An Interview With Shane Oschner (Guitarist & Vocalist) of Hands
by: Brandon Jones for Indie Vision Music
So it’s been awhile since we last spoke and I am excited to hear where you guys are at right now in your lives and musically. Tell me a little bit about where you and the rest of Hands are at here in 2011.
Well, my wife and I just recently bought a house in Kansas City. I am literally days away from becoming a father for the first time, and I can’t even begin to tell you how much that’s been rockin me lately. Insane! The rest of the guys are up in North Dakota, working and shoveling their cars out of the 80 inches of snow they have there at the moment. Musically, it’s safe to say that all of us are ready to get some new material out there! Josh just recently drove down to Kansas City, and did some writing with me for a week or so. We basically just jammed in my basement every night, and video taped whatever we thought was worth keeping. It was nice to write again, it feels like it’s been forever!
A lot of our readers are new to the IVM site and therefore don’t know that we have worked with Hands since the very beginning when you released your first couple of demos through our various free compilations. I personally have been following your music since then and I love how it’s changed over the years and developed into the sound it is today. Tell us a little bit about those early demos and the progression found in recent music.
When Hands first started, we had no intentions of really doing anything with it. We all were coming out of different projects, Josh had not played drums in over 4 years! We just started jamming together for fun, and the first thing that came out of that was our song “Definitions”. And eventually, “The Everlasting EP” followed. We didn’t have a specific sound in mind when writing these songs. We just did whatever felt right, and at the time, those songs felt right! They were more up tempo and accessible to people, but still different enough to set us apart from most of the other bands in our music scene. Our sound has certainly changed over the years, but I feel like there is still that element in every Hands song that let’s the listener know it’s us. Our policy from the start, is we are going to write whatever we want and be as honest in our writing as possible. If people are into it, that’s great. If they are not, that’s cool to. We’re not out to break charts and set sales records, we just want to give people something that they can enjoy.
You guys signed with Oort Records which was an offshoot of Lobster Records, home of Yellowcard and Over It’s early albums (Classics!). Tell us a little bit about that relationship and how they found a little band from North Dakota.? What transpired to get your “Everlasting” ep to iTunes? Why was the ep removed the first time from iTunes?
Oort Records found Hands via MySpace, shortly after we had recorded our first demos. Lobster had some issues, and they were starting Oort to get a fresh start and needed new artists. Oort signed us for a one album deal, which was to be recorded after the release of our EP. Now because we were going to give them a full length, they offered to help us get our EP online. No contract, no deal, just a simple nice gesture on their part. Everything was going great, and it really felt like good things were happening. Not long after, the label folded and our “Everlasting EP” was no longer available online. And the problem is, we can’t register it again because it had already been registered before, under Oort Records. Our relationship with them is non existent at this point in time, leaving no way of getting them to sign it over to us. Major loss.
After The Everlasting ep was released in 2008, you guys went back into the studio and recorded was become a classic in the genre, The Sounds of Earth, which was very much a “Concept” record. How did you guys transition from the metalcore sounds of your Everlasting ep into this prog/ambient/metal band? I loved The Sounds of Earth. What happened with Oort Records and why was Sounds of Earth removed from iTunes? Will it ever see the light of day again? Maybe a Facedown reissue?
We honestly viewed The Sounds Of Earth, as a great opportunity to try something completely different. Just for fun. So we spent a month writing in a little farm shed in middle of nowhere North Dakota, for 5 hours a day. It literally all started with the opening riff to “Judgement”. Josh looked at me from the drums and said, “well, let’s rock and roll man.” And away we went. It’s funny to because the track listing on the album, is the exact order we wrote them in. Writing that record is one of the greatest experiences I’ve ever had. It was truly, just rocking with some of your friends and making music. None of it was dissected, or re-written, or “you should play something different there”, or “Are kids going to be into this part”. And I truly believe that people can sense that when they listen to it. But maybe it’s just me, I don’t know.
The Sounds Of Earth was released via Oort Records in February 2009. It was only available for 3 months, when all of the sudden the walls came crumbling down. Oort lost their distribution, and the album was immediately gone. It was not long after that, when Oort stopped answering our phone calls, and ignoring our e-mails. It was becoming clear that our album was gone, and there was nothing we could do to get it back. We’ve never seen a dime from it, and we never will. We have tried to buy the album back from Oort, offering them 3 times the amount they spent on the project, and still they refuse to let it go. It’s a situation that none of us understand, and it’s a shame that it happened. I hope someday that we get it back, but it’s very, very doubtful we will. I can’t help but feel like we’ve been robbed.
Creator followed shortly after the release of Sounds of Earth and was also an epic album although different from the prior concept related album. How the heck did you guys write, record, and produce, TWO full length albums in one year? Is that sort of why you’ve taken a break since then? Was it overexposure or exhaustion? How do you personally feel about Sounds of Earth and Creator now that they’ve been out for awhile? Any favorites? Favorite songs?
I honestly love both of those albums. I am not ashamed to admit that I rock a Hands album every once in a while. Off of both those cd’s, my favorite tracks are “Despair”, and “Hope”. And also “Hurricanes”, “Robed In Majesty”, and “Resistance”. It’s crazy because we finished writing The Sounds Of Earth in August, recorded it September, and then started writing “Creator” in October. I remember at the end of writing Creator, we were all so burnt out that we took a month off from the band. Just to breathe a little! We definitely brought back some of the metalcore stuff for Creator, but introduced some of The Sounds Of Earth elements as well. It was a really nice mixture. All of sudden, we were no longer the “Hey you guys kind of sound like Life In Your Way, that break down in the middle was sick!” band. We were now the band that all of the hardcore kids stretched to before the REAL show started! But there were always those few people at every show that would come up and say “You guys were a breath of fresh air in this city, and your songs really hit my heart.” And it was those kinds of moments, that made everything totally worth it.
As I mentioned earlier, you guys have been on sort of a “Break” since last year, hiding out there in the frigid cold of North Dakota. he he. Why have you been on this “break”? Have you entered the studio yet? What producer are you working with on the new album? Do you have a title for this upcoming project?
We are not a touring band anymore, we just couldn’t afford to pay any more out of our own pockets to make things happen. We were an ambient progressive band, playing on tours geared towards synchronized head bangs and 808 sub drops every 10 seconds. We don’t really roll like that, so we always felt a little out of place. I love touring, and I already miss it so much. But, at some point you have to take a step back and look at the big picture. And unfortunately, it just didn’t make sense to stay on the road any longer.
In March we enter Covenant Studios in Kansas City with a great friend of mine, Joshua Barber, at the wheel. He is a very talented producer and engineer, and I really feel like he has the same vision as we do about the feel of this new album. There is no title as of yet for the project, but I’m sure we’ll think of something!
What do you think the most obvious difference(s) will be between the new project and prior material? Are you psyched about this new direction?
I feel like this new album, is more along the lines of our Sounds Of Earth album. Very big and driving songs. Less metalcore, and more dynamics. It’s crazy because the last time we wrote together, was October of 2008! So much has happened and changed since then. Our thoughts on music, and the whole scene that surrounds it, has changed. Lyrically, my mind is in a completely different place than it was a few years ago. The vocals are more intense. I think it’s going to be our best album to date, and I can’t wait to hear the final product.
What are some song titles you’re working with on the new album? Will this be a concept, a straight forward album, or a little of both?
It’s hard for me to tell what kind of album it will be when it’s all said and done. I’m not really shooting for anything specific, I’m just writing straight from the heart.
Let’s get a little personal here for a minute. How has your personal Faith played a role in the creation of music for Hands? What influences your songwriting abilities the most? Any people that you specifically look up to?
It’s hard to explain. I’m a visual kind of writer, if that makes sense. Anytime I’m writing guitar parts or lyrics for Hands, I have a video playing in my head. Like, a messed up vision that I created specifically for the feel of the song. For instance, I remember writing lyrics for “Hurricanes”. I had this vision of me laying helplessly in 2 feet of water, just off the shore of a lake. My internal wires and parts were spilling out, and floating away from me. And in that exact moment of certain death, I wanted God to kill me even more. Because I knew that only in that moment, would I actually give up all of my cares of the World. “Hold me down, reveal my faith.” All of the songs have had some sort of imagery in the writing process. Some people hear the song like I do, and some people take it their own way. As far as influences go, I don’t really have any big lyrical influences. Musically, my influences are all over the map.
What are the hardest aspects of being a Christian in a touring rock band? Any struggles that you guys are dealing with on a daily basis?
There’s a lot of people out there that don’t want anything to do with “Christian” bands. And to be honest, I don’t blame them. Max Bemis of the band Say Anything said it best in his song “Fed To Death”, when he wrote “There was a man from Nazareth, the fools as war pervert. They forged an image of his flesh to brand on mugs and t-shirts.” I could not agree more. It makes me sick going to festivals every year, and seeing how some new Christian clothing company has decided to draw Jesus this time. And what font they used to blow up on the back of the same shirt, to send their “offensive” message. I want people to know our band and who we are as individuals, and have no question as to what we stand for. But I also want them to know, that we love them and respect them for who they are, and we are in no position to tell them they are living the wrong way. It’s just difficult trying to explain to someone where you are coming from as a band, when they have already been so turned off by everything else in this music scene. Now that I’ve got that off of my chest, tear me to shreds!
Is it difficult sharing your message with an unbelieving or skeptical crowd? Do you have any stories from your road trips/shows that you’ve played over the years? What has been the most trying time you’ve experienced from your shows with bands that don’t necessarily share your views?
Honestly, we’ve never really had any issues with that. We’ve played with all types of bands. With all sorts of messages, positive and negative. We have always gotten along with all of them, and usually end up having great fellowship with them. Same goes for the crowds as well. Sometimes I’ll speak in between songs for a minute, and let people know what the song is about or why it was written. But most of the time, our music speaks for itself. It’s interesting to see how God works in the crowd. We’ve developed good relationships with several people, and most of the time it stemmed from “Hey, even though I don’t believe in God or completely agree with everything your saying, thanks for playing tonight I really enjoyed it.” And those relationships develop over time. I think it’s incredible, and you never know what effect you are having on someone’s life.
If you could tour with any bands, who would they be and can we make it happen? Do you prefer Christian market tours/shows, General market shows or a little of each?
Fear Before (The March of Flames) is always a band we’ve wanted to tour with. A tour with ISIS would be incredible. Metallica? Deftones? A Hope For Home? If you could make any of these happen, please do! As far as the market goes, it doesn’t matter at all. You tell us where to show up, and we’re there.
To be honest here for a minute, have you guys had any label offers outside of Facedown? Are you happy with your current label home or are you pondering a move?
Facedown Records, is the greatest label out there right now. I have never met such honest, good hearted people. It’s the real deal over there, and has been since the beginning. And here’s something everyone should know. If it wasn’t for Facedown, Hands would be done. Completely done. After we pulled the trigger on touring, Facedown figured out a way for us to put out another album! So if you are looking forward to this album, please buy it rather than download or steal it. It’s important to us that they benefit from this album, and feel like the risk was worth it. Obviously we are not a top selling band for the label, and any other label would have said goodbye a long time ago. So it is because of them, that we are doing this record. It’s been so encouraging and uplifting to be a part of the “family”, and we feel so grateful and blessed for the opportunity. But hey, maybe if Oort Records offers us another one of the banging deals…
With the current state of our economy and the fact that so many people have lost their jobs, what is the most difficult part of being in a touring rock band? Do you have a message for all those poor souls that have lost their jobs? Do you agree or disagree that our country is on the right track economically?
I am so thankful to have a job, because I know what it’s like to not have one. I sat down and did my taxes last year with my father in law, (who has trusted me to provide for his daughter, by the way), and my total income for the year of 2009 was $1700. It does not help that he’s also a career counselor for a living! I can’t even imagine being in the shoes of the many people out there that have lost their jobs. It’s pretty sad. I don’t think our country is on the right track economically, but I think we’re all hoping for the best. It will be interesting to see where we are at in 10 years.
We spend so much time (on IVM for instance) arguing about bands we enjoy and we waste hours with spats about theological differences and the reasons our “Favorite bands” make the choices they do. Do you believe there are more important topics we should be discussing rather than arguing about whether or not a band cusses, drinks a beer, wears neon clothing, or talks about partying? How do you feel about our little scene in general? Do you have any suggestions for how people should conduct themselves online and on message boards, etc.? What words of wisdom or advice do you have for these “kids”?
I am not much of a message board guy, nor have I been in a serious argument with someone on one. But arguing over favorite bands, or what bands choose to do in their spare time, just seems silly. Everyone is different, and has a different opinions and views on things. We all have different backgrounds and upbringings, we all have different tastes in music and different takes on what is cool and what is not cool. If you don’t like the fact that you seen the bass player of some band having a beer, then get over it or don’t listen to that band anymore. And, it seems even more ridiculous to jump on a message board and try to cut them down. I’m not perfect, I start bad arguments all the time over stuff that doesn’t matter. But I do my best to avoid it, as much as possible! Stay cool kids, everything will be just fine.
What is the biggest problem facing our world here in 2011 that you don’t feel has been discussed by like minded bands in our “scene”? Politically, it seems like most bands would rather sing about relationships and getting their hearts broken by a significant other rather than tackling important world issues. Why do you think that is? Are people to afraid to sing about controversial issues? For instance, a band called Craig’s Brother, has a song about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in our armed forces (Thousand Yard Stare) and I can’t find another band singing about the same stuff, at least from a Christian standpoint. It seems kind of sad. Why are our favorite bands not writing music about world issues and the current state of our economy?
It’s difficult for me to answer this question. Everyone has their own reasons for writing the lyrics they do. Some of them are honest, some are just to try and appeal to certain crowds, and some are trying to send a message. I guess you just have to listen to what you like, and take from it what you want. There are a ton of things to write about that are happening in this world, some good and some bad. I honestly don’t think I could write lyrics about something I can’t exactly relate to. You know? Not that I think certain issues are not important, or I could care less about them. But where my head is at the time, is all I can put down on paper.
Why do you think it is that some “Christians” are afraid of offending others with music that might be “Controversial” at least lyrically? I don’t mean that Christians should cuss or anything, but I think it’s our duty to push important subjects relating to the world and our place in it. I don’t mean to point any fingers here or single anyone out but it seems like “some” Christians are too comfortable in their situations and that controversy is something they run from. Why is that?
I’m not really sure. this kind of goes back to my answer for the last question!
Enough about that, let’s keep it fun for the rest of the interview. Top 10 current favorite bands, go? Top 10 favorite bands of all time, any genre, or decade?
1. Jimmy Eat World
3. Johnny Cash
4. The Jealous Sound
6. Cult Of Luna
7. Michael Jackson
8. One Republic
9. Bradley Hathaway
10. Misery Signals
If you purchased any music from 2010, what were some of your favorites?
Jimmy Eat World – “Invented”
Favorite places to play a show? Favorite club?
First Street Warehouse – Willmar, MN
Art Ambush – Waco, TX
Food of choice?
Full Slab Of Ribs – Oklahoma Joe’s BBQ (Kansas City, MO)
What is the last good book or magazine that you’ve read?
Johnny Cash – Man in Black (Autobiography)
If you could change one thing about our music scene, what would it be?
Almost everything. I’m probably just getting old though.
That about concludes our interview. Do you have any prayer requests that our readers could support you (and the rest of the band) with? How can us the fans, best support your band?
Sure! If you all could pray that the new album would come together smoothly, and the final product would be encouraging to people for years to come! Thanks Brandon, and Indie Vision Music! All of you guys have been with us since day 1, and I can’t even begin to explain how grateful we are for your support! We honestly, and genuinely, thank you.
Thanks Shane for answering my questions and I look forward to hearing your awesome new music. Everyone look for the new Hands album in stores July 5th on Facedown Records.