MEB guest writer Sarah McGonagle recently had the chance to converse with the members of pop-punk stalwarts Handguns. They discuss the band’s debut full-length album Angst, Warped Tour, plans for 2013, the politeness of Japan, and much more.
Let’s begin with you guys stating your names and what you do in the band.
Taylor Eby: My name’s Taylor and I sing.
Kyle Vaught: I’m Kyle I play guitar.
Brandon Pagano: I’m Brandon I also play guitar and I sing.
CJ Wilson: I’m CJ and I play bass.
Woody Spokas: And I’m Woody and I play drums.
Can you tell us a little bit about your current tour?
Taylor: Right now we’re not really on a tour, we’re just doing a couple shows during the weekend. We just got done shooting a music video today, and it’s just a way to make some extra money. We do have a lot of touring coming up starting in March so we’re just rearing to go for that.
Woody: And you can catch us on Warped Tour this summer.
Taylor: That too.
So tell us about the tour you start this spring with Senses Fail.
Taylor: That is a UK tour and it’s gonna be our first time in the UK – not our first time overseas – and I’m stoked. That band’s awesome and I’m really looking forward to it, and I know we have a lot of fans in the UK so I’m excited to go meet them and hang out and just go to lots of pubs.
Brandon: We also got added to Slam Dunk Fest with Senses Fail, they also got added on to it, and that’s, you know, everybody. That has all the bands that I want to hang out with.
Kyle: The Wonder Years, Man Overboard, Fireworks, Polar Bear Club, everybody.
Brandon: All Time Low. All Time Low’s awesome. So we’re super excited for all that.
You guys just got back from Japan, how was that?
Taylor: That was unreal.
Kyle: It was psycho. That means amazing.
Brandon: It’s wild to go somewhere where no one understands what you’re saying.
Taylor: Japan was a complete culture shock because that was our first time overseas.
Taylor: When you go to other countries it’s a whole different world over there. Everybody over there is super appreciative of music and are just all-around friendly people. You don’t have to worry about running into some guy and him getting all pissed off, like “Oh, I’m sorry.”
Kyle: Very genuine and sincere, just down to earth and they want to talk to you, and they want to get to know you. They’re extremely nice.
They’re one of the most polite countries, I think.
Brandon: Yeah! It’s a rarity for bands like us to tour there, too, so they’re super appreciative and just super happy that we’re there. And we’re happy to be there.
Woody: And the women are beautiful.
So you guys said that you’re playing Warped Tour, how did that come to be?
Brandon: That’s like a corporate ladder thing. Our manager and our booking agent, they team up and they put in applications, and they meet with Kevin Lyman and sell our band to him. Kevin Lyman… apparently he’s good with our band, which is cool, and we appreciate him saying that he wants us on.
Taylor: Before this lineup – cause we’ve had a massive amount of member changes – Handguns had followed Warped Tour a couple of years in a row, just getting in the van and riding around, selling CDs to the line. So I think Kevin Lyman probably knew that, too, cause we kind of made a big buzz around Warped Tour during that time in 2010 and 2011.
Are you guys excited for that?
Kyle: Extremely. It is a dream for a band like us.
Taylor: It’s like, why do you play music? You sit there and you think, “I want to play Warped Tour.” You start out a band at 15 wanting to go on Warped Tour. I want to be in a pop-punk band to go on Warped Tour.
Woody: I didn’t even think it would get to that point. The first time I was at Warped Tour, I was like, “I just can’t wait to come next year” and experience it all, and the fact that I found out that my band’s playing is unreal.
Kyle: The kids are really excited about it too, so that’s awesome.
Brandon: Yeah, that feels really positive. We’re really, really excited.
Is there any band that you’re super excited to play with on Warped?
Brandon: The Chariot.
Kyle: Stick to Your Guns.
Taylor: I’m excited to see our friends in Man Overboard.
Brandon: Absolutely. The American Scene just got announced today.
Kyle: The Story So Far’s on it, they’re like our brothers.
So you guys just released your debut album this past September, tell us about that.
Taylor: It was recorded in spring of 2012 by Chris Curran in Webster, Massachusetts. I mean, ever since the record came out, it’s been doing really well. It’s been getting a lot of positive feedback, a lot of negative feedback. Any press is good press for me. I don’t care if you don’t like our band, I don’t give a shit. If you do, thank you for supporting us.
How was recording this full-length different from recording your previous EPs?
Taylor: I want to say the production, just because we had only done EPs, and that was our first, like, real full-length. We were there for three weeks. We were recording with Nick [Bruzzese] from Man Overboard on all of our previous releases and that was kind of a very quick process – this one’s more thought out. But Nick’s the man, he’s got a great ear. I love recording with him.
What do you think is special about this album?
Taylor: I mean, I don’t think there’s anything “special” to it, it’s awesome that it’s our first full-length. It’s just a collection of songs about everyday shit that anybody goes through. I think a lot of people can relate to that, and I think that’s why the record is doing so well.
Is that what you set out to do with this album?
Taylor: Yeah! It’s never been a thing to sit there and write these abstract lyrics – which is cool, I mean, I listen to Coheed and Cambria. I love Coheed and Cambria, I love Counting Crows – but, it’s nice for kids to be able to, after one listen, know what you’re talking about and be able to relate and sing along to it.
So Handguns has been a band for four or five years now…
Taylor: Yeah, Handguns started in ’08 with a completely different lineup, we’ve gone through two different singers. Honestly, there’s no original members left. We always said that we established ourselves in 2009 when we started really touring and put out a first release.
How do you deal with last-minute lineup changes?
Woody: You just go with it.
Taylor: Shit happens, you try to pick people who know how to play guitar and stuff.
Kyle: Not everyone can be like New Found Glory and stay together forever. Things change.
Taylor: Yeah, true, this lineup was never destined to be. With Kyle, we did one tour together, and we went into the tour extremely positive and liking each other a lot –
Kyle: Then we all hated each other. Just kidding.
Taylor: Yeah. (laughs)
Kyle: Whenever I came in – and even Brandon and CJ – we were all fill-ins at first, but I remember we played a show in Toledo, Ohio and they were like, “these are the fill-ins.” But the next show, Taylor announced that this is the new Handguns. After playing one show, as soon as we got in the band and started on the road, we just said “alright, we’re happy,” and Taylor and Woody were happy, which makes everything good. Kids complained at first but it’s fine. It’s Handguns.
Brandon: We all like playing music with each other.
What have you guys been doing this past year, besides recording your album?
Woody: We toured a lot last year.
Taylor: Last year we… let’s see, how did we start?
Woody: The Man Overboard tour, the Pop Punk The Vote Tour.
Taylor: We did the Pop Punk The Vote Tour with Man Overboard, Seahaven, Candy Hearts, and Daytrader. We did direct support on that, and it went really well. Then… I’m trying to get it all, it’s always a blur.
Woody: We did the No Bragging Rights tour and the Such Gold tour.
Taylor: Yeah, we did a short little round with No Bragging Rights in the spring, and then late summer we did a tour with Such Gold and Strung Out, that was awesome. Then we did our first legit headliner after our record came out in September with State Champs.
Brandon: We also did a tour with the band Set It Off.
Kyle: In Japan we toured with After Tonight, who are the Japanese Ice Grill$ band. Every band that goes over there tours with them.
Woody: They just toured with Chunk! No, Captain Chunk, that’s awesome.
What future plans do you have for Handguns, besides Warped Tour?
Brandon: We have the Pardon My Angst Tour, we play South By So What. We do a short run before South By So What with Chunk! No, Captain Chunk for four or five days with State Champs and City Lights. Then, after South by So What it becomes a Handguns headliner, the Pardon My Angst Tour. Then we tour home and we have April off. We’ll probably spend time relaxing, getting ready for the next couple months that just flow into each other.
Kyle: After the UK we have four or five days off and then we jump straight into Warped Tour. We’ll probably have jet lag.
Brandon: After Warped Tour we plan on writing a record, just writing music. Hopefully we’ll put out something good.
Taylor: If we don’t, suck it. (laughs) No, I’m just kidding.
You guys obviously have a huge Twitter outreach, and you’re always very responsive to your fans. Is that really important to you?
Taylor: Yes, absolutely.
Taylor: The people that like our music, they’re why we do this and they’re the reason we’re able to do this. A lot of people will sit there and say “oh, that’s so lame. They’re just trying to get attention.” You know, it’s fucking 2013, and everyone likes to sit behind a computer screen, and everybody’s really close-minded, blah blah blah. But, we like to talk to our fans. We genuinely love our fans.
Brandon: We’ve made amazing friends with people who are just fans of the band.
Kyle: We wouldn’t be able to do this this weekend if not for them.
Brandon: We’re currently rolling around with three people that we met on the Internet that like our band. We had trouble with our van this weekend, and we couldn’t get around. We had a show in Virginia, we had a shoot, and this show.
Kyle: For the music video shoot we were unable to bring drums because of the space in the cars, so we put it out there and three other people brought drums to us, two hours away. They brought it and they hung out all day, and they drove us.
Woody: They were going to come to the show regardless, and it was a six-hour drive. I was like, no matter what band it is, I don’t know if I would drive six hours just to see a show. We have some die-hard fans, it’s awesome.
CJ: We also like doing it too, because it shows kids that we’re just kids, too, we’re just hanging out, that we’re not special.
Taylor: They can be like “Oh, I hung out with Handguns as chicken grease was dripping down their hands.” (laughs) We eat a lot of chicken.
Woody: And pizza.
Brandon: We’re gross.
Can you tell me anything about the music video you just filmed?
Taylor: We actually just shot it today.
CJ: On No Sleep. Not on no sleep, but like the record label, No Sleep Records.
Woody: Literally on no sleep. (laughs)
Taylor: We’re doing it for the song “Stay With Me” and it’s a really cool video. It’s going to be cool. I’m excited, we’re all excited.
Brandon: It was weird because we did our first video for our song “A Year in Review” with some cameras and some live footage, and for this one we were sitting and getting our makeup done. (laughs)
Taylor: I was like, “what is this shit? Is fucking MTV making the video?”
Kyle: The people who did it, Dan Stevens and his crew, they were amazing. Incredible. They did an I Call Fives music video recently and they were awesome guys, it was extremely comfortable and really a lot of fun. It was great.