Idle Hands Bring Back the Metal On New Video “Give Me To The Night” (Interview)
Heavy metal, the sort of metal popularized in the 1980s by Judas Priest and Iron Maiden often containing soaring clean vocals accompanied with dual harmonizing guitars, has certainly seen a resurgence lately in popularity. Many great acts pulling from the best of metal’s traditional hallmarks have come from Sweden by the likes of Ghost, In Solitude, Tribulation, and more. What they’ve done to distinguish themselves is less riding the same road but instead taking the genre hallmarks into new directions, often incorporating far more moody and melancholic atmospheres than many of the original bands from the 80’s ever approached. For some, it’s been a result of intentionally injecting goth rock or post-punk influences similarly from the 1980s, while for others it's an entirely different process coming from unexpected origins. The later example is certainly the case for non-Swedish but just as exceptional Portland, Oregon based heshers Idle Hands.
In 2017, the band Spellcaster, despite having three full length albums under their belt, disbanded over internal conflicts and stagnation. From their ashes rose Idle Hands with Gabriel Franco leading the charge as principal songwriter, guitarist, and new role as a singer/front-man. In the time since, a large chunk of Spellcaster has joined including guitarists Sebastian Silva and Cory Boyd, drummer Colin Vranizan, and finally from defunct sludge/crust band Vault Dweller arrived bassist Brandon Hill. In short work Idle hands released the EP Don’t Waste Your Time in 2018 and their first full length Mana just this past May. The hard work in the studio and on the road has paid off with not only glowing reviews across the metal world but also now an opening slot for one of the biggest tours this fall with King Diamond (enter to win tix to the Brooklyn show).
Scroll below to witness Invisible Oranges’ exclusive premiere of Idle Hands' new music video for “Give Me To The Night” off previously mentioned new album Mana. Following that below is an interview with band mastermind Franco as he covers in detail the band’s formation, the creation of their new music video and what he expects for their upcoming tour.
It’s been a little over five months since Mana came out. How do you feel the album has been received so far?
Gabriel Franco: Pretty well. Since it came out in May we sold out the first vinyl pressing before we even released it so that’s pretty cool and it got us on this tour we’re doing with King Diamond that’s starting in a week or two. So it’s been great. A lot of people have seemed to connect with it and that makes me feel good.
You’ve been touring pretty extensively this year, especially in Europe. How has it been on the road as a pretty fresh band trying to win over new fans?
It’s been interesting. This has been a trial by fire year for sure. Last year I kind of mapped all this stuff out because I knew we were gonna have to get our chops up. When we did that first [tour] with Haunt it was very nerve wracking and I was playing guitar at that time as well as singing, so kind of chained to the mic and pedal board. It was even nerve wracking when we started on that Tribulation run along with Gaahl’s Wyrd and Uada. The first show for that I was pretty nervous even I think visibly being pretty stiff up there on stage but by the end of it we had all loosened up and learned that a show is just a learning opportunity. By the time we’d finished our fifty day run of shows in Europe back in June the band was pretty tight and we’re going to bring that same performance to the big stages on this upcoming tour.
Did any particular shows really stand out personally for you? Any special moment or night playing?
There was actually quite a few. I think one of the first, or certainly the coolest, was the Keep It True performance. The hall was packed at noon and I wasn’t expecting that, maybe half full or something. People turned out and apparently we broke merch sales records for an opening band there. It couldn’t have gone better. We drank a lot of beer later that day. Other stand outs include Osnabrück [Germany] because it was just us and one local opener with a hundred fifty people who showed up. I wasn’t even aware for one that the town of Osnabrück existed [laughs]. I didn’t know that we had a fanbase in these more rural or smaller areas. I shouldn’t say rural though as Osnabrück is a town of about a hundred and ten thousand. But yeah, there were a couple shows like that just being blown away by the turnout and people singing along to every word. That tour really showed us that Europe digs the band. I hope we can just keep gaining more fans over there and put on good shows.
In 2017, your last band Spellcaster broke up. What brought that about and how did Idle Hands rise out of that situation?
That was kind of brought about by years of dragging our feet and spinning our wheels. The band didn’t really know how to function as a unit. We had a leader who wasn’t really being a leader. I was a leader but I wasn’t in charge, like I was running the show but I wasn’t calling the shots. It was just a mess of getting anything done because every decision had to go be approved by every single person in the band which culminated ultimately in our fan base dwindling, making no progress, and eventually our guitarist Cory [Boyd] quit. Shortly after that in April  our singer quit. That’s when we decided to can it and contrary to the belief, our singer a couple months later -- he got convicted on a felony charge for attacking his girlfriend. A lot of people think that’s what broke up the band but that actually happened three months afterwards. From then Silver Talon got going with me, Bryce [Adams Vanhoosen] , Colin [Vranizan], and Sebastian [Silva]. I wasn’t really gelling with the guitarist. He was kind of a “my way or the highway” kind of guy and I’m also kind of a “my way or the highway” guy. Our ideas just weren’t connecting so I said fuck this and started my own band. I thought I’ll sing if I have to because I’m just sick of writing vocal melodies and writing lyrics for people and then watching them butchered, destroyed, and generally turned into garbage. That’s where Idle Hands really came to be and I think it was a dark time in my life it was born out of, but I would say that band [Spellcaster] was the best thing to ever happen to me.
I think the profile for Idle Hands might already be bigger than Spellcaster ever was.
Oh yeah. I think we surpassed Spellcaster if not eight months to a year ago. That’s partly because we had a little of a boost being able to use the Spellcaster fanbase, our reputation, and my contacts to get us off the ground a lot faster than a band starting from nowhere could have. It was just learning from all the failures of my old band without making those same mistakes. That’s where we’re at with this band with just pushing, pushing, and pushing. It’s working out.
A lot of people in describing Idle Hands would likely mention Classic 80’s Metal along with goth rock or gloomy post-punk. That said, how do you conceptually feel Idle Hands sound comes from or where do you pull your influence from?
I was just watching an Iggy Pop documentary, or Stooges documentary, on Netflix the other day and he put it in a good way that I hadn’t been able to say, “I don’t want to belong to the rock crowd. I don’t want to belong to the punk crowd, or the hippies, or whatever. I don’t care. I just want to be me.” That’s exactly what I want with this band. What it is, is purely happenstance, it could have been anything else if I was into it, but it’s really just a culmination of whatever I want to do and write at the time I’m writing. I don’t think about what other people are going to think about, none of that. I just write whatever sounds good, write whatever lyrics I want over it, and whatever sounds cool to me personally and then put it out. I gotta feel genuine about it. I figure if I can put what makes myself unique, because I believe everybody is unique, and put it into a song expressed authentically then I think people are going to connect with that and it’ll resonate with the audience. So that’s just my approach to this band. That being said, genre wise I guess it’s turned out to be an amalgamation of what I am into which is Heavy Metal and… goth it wasn’t so much. I sing low because I can’t sing high. That’s literally the only reason it ended up that way. I originally wanted to do some kind of black metal, like pop formatted black metal with clean melodic vocals. I guess you could almost say Idle Hands is kind of that, just it doesn’t sound like black metal [laughs]. Though I think the way people are describing it I’m happy with. I like all those genres but just don’t get too comfortable with it because I’m not going to conform to any idea of what we’re supposed to be. We’re going to continue to push forward our spear if you will wherever we like. People can react to us but we won’t be reacting to the rest of the world. That’s the only way you can really be different as a band.
Well would you say then, assuming you’re working on new material, do you think fans will be surprised with a different or new direction you might be going in?
There’s a few songs that have very minimal distorted guitar in them. For album two I don’t think people are going to be super surprised though. I think anyone who is a big fan of us now will listen to it and go, “this still sounds like Idle Hands, but it’s different.” I don’t think it’s going to be so different that they’ll dislike it as it’s still going to be the band. It’s going to be a progression. My motto with this next record is going to be a kind of I want to write heavy metal without distorted guitars almost. Really aggressive lyrics, really aggressive vocals and phrasing mixed with arena drums and huge guitars, whether they're clean or distorted, just filling all the space. That’s the idea but there are going to be a few songs with very minimal distorted guitars, some piano in there. Then you’ll have some stuff that sounds like Mana for sure too.
We're premiering your music video for the track “Give Me To the Night”. What do you remember from the shoot for the video?
Like every video shoot ever it was extremely stressful. Everyone is usually a little half drunk too. This was an interesting shoot because we drove up to Victoria BC, on Vancouver Island, where we first played a metal festival. Did some shots at a studio there, indoor stuff, and the next day took a ferry over to the mainland and went to Vancouver BC. There we kind of guerrilla style went out with our shit ready to go and went out to East Hastings street, which if you’ve never been there is like skid row with totally fucked up shitty alleys. So we went to the shittiest alley we could find with all sorts of interesting characters wandering around. So set up, got the fog on, and just started bashing away. It was fun but we only got one shot before some homeless guy started screaming at us and I mean screaming bloody murder like, “shut the fuck up!” We’re like god damn it and he comes down as we’re packing our gear saying, “let’s just find another alley, this is bullshit.” So he comes down and says he’s stoked at what he heard and wants to jam with us, but we could tell he was so fucked up he could barely understand what we're saying. But yeah, otherwise it was pretty cut and dry shoot. A bit of fun, a bit of stress.
Was there any concept or direction you brought into it or was it pretty free form at the moment?
I mean, there was no storyboard. I don’t have the proper money to do a proper storyboard and there’s nothing I despise more than bands doing low budget videos with some intricate story they want to convey but with bad actors, bad props, no set design, and just being generally terrible. No one’s buying it, no one’s believing it. You look at it and go, “this is crap!” I’d rather go get some cool visuals edited together real artsy style and just let it be what it is. For “Give Me to the Night” I wanted it to be in a kind of scummy city environment. Out in the city and dealing with society, that kind of stuff. Originally I wanted to film it on top of a skyscraper, like a smaller one so we’d be surrounded by skyscrapers on all sides, but I think that they wanted seven grand to just film for five hours on a rooftop. So yeah, that wasn’t happening [laughs].
[laughs] Could try it again if you ever get on a major label that could drop that kind of money.
Yeah, but even then I’d be like “dude, is this really worth it?” [laughs] What kind of pyro can we buy for seven thousand dollars? That’ll look far cooler.
You mentioned it a bit earlier but on November 2nd you’ll be starting your tour playing support to King Diamond and Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats in what has to be the biggest tour yet for the band.
Yes, by and large the biggest tour we have ever done with any of our bands. It’s a huge step for us.
What are you most excited about or what kind of expectations do you have?
I’m excited for day one. I love traveling in general and we gotta leave Monday [Oct. 28th] driving out to Dallas. I’m stoked to hit the road and just pull across the whole US. But yeah, show one is always a lot of fun with the nerves super high. You’re learning everything and meeting a million people. My expectation is just for us to do our best. I don’t really expect anything from the audience or for anything to come to us other than what we’ve been told we’re gonna get. I’m just gonna do my best and have some fun. I think as long as we put on a killer performance each night we’ll have a good response from the crowds. Plus by day three or four on these tours since you’re around everybody like 24 hours a day you make friends so fast. By the first week or two in everybody on the tour and crew is mingling with each other and having a good time which is always the best. Then before you know it, it’s over with the last day and you don’t want it to stop. I think I can speak for the entire band in saying we’re all very excited.
Personally I have to say I’m jealous that you’ll be touring with King Diamond. I’ve been listening to him since I was a kid so that’s really sweet you’re going on the road with him.
Thank you. We’re all on the same boat with that. I’m still pinching myself to be honest. I never expected the band to have taken off as fast as it did and we’d be here right now. I mean we’d played only one show this time last year.
Are you particularly excited for playing this tour in your hometown of Portland, OR?
Yeah, I was actually bugging the booking agent about like, “hey man, are we playing Portland? Are we playing Portland?” and he’s like, “Yes, you’re playing Portland.” I wanted to play the Roseland [Theatre] because that’s the theatre where I saw some of my favorite bands growing up, but even better it’s at the Schnitz [the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall] which is a large and more regal theatre here. I think King Diamond planned that out because all the venues on the tour are rather regal and ornate with many being opera or classical music theatres. So yeah, it’s going to be a great time. Hometown shows are always a bit more stressful with the parents, siblings, and friends trying to talk to you before the show. You try to be nice and give time to everyone but also do your job. So sometimes you just have to go hide a bit before showtime.
Idle Hands' latest album Mana is available on all formats and can be purchased at Idle Hands’ Bandcamp.Also physical albums and other merch can be purchased at Lone Fire Records for the USA and Eisenwald Online Store for Europe. Tour dates are listed below.
King Diamond / Uncle Acid / Idle Hands — 2019 Tour Dates
Nov. 2 – Dallas, TX – Bomb Factory
Nov. 4 – Atlanta, GA – Tabernacle
Nov. 5 – Orlando, FL – Dr. Phillips Center
Nov. 7 – Brooklyn, NY – Kings Theatre (win tickets)
Nov. 8 – Worcester, MA – The Palladium
Nov. 10 – Philadelphia, PA – The Tower Theater
Nov. 11 – Baltimore, MD – The Lyric
Nov. 12 – Montreal, QC – M-Telus
Nov. 14 – Detroit, MI – The Fillmore
Nov. 15 – Cleveland, OH – The Agora Theatre
Nov. 16 – Louisville, KY – The Palace Theatre
Nov. 18 – Chicago, IL – The Riviera
Nov. 19 – Minneapolis, MN – Palace Theater
Nov. 22 – Denver, CO – The Fillmore
Nov. 23 – Salt Lake City, UT – The Complex
Nov. 25 – Seattle, WA – The Paramount
Nov. 26 – Portland, OR – The Schnitzer
Nov. 27 – Vancouver, BC – The Queen Elizabeth
Nov. 29 – San Francisco, CA – The Warfield
Dec. 1 – Los Angeles, CA – The Wiltern
Dec. 2 – San Diego, CA – Magnolia
Dec. 3 – Anaheim, CA – The Grove of Anaheim
Dec. 4 – Phoenix, AZ – Comerica