The State Of Music: Part 6: Massachusetts - Hands And Knees

All hail to Massachusetts, the land of the free and the brave.

That's how their state song goes. Sadly I have never heard a vocal version. I would like to imagine the All HAIL! All HAIL! All HAIL! bit at the end is a bit Roman empire in its delivery. Or at least Brian Blessed in Flash Gordon.

So what have I learnt about Massachusetts? Well thanks to a map I know it is on the East coast, and thanks a guy called Dan, who reminded me he was born there, I have the following little nuggets for your brain hole.

Massachusetts has the two largest cities in the New England region (Boston & Worcester) and Boston itself had the first public car park in America.

I was also reliably informed by a chap on my Twitter that it is also where the Bee Gees were born

How's that for useless trivia?

You'll thank me in twenty years when you win that £50 bar voucher in a pub quiz.

Anyway, this week I have the great pleasure of introducing you to what I can only describe as a great band who I would very much love to see play live.

Hands And Knees

BUY ON BANDCAMP - DIGITAL DOWNLOAD $5 (£3 approx) LIMITED EDITION VINYL $15 (£9.50 approx)

It felt odd listening to a Christmas single when I first discovered Hands And Knees in August of this year. But any song that opens with the line "James Brown died on Christmas Day. Little baby Jesus came to take him away" is enough to gain anyone's attention. Indeed, it is only September and I have bought myself a copy.

As a band Hands and Knees are hard to place. At first look at the picture which adorns their bandcamp page (above) you would be very much mistaken to thing they are some kind of ramshackle folk band, but they are quite the opposite, what ever that is.

Why don't you decide for yourself. Have a listen to their Wholesome album & the previously mentioned Christmas single. And while you do that - have a little read of their interview below;

CMM: Welcome to Choose My Music. I suppose the first question is - who are Hands & Knees and where in the world would we find you?

H&K: Hands and Knees is a Massachusetts based group that splits their time between the western part of the state in the Berkshire mountains, and in the harder-to-get-to parts of the outlying Boston area.

CMM: How long has the band been in existence and how did it all start?

H&K: Carina, Scott and Joe have been around since 2005. Our first drummer Phil was with the band from 2006 to about 2009 I think, then Nick's been with us since then. Joe and Carina met in Las Cruces, New Mexico in 2002, and forced each other to play bad open mics for a while (not a good way to start playing out, I'd say) and wrote a few songs together, etc. They were back in Mass a few years later (they're both from MA), and got together with Scott, who is an old friend of Carina's. Scott has a long musical background playing in his family's bar band, maybe some other bands too, making music also in a dub group, recording different kinds of bands; so he actually has a good understanding of music. Joe and Carina at that point were basically new to the band thing.

CMM: How best would you describe your music?

H&K: Crypt clearing turbo folk. Just kidding. Really it's elemental party music with a hillbilly bent, and an emphasis on melody and pop nuggets, and we like to play fast with hoots and hollers and general fucked-uppedness. We all like the staple stuff like Bo Diddley and The Beatles, but if you put on the germs or the homosexuals, we wouldn't kick you out of the room.

CMM: What is the music scene like in Massachusetts right now? What the genre of choice out there at the moment?

H&K: The scene here is more electrifying than it's been in a looooong time here in MA. Of course, being located in 2 places at once gives you the privilege of seeing 2 separate scenes evolve and grow. I wouldn't say there's an overreaching genre of any one kind. There's definitely more of the DIY pop vibe that's prevalent in most of the country here too, but it's well mixed with an oddball assortment of styles. We also have a pretty bitchin' experimental music scene here as well. For long time we were mired in the shitty dive-bar rock scene of white boy ex-skinheads or whatever, or overwrought, under-written blues moves desguised as "indie rock", or just bad thuggy hardcore/punk. I guess I'm saying we had some truly lame-o shit happenin' here for far too long. Now it's sweet.

CMM: How would you describe your state to people like me who have never been there?

H&K: Well, it's beautiful, it's cold in winter and hot in summer and beautiful to look at during both seasons. We have the Mohawk trail that slinks through the Bershires in the west, with gorgeous rolling green hills and valleys. We have tired old mill towns, thriving hippy enclaves, and the sites of some of the earliest settlements in the country. Gorgeous Atlantic beaches, and we're home to some of the most well preserved nature sanctuaries and reserves in the nation. I should add that every man woman and child can outrun the average mountain lynx (but only for charity).

CMM: One thing I am hoping to find in this series is some kind of link between where a band is based and their music. Do you feel as an artist you are influenced by your surroundings and the scene around you?

H&K: Well, we have a lot of great bands in the area that fire us up and make us want to play better. And I guess we hear things that other bands do, and if we really like it, we'll go back and try to pay homage to it, or whatever. I think that as far as cities go, Boston is a pretty sleepy one, but with enough going on and enough fun people to make it interesting. Again, I think that splitting our time up between Western MA and Boston gives us a unique perspective, and allows our music to flourish in a slight vacuum. As far as the actual every day surroundings go, I guess there's a surreal and oddball quality to living in MA, and to us it's always a hysterical place. I dunno how to describe that exactly, but it is home to some of the most fucked up and funniest people on the planet, and I think we can all agree that it makes us laugh a lot. It can also be a tremendous bummer, because people can be so bitchy here, but most of the time it's a gas and there's no doubt that it enters into the music somehow.

CMM: What other influences does the band have, musical or otherwise?

H&K: Doomstar!, Shannon and the Clams, Sore Eros, Needy Visions, Tony the Bookie, Bo Diddley's "Have Guitar, Will Travel" and The Best Show on WFMU; and the really loveable new Happy Jawbone Family Band record. Also, all kinds of underground and overground stuff from everywhere we pick up on WMBR 88.1 from MIT (best station on the planet), and WZBC 90.3 from Boston College.

CMM: Could you maybe give us a run down of the music you have released so far?

H&K: Self Titled CD: 2007, Et Tu, Fluffy? CD: 2009 ,Christmas Single: James Brown Died on Christmas Day: 7" :2010, Wholesome LP: 2011

CMM: I am sure like most bands you get out and play live when you can. Where are your favourite places to plan both in and out of state?

H&K: We love playing in Carborro, North Carolina. In NYC we like playing the Cake Shop, they're all really nice there. In MA, we really like playing basement or house shows if it's a good one. The best nights of music going at clubs in the city at the moment are Mondays @ ZUZU and the first Wednesday of every month at The Middlesex, both in Cambridge.

CMM: What's next in the pipeline for Hands & Knees?

H&K: Write. Record. Write. Record. Repeat. A lil' trip outta town would be nice, and then who knows.

CMM: And finally, where can people reach out to you online and where can they get hold of your stuff?

H&K: Hit us HERE:

handsandknees.bandcamp.com

facebook.com/handsandknees

twitter.com/handsknees

Dom