Hands & Teeth are a band from Toronto.* Kevin Black (vocals, guitar) and Jeff Pinto (vocals, keys, guitar) spoke to Natascha Malta about music, cookies and living in Toronto’s Parkdale neighbourhood.
MV: The EP came out on October 1st of last year, which I noticed is also international cookie day. Was that something that you guys planned on purpose for your love of cookies?
Kevin: Jeff is possibly the best baker I know. There may or may not have been wonderful cookies baked that day.
MV: What flavour?
Jeff: I like chocolate chip cookies. Like a classic American cookie.
MV: So you make classic American cookies then, or did you just grab some prebaked?
Jeff: No, I made ‘em. I sought out instruction from a trained baker, and said I wanted to learn basic chocolate chip cookies. She helped me out, and now I work for her.
MV: Fantastic. I noticed you guys have some really interesting album art. It looks like cheerleaders doing water-skiing. What was the inspiration?
Jeff: Well Adam Colvinski (sp?) came up with it. He found the image, it’s a public image available from an American library. He thought it suited the album name Enjoy Your Lifestyle. It just looks very idyllic like people just doing their thing. And it’s kind of a weird thing to do- but they’re doing it and enjoying it.
Kevin: We kinda thought they looked like us too. If you look really closely you can pick out which one is which band member.
Jeff: Enjoy Your Lifestyle?
Jeff: There isn’t a concept to Enjoy Your Lifestyle. It was the first 4 songs we’d written, and then our mixing engineer told us –that’s great, you just need one more song and you’ve got a real project. So we took something we’d been working on and quickly got it up to par. We’re working on a second album right now. It’s going to be an 8 song number. I think this one more has a concept behind it. We went over all the words – tried to figure out what the common themes were and then we actually again ended up writing another song to really close off the album cause we had a statement that we wanted to finish. That one has more intent behind it than Enjoy Your Lifestyle. And it’s called Hunting Season.
MV: You guys released a track “Shine On” – tell me a little bit about it. When did it come out?
Kevin: That one was released at the very beginning of January this year. It was a Christmas gift. It was another one of our songs that we’d been working on for a while- played at some live shows. It just had a really fun group spirit to it, so we thought it would work really well for Christmas. What we did was have a bunch of our friends come over when we did vocals, so there was a group of maybe 15 people. And we all stood in our recording studio and in the hallway outside where we recorded big group vocal tracks with all our friends. It’s a good party song.
MV: Because of all the different people coming in, and all the different parts – it almost has a Broken Social Scene feel to it. You guys have recorded with Lisa Lobsinger, right?
MV: She came in on the first EP?
Kevin: Yes. Actually, I worked with her for a while at a restaurant in town. She’s super. We’d always talk about music and the fifth song that we were adding to the first EP we did, I showed her a rough demo for it. She had it in her head the next day and so when we were talking about having a bunch of vocalists on it, and Natasha thought it would be nice to have another girl on it as well. So I said- Lisa, do you want to sing on this with Tash? And she said- I love that song, why not? She came and she was very professional. Recorded everything in half an hour.
MV: Can you guys explain the name Hands and Teeth to me? I know there’s a zombie novel of a very similar name called “In The Forest of Hands and Teeth”. Is that where it comes from?
Jeff: Did we take the name from our band from a teen vampire novel?
MV: Not vampire, zombie.
Jeff: You might be surprised to hear this, but no we didn’t. We didn’t know it existed. I had a song of my own called “Hands and Teeth” and we were choosing names. We had a series of pretty bad ones. Kevin just suggested that one night at a bar and everybody loved it. Everyone except for Tash. She thought it sounded, interestingly enough, too masculine and too violent. We did an informal text survey to all our friends and finally convinced her to do it. We had to promise not to make the font too bold- that was her only condition for accepting it. It’s not too bold is it?
MV: No, it’s not. You guys did some really fun interviews to promote yourselves for NXNE this year where you guys interviewed each other. Whose idea was that?
Jeff: That was my idea. We’d done a lot of interviews and we caught ourselves answering a lot of the same questions the same way. We thought you might learn a bit more about if we asked the questions ourselves.
MV: In that spirit, I thought it would be fun to ask a couple of unconventional questions. My first one is, if you had to be stuck in a zombie movie- which one would you choose to be stuck in?
Jeff: Definitely not 28 Days Later because those things move fast. I’d want to be stuck in the old one where the zombies are slow and stupid and you should be able to get away from them. So give me Night of The Living Dead.
Kevin: As a zombie or a human trying to escape the zombies- because as a zombie I’d love to be one of the zombies from 28 Days Later. But I think the zombies in Night of the Living Dead would be easy to escape.
Jeff: Or maybe in that book that stole our name.
MV: My second question is because 4 out of 5 of you live together in Parkdale. I was wondering if you guys have a really good Parkdale story.
Jeff and Kevin: (in unison) Ohhhhhh! (laughter)
Jeff: The day we moved in, I was home in the afternoon and I saw this guy drag a mattress across the street. It was the guy that I knew used to have my room and who our landlord told us he had kicked out. I had seen his parents come to help him move, and he didn’t show up. This guy was like, troubled. He had obviously taken his fair share of recreational drugs in his time. I saw him dragging this mattress across the street, and I thought- at least he’s taking it off our porch. I went out, and when I came home he was in bed in the mattress. And he wasn’t alone – and yeah, he was just going to town on this girl on a mattress on King Street on the first day we lived in that house.
Kevin: Parkdale, Toronto! Inspiring.
MV: It’s kind of an anomaly of a neighbourhood because it’s managed to gain a little artistic cred as a neighbourhood, but that really doesn’t stop the shady goings-on.
Jeff: Well, there’s some seriously entrenched social problems in the neighbourhood. There’s people that don’t have anywhere else to go, they’ve been pushed here. There’s gentrification, but there’s limits.
Kevin: When there’s that many artists and musicians living there, there’s bound to be trouble right?
MV: Absolutely, and speaking of trouble. What’s your vice?
Kevin: Hmm… Too much caffeine.
Jeff: I’d say my biggest vice is laziness.
© Natascha Malta, Music Vice
*They are not is a band because we use proper British English around here. Musical groups are collectives of individuals, not single entities. Sort it out!
Hands & Teeth