With several EPs and a split under their belt and pop-punk on the rise once again, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania’s Handguns squatted in a storage unit this past winter to put together their debut full-length, Angst. Now in the studio with Chris Curren putting it to tape, AP had a chance to talk with guitarist Jake Langley about the new wave of pop-punk, their revolving door of members (that seems to finally be settled) and the awesome friendship they have with their producer–and how its helping their record come together perfectly.
Interview: Matthew Colwell
So you guys are in the studio with Chris Curren who’s recorded bands like A Loss For Words and Vanna. Why did you choose to go with him?
Where we’re recording right now is his parent’s basement, which is next to this giant lake and we told him we didn’t care if the record sounded like shit as long as we could be next to that lake. He’s actually a good friend of ours. We [were scheduled to record] one song with him when Taylor [Eby, vocals] wasn’t in the band for that hot minute. We were planning to record a song and had it booked, but then our drummer’s car broke down, so we had to cancel the recording. Well, in between the time we had booked and our rescheduled date, Taylor rejoined the band, so we went and recorded with him anyways because the time was booked and we really liked the way the single sounded.
We were like, “Dude, we want our whole record to sound like this.” We really liked the production and we really liked working with him. He gets exactly [what we’re going for]. We were just all on the same page, so we wanted him to do the record.
It’s great when producers and musicians mesh that well. What is it about Curren that puts you guys on that same page so well? What’s he doing to shape Handguns’ sound this time around?
We figured out our sound. Taylor and I write a lot of the songs and then we all throw them together, so we know how we want these songs to sound. Every time we say, “Hey, I want this song to sound like this” he’s just like, “I got it” and we’ll start going at it and it’s exactly what we were thinking. It’s like he is another member of the band, but isn’t. It’s weird—like telekinesis or something.
We’re kind of a lot to handle because we’re bouncing off the walls sometimes. We do some pretty outrageous things and some people don’t get it. He’s not stuck up at all—he laughs at our stupidity.
Being your first full-length, was the writing process any different since it’ll be a longer record? Was there more forethought into the vibes on each song?
It was completely different. All the songs for Anywhere But Home I had written. Handguns wasn’t really a band until 2010. That’s when we started touring and taking things seriously. That’s when we say the band started even though there’s a bunch of ex-members. Even everyone who is an ex-member says, “You know what? I wasn’t even really in Handguns.” That’s what they all say.
Then it was like we were touring so much that we were writing it as we go in the van. I had songs and it was like those songs were never really looped together. This time we lived in a storage unit in Pennsylvania in the dead of winter. We would all sleep in a storage unit in the dead cold with tons of sleeping bags and we just lived—illegally, we were squatting—and wrote these songs together.
It’s still the same sound, but the songs are better. The lyrics are better, the chord progressions are better and the structures are more thought out, but it’s still Handguns. We didn’t lock ourselves in a storage unit to write a rap metal record. We’re just more prepared this time. We’re still a pop punk band.
And pop punk is definitely in a good place right now. A lot of the bands you guys tour and associate with like Man Overboard and The Story So Far are doing really well for themselves. With that in mind, though, how are you trying to avoid the inevitable hype wave that is coming onto this scene as it becomes more flooded?
It’s hard. Just wait until you hear the record. I know exactly what you’re saying. There are a lot of newer bands that are trying to copy off of the current scene itself. They’re drawing inspiration from [the current scene], so their songs sound exactly like that, but I try to listen to absolutely everything. I feel like from the time I was 13 and got into alternative music, my tastes have just gotten broader and broader. Like, if I saw some guy yodeling, I’d probably be like, “Wow, this guy rules.” A lot of newer bands have a very narrow amount of bands they draw inspiration from, I guess. There’s a ska song on our record. It’s 220 beats per minute, it doesn’t slow down, it has horns—it’s fucking ska.
I don’t want to call our record eclectic because every band says their record is fucking eclectic. I hate trying to describe our record before it comes out. If you need a quote, just say it’s rap metal. Whatever. I have faith in these songs. We locked ourselves in a storage unit for three months and lived this thing. I’ve been writing pop punk songs since I was 13 and I’m 25 now—this is everything we have.
I think the band being stoked on their own songs is a great starting point, so it definitely seems like you’re headed in the right direction.
Definitely. And I’m not saying we’re The Shape Of Punk To Come. We’re not Refused. We’re not reinventing the wheel—we’re playing songs we think are fun and hope other people think are fun. That’s pretty much it. We’re a pop punk band. No pop punk band is reinventing the wheel.
That’s a very levelheaded approach to being a pop punk band right now. Not presenting any fluff and just saying, “Look, we want to write tunes, tour and hang out with our friends.”
Exactly. We’re not like, “Oh, we’re going to save the world. We’re so artistic and involved.” No, we’re just writing songs. And I love music that makes absolutely no sense at all, that’s just not what I want to play. We don’t want to be a band for 5 or 10 years. We want to be a band for 50 years. This is it. This is what we want to do with our lives. If we’re 45 and can’t draw 100 people, we’re still going to do it.
Sounds like a great goal to have. So what else do you want people to know about the record?
The record is called Angst and look up the definition of it. It’s about all the anxieties of things we’ve all been through. The full deluxe version will have 16 songs—there will be 12 on the regular release, I think—about shit that everyone deals with. I feel like a lot of bands try to put themselves on a pedestal like, “Oh, my thoughts are so perfect and new and I’m the only one who’s ever felt this way.”
For us, it’s like, everyone goes through the exact same shit. We’re not bringing ourselves above anyone with our music—we never have and we never will. We wrote 16 songs about real life shit that we’ve been through and stuff that anyone can deal with and relate to.
You don’t have to be some fucking music critic or be this way or that way to “get” Handguns. No, we want metal kids, hardcore kids, 90-year-old grandmas and everyone in the world to listen to Handguns. It doesn’t matter if you’re gay or straight or Christian or Atheist or Muslim. Everyone deals with the same topics. That’s why we write the music the way we write it. alt