you don’t have to be one thing. You don’t have to fit into one box, you can be a bit of one and mostly, down in the middle. There’s other stories and themes that are relevant to that but that’s the main conversation.”
We were naturally building something, we didn’t try to appease to anyone
Slated for 2019 release, the new record sees Broken Hands balancing on the verge of their old school influences whilst embarking on the path of musical exploration and experimentation. With American elements embed in their sonic core, Atlantic Records seemed like a perfect match for the young band.
“There’s bits of our DNA sonically and as musicians which is American, because British and American share so much and Atlantic Records label itself has done that for so long. We’ve learnt to embrace both bits of it really.” Discussing the difficulties they had to overcome, Dale adds in: “We haven’t managed to explore America very much, but the biggest challenge was trying to think what would work for them. We’re lucky to have worked with some good people who were kind of translators, if you like. They put us at ease. I think that country is more susceptible for our music, not that the rest of the world isn’t but the challenge was trying to figure out if we needed to translate the music to people in other countries, or if maybe we were universally sounding anyway. We were naturally building something, we didn’t try to appease to anyone. The label wanted us to be heavier actually, and that was refreshing.”
Career changes often bring a personal development along. With major shifts determining their lives, no wonder Broken Hands found themselves in the face of inner evolution and growth both as band and individuals.
“We’ve probably evolved the most as a group of people, a family”, Dale ponders. “Since we’ve been away, we’ve had operations, car crashes, near-death stuff…some mad stuff has happened to us not even being on the road. I think that has probably been the biggest test because when you’re younger and just starting out, you think you’re indestructible. By no means we’re porcelain dolls but at the same time we realised that we were human, and you’ve got to slow up a little bit sometimes. We’re probably gonna go super-fast again now you know, but we’re sort of adjusting to that. I think we’ve probably developed as human beings.”
Despite the odds and obstacles that life has placed in front of them, the band seems to have grown even stronger. “One thing to consider is that before we stopped touring we were not only in a van with each other 24/7, but we actually lived together, all five of us”, Dale emphasises. “Some people get in a van and are like: ‘it’s really stressful, I can’t be around you after two months’. For us it was like holiday, like taking our front room on the road. Since then, we’ve naturally gone and tried different things but if there are any spats we don’t notice them because we lived with each other for so long. I live with my brother now, we’re pretty tight.”
Since their inception, Broken Hands have been given the opportunity to share the stages with the likes of Blur, The Kills, Black Sabbath and the Rolling Stones. Not bad for a band who’s about to release their sophomore effort. Musing on the highlights and journey they’ve been on; some deeper thoughts rise to the surface.
“I think you can only pick a highlight from what you feel before you do it and when you do it”, Dale says. “When we supported Black Sabbath at Hyde Park that was a fucking break. They’re an important core of what we are as a band and when that call came in, I was high on that information and that feeling.”
You just have to figure it out yourself, there’s no book
Sinking into an even more reflective mood, Dale considers the advice he would give to his younger self. Knowing what he knows now, he reveals: “Don’t try and do something that already exists because by the time you’ve mastered that, everything’s moved on. Try and think of something that doesn’t exist a year ahead. Don’t try and emulate what’s now, create something new. That sounds obvious but when you’re in this industry you spend two/three years just getting better. You learn from what you know and what you see. You just have to figure it out yourself, there’s no book.”
And although he admits: “I always wanted to be a pilot but that’s not gonna happen”, music seems to have always been the obvious choice for him in life. “When I wake up I put my headphones in and I listen to music. So the first thing I hear is music, that’s what it means to me.”
Gearing up for their headline tour next month, there’s a lot of excitement and anticipation coming both from the band and their fans. As Dale reassures: “We’re gonna try and make as biggest spectacle as possible. We’re planning to step it up. The aim is to get people to forget about what’s outside for half an hour. It’s gonna be bright”, he also leaves us with a little teaser for the upcoming album release. “It is finished, and it has a title. We’ve released two songs ‘Split In Two’ and ‘Friends House’ and it’s one of those titles. I’ll leave it as a guessing game.”
Photos: Kasia Osowiecka