Open Hand’s latest release YOU AND ME is a triumph for many reasons besides the stratling 41 minutes worth of music that it spawned. It shows Justin Isham’s true grit to persevere in the face of adversity. How? Well, when your whole band abandons you within the course of three months (two of which while on tour in Europe), things usually don’t look too promising. Undaunted, Isham pulled up his bootstraps, recruited some friends, and made a glistening release that successfully blurs the edges between stoner metal, indie rock, and post hardcore. When speaking to Isham via email, we touched upon the making of the new album, the new lineup, and what’s in store for Open Hand in 2005.
E.C.: What are some of the differences and similarities between THE DREAM and YOU AND ME?
Justin: The biggest difference between the old and the new album is that we really focused on the riffs this time around. The guitar playing is a lot more rhythmic and powerful and much less technical and wanky, but we still have a lot of cool textures. THE DREAM is actually 2 EP’s that we recorded in 1999 and 2000, so we’ve obviously changed a good deal since. Our new drummer Paxton has also made a huge difference to the new album. His playing is amazing. He rules.
E.C.: What motivated you most to make YOU AND ME? Was there ever a time you felt like giving up during the European tour calamity?
Justin: We’ve never felt like giving up. This is all we know how to do! Our friends keep us motivated, especially during the rough times.
E.C.: Describe the creative process of making YOU AND ME, how did the songs get written, arranged, produced, lyrics, who does what in the band, etc.
Justin: I (vocals, guitar) wrote and recorded a bunch of demos on my own, and then Paxton (drummer) and I went to the Blasting Room in Colorado to record the album with Paul Malinowski (producer. Then Sean (guitar) and Mike (bass) came in to complete it all and bring it to life on stage.
E.C.: Was it harder or easier to make music after the band's fallout and why?
Justin: Sometimes its hard and sometimes its easy. Sometimes its easier to make music by yourself (fewer cooks in the kitchen), but it’s more fun to make music with friends.
E.C.: What was the easiest song to record? The toughest? Which one came out the best (in your opinion).
Justin: Easiest was “Take No Action”, the hardest was “You and Me” and my favorite is “Her Song”.
E.C.: This album flows exceptionally well from track to track. Is there a concept/ common theme tied into the entire collection?
Justin: Think THE FACTS OF LIFE and DIFF'RENT STROKES. Two way different shows. What was the common theme? Mrs. Garrett. Same thing here.
E.C.: Explain the importance of having different female vocalists on YOU AND ME and what each woman brought to the album
Justin: We thought that the female vocals would add some new dynamics to the songs, and Hayley and Katy who sang on YOU AND ME have kick ass voices, so it worked out well.
E.C.: What's the best and worst part about being part of this band?
Justin: Best part is the tour and our friends. The worst part is being homeless.
E.C.: What kind of equipment do you use? Anything essential to the band's sound that you couldn't live without?
Justin: It would be very difficult to recreate our band’s sound without guitars and amplifiers.
E.C.: How would you describe Open Hand to someone who never heard you guys before?
E.C.: What are the plans for the band for 2005?
Justin: World domination.
E.C.: What do you like to do during your down time at home? When on the road?
Justin: When at home, I dream of being on tour. When on tour, I dream of being home.
E.C.: What bands are you currently into? Any music that you like that fans would be surprised with?
Justin: My Morning Jacket, Mastodon, Richie Havens, The Hives, Tortoise, Clutch, The Walkmen, Isis.
E.C.: How do you feel about the current state of heavy music? Where do you feel you fit?
Justin: A little bummed and bored for the most part, though there are a few bands taking chances that we love. Fit?? Well, we’re all pretty fit now. Mike is on his third day of the Master Cleanse and Paxton just got his blue belt in Ju Jit Su.
E.C.: What advice would you give to aspiring musicians?
Justin: Keep your chin up.
E.C.: Who are some of your musical influences?
Justin: Status Quo.
E.C.: What bands would you like to tour with that you haven't yet?
Justin: High on Fire, Weezer, Michael McDonald, AC/DC, Slayer.
E.C.: What would you like to accomplish in 2005 for Open Hand?
Justin: Again, world domination.