FEATURE INTERVIEW – IDLE HANDS “I would be confident in saying that a new Idle Hands album would be released by March 2021.” GABRIEL FRANCO.

Posted on by Oran

Having released one of 2019’s most critically acclaimed albums – ‘Mana’- Portland’s, Idle Hands finally began to ride a much-deserved wave of success they so rightfully deserve. We caught up with founding member, Gabriel Franco for an update on a new album, touring plans and much more…

Hailing from Portland, Oregon, Idle Hands have been crafting a unique concoction of genre-blurring anthems since 2017 and in doing so, have managed to achieve a unique sound as well a hell of a lot of respect, from both industry critics; and fans alike.

Founding member and brainchild, Gabriel Franco, had a very clear vision of fusing glorious melodies and clever lyrics, within an aural landscape, resulting in a hybrid of sonic elements from a somewhat pick n’ mix of genres. And his vision is finally beginning to pay off.

In short, Idle Hands specialise in a bespoke and refreshing sound that cuts away from the herd and stands strong on their own merits.

With a very uncertain year and the final quarter of 2020 looking no better thanks to the fall out of the global pandemic, we were lucky enough to grab some time with Gabriel, to find out what the plans are for Idle Hands and the possibility of the follow-up to ‘Mana‘ being on target for early 2021.

OD – If ever there was a band that have been on the rise over the last 24 months, it’s Idle Hands.

With the release of ‘Don’t Waste Your Time’ EP, to last May’s “Mana’, there has been so much that has gone spectacularly right for you guys. Did any of you find the global interest in the band a little overwhelming at any point?

GABRIEL – No, not really. A lot of it was surprising. We set out with a plan and spent most of 2018 planning very purposely for release dates, tours etc and a lot of what we did just fell into place. We worked it all out and even though we were a little burnt out at times, it all paid off so far.

OD – Just recently, ‘Don’t Waste Your Time II’ has been released. Was this release a decision based on the Pandemic restrictions that we’re all experiencing and you just wanted to get something out there or was it planned all along?

GABRIEL – Well, yes and no. It wasn’t really pre-planned. We didn’t have any intentions to put out ‘Don’t Waste Your Time II‘ prior to the pandemic. I just looked at the situation and was like: “Well, I’m at home and can’t leave, but my studio is attainable so I can get to that“.

OD – These new tracks, ‘It Doesn’t Really Matter’ and ‘Puppy Love’, I know they are from back in 2017 prior to the release of the first EP and when you were living in Portland. I know that you tracked the drums in early 2018 but then nothing. How come they never made it on the first EP or the album?

GABRIEL – Basically, the way we recorded the first EP was paycheck to paycheck and those paychecks were not that big. [Laughing] I was pretty much funding the whole project from day one and was working my ass off to get this EP locked down and recorded.

I try to not make the other guys pay for anything if they don’t have to, so the weight of the project, both timewise and financially, was very much on my shoulders. Now, I had to pay for my rent and then the next paycheck would be the studio and so on. So, things took a little longer than I had liked at the time, but there was nothing that I could do but just keep my head down and keep going.

I got the first five tracks completed and then the other two tracks were laid on the side because I just didn’t think seven tracks was enough for an album. It would be more like a ‘half-assed‘ album, so I decided to roll with the idea of putting out the five tracks; as an EP.

My plan was to get this out to my residual fan-base and try to build on the project from there. The only problem was the people who liked my music were predominantly a metal audience and I felt that those two songs were a little too far away from the ‘Metal‘ genre for their liking.

So, the EP went out and then of course, “Mana” was released and now I feel like people get what we are and what we’re trying to do so, it kind of seemed like the right time to put these other tracks out. Really at the end of the day, it was a mixture of time and money and I just wanted to get my band out there.

OD – I understand that the original idea was to have the second album boxed off by late 2020, in light of the current situation with Covid-19, is that still on track, or can we expect things to be reconfigured a little earlier than anticipated?

GABRIEL – We’re basically sticking to the original plan. I’m in no rush to put this album out and have a little more work to do on it. If we get it finished by late Autumn, it still has to be put to the label and get it manufactured and consider all the marketing crap!

Also, we really want to tour the record but if there’s still all of these restrictions, then it’s something that I’m gonna have to consider. I actually can’t say for sure because it’s really up to the label. But, I would be confident in saying that a new Idle Hands album would be released by March 2021.

OD – With the sound of the band reminiscent with the darker side of 80’s metal/goth rock, yet quite passive in the same breath. You managed to bring a fresh and inspiring sound to the underground genre and totally won over one of the most elitist of fans – “The metal Fan“. Did you find that people didn’t get what you were trying to do at first?

GABRIEL – Yeah, that’s something that I’m totally aware of. When the press boxes us into a certain category or genre, they are screwing us over to some extent! It does not help to be defined as a certain fad that’s championing a particular genre. I’m not really interested in defining what we do. It’s not a concern or a worry to me as I just have a tendency to write outside the box kind of whacky stuff and I try to keep myself influenced with eclectic variations of music.

I don’t understand it. If people dig it then that’s cool, if not then whatever. I mean this with no disrespect but places like Germany just love old-school heavy metal/power metal. To me, it’s just cheesy metal and that’s fine. If it’s making people happy then more power to them. [Laughing]

OD – Would you say that the new material is a natural progression from “Mana” or can we expect a slight shift in sound?

GABRIEL – There’s definitely a natural progression in our sound. I will never be one of those people that suddenly changes the style of music that I’m creating just because it’s ‘on trend’. I write what I think sounds good and that’s the only way I can determine that it’s authentic.

If I decide to be like something else, then I have to emulate something that already exists, so I’m already beginning the dilution process of the creative aspect. It will most likely be a shitty version of what I want it to be. The new album will be a natural progression and hopefully, Idle Hands will always be a natural progression.

OD – How much was it an eye-opener touring with King Diamond, as there are not many bands that bring that much production out on the road these days?

Mr Diamond.

GABRIEL – Yeah, in certain ways. We knew we were gonna be the ‘young kids‘ on the road and just wanted to keep out of peoples way and not be pulling any kind of ‘rock star‘ bullshit.

The crew, for the most part, were very cool and so nice to us. King Diamond came up to us on the first day with no face paint on and was like; “Hey Boys, love the album! Welcome to the tour.” And we were all standing there like; “Thank you Mr Diamand, Sir!” [Laughing] And that’s the way we treated him and us throughout the entire tour. We only saw him in face paint and we would be like; “There goes Mr Diamond again“. [Laughing]

OD – Of course, the Beyond The Gates Festival in Gergen featuring Mercyful Fate and Tribulation should have taken place this Summer, as well as Bloodstock Festival in the UK. These are two very high-profile gigs to be part of and thankfully, Idle Hands will still be performing at both festivals in 2021. If all goes ahead would there be any plans for a series of shows in Europe/UK at any point next year for your own run of headline/club dates?

GABRIEL – I would love to do that! But being a realist, I would have to say it’s very unlikely. The second album will be coming out on a few other labels and it will be a bigger campaign than that of ‘Mana‘. We are gonna have huge opportunities that we probably wouldn’t be able to do by ourselves.

The smaller headliner shows, that’s something that I will always be pushing for but there’s a team on board now and I guess my job is to write the music and keep the internal wheelhouse in order and let the rest of the team worry about the marketing, booking, tours etc.

I will try my best to fit in as many club shows as I can. Even if it costs us money, I like playing in unusual places. Small towns and quirky venues, like a random venue in Ireland somewhere not in the cities, but somewhere unexpected.

OD – When you look back on your previous bands such as Spellcaster and even further with Seventh Gate and then fast forward and you’re jumping on tours [hopefully will be rescheduled] with Mayhem/Abbath, King Diamond and festival bookings in Europe etc. Does it still feel kind of strange that things are finally moving in the direction?

GABRIEL – Last year was kind of surreal. Especially when got the King Diamond tour. We had actually locked that in while we were in Europe with Tribulation and when I got back home, I found out about it. It kind of blew me away. I would have preferred if last year had a little more touring. We stayed home all Summer for a period of time and did just a few shows but I really wanted to do a U.S tour. But it just wasn’t part of the schedule.

But yeah, perseverance is key in this business and if you are trying to succeed, then you need a lot of it. The only person that made all of this happen was the force of will from myself.

Of course, I have people that are working with me and helping to actualise my aspirations but the seed of this entire concept/project comes from me. You have to really believe in yourself and trust your instincts. When you know you’re right, don’t compromise and go with your gut  – always! I hate it when people complain that they don’t have the time to chase their dreams because of work or whatever. I had that very same problem and used every bit of my available time to make this work. Emotionally, financially and willingly.

Also, I feel that when people start to see your success then suddenly want to be part of it, which is fine, if they’re willing to be 100% with you and support the overall desired goal. It was and is up to me to decide who I want to work with and how is going to be associated with Idle Hands. At the end of the day, it’s each of our own decisions on what we want to do in life and how we want to present ourselves to the world.

OD – You had said before that 2021 is the year that you want to put yourselves on the world stage. Bearing this in mind, and from your own personal experience, what you would like to see improved in the music industry going forward?

GABRIEL – The problem is there’s not a lot of money in the business, however, there ARE a lot of middlemen in the business. Now, that’s not a bad thing, but there’s a great deal of politics that are involved with these middlemen. From booking agent to, label representatives to promoters and PR, there is a lot of side alleyways that are not entirely focused on the artist; for one reason or another.

If I could sum it up in one sentence, it would be for everyone to drop their fucking egos and stick to the point. Don’t be booking shows just for the money, shows need to be booked for the bands who are playing the right music, music that the booker likes and respects.

There are far too many booking agents that couldn’t give a shit about the bands, they don’t’ like their music. They just see it as a profit margin. Think about that for a second! It’s so disheartening for a musician to have to deal with bullshit people who are telling them that they “love your album” when in actual fact, they are just trying to make a quick buck and in reality, have no respect for them.

This is not the way music is supported to work and this bullshit just bleeds throughout the entire system. That’s why you see line-ups for shows that are just so fucked up, with totally wrong bands that just don’t fit the vibe of the show. Or bands that are more suited to opening a show in place of another band that just flat-out should not be there. This is just my personal opinion but, I’ve seen it too many times.

OD – Finally, can you please share with our readers, one album that is, and has been a huge part of your life?

GABRIEL – Hmm, okay, I’m gonna go with Blink 182Take off Your Pants and Jacket‘ and also Cradle of FilthMidian‘, oh man, there’s so much. I can’t just choose one. I rarely listen to the same music over and over again. I will listen to an album for a few days and I’ll be moving on looking for something new.

Idle Hands, ‘Don’t Waste Your Time‘, ‘Mana‘ and ‘Don’t Waste Your Time II‘ are all available now, via popular streaming platforms, online and your favourite local record dealer.

For more info on the band, please visit this link. Catch Idle Hands at Beyond the Gates and Bloodstock Festival next year.

Oran O’Beirne

www.overdrive.ie 2020