CBC Music Canada: Q&A Audio Interview with Indian Handcrafts
Indian Handcrafts is drummer Brandyn James Aikins and guitarist Daniel Brandon Allen and, if you’re unfamiliar with their edgy, punk/metal-infused rock, prepare to have your mind blown by Civil Disobedience for Losers. Actually, you might have more to worry about; it’s entirely possible that your face may melt clean off the wreckage of your head.
“It depends on the structure of your face and how much beard hair you have,” Aikins says about the meltage potential, over the phone from his home in Barrie, Ont. “Aside from that, I would just say it’s best listened to pretty loud. That’ll be the best way to really feel it. It was really fun to make and you can hear that; it’s built into the record.”
Formed in Barrie’s tight-knit musical community (Aikins grew up with members of Zeus and his first band out of high school, the Heat, was a three-piece featuring Bahamas’s Afie Jurvanen), Aikins and Allen started playing together 10 years ago in Doris Day, which became Fox Jaws. Despite rumours to the contrary, Aikins says he and Allen didn’t start their own project out of animosity.
“I’ll set the record straight: we loved playing in that band and all the people in it,” Aikins explains. “But after a while, people in the band — not including me or Dan — just couldn’t really get along. So, me and Dan decided we wanted to try something on our own and we started jamming in our spare time. That was around 2009 and the rest is history.”
After playing some raved-about shows, Indian Handcrafts caught the attention of Los Angeles-based label Sargent House. Scheduled L.A. recording sessions with famed producer Toshi Kasai (Big Business, Melvins) were placed in some peril when Allen broke his right (strumming) hand, but he soldiered through the sessions somehow, placing it in a cast each night to help set the bones.
“Originally, the official story was that he slipped on some ice and fell and broke it,” Aikins says. “He actually, out of character, punched a wall in anger and then broke his finger. I think he’s OK to tell people that story now. He was a little embarrassed at first because he doesn’t ever do things like that. It was a special circumstance where he had to punch something really hard.”
Further fact checking reveals that the band’s name stems, in part, from their Aboriginal heritage. Allen is half Algonquin from his father’s side, and so felt comfortable acknowledging that in Indian Handcrafts, though the term itself is from the ether. Aikins and Allen are now aware of a roadside sign in the Maritimes that simply says “Indian Handcrafts,” but Aikins says they’re not sure if that’s how they came up with it.
“It’s hard to conceptualize because it’s kind of a dumb name,” he continues. “I hear Dave Grohl talking about Foo Fighters and he’s like, ‘If I knew this was gonna be my full-time band, I would’ve never called it Foo Fighters.’ I think we feel the same way about it. When we started this band, it was totally just for fun and we thought that name was weird and different and Dan’s an Indian himself so it felt OK to do that. I honestly hope no one is offended by it because it’s not meant as an offensive term in any way.”
Civil Disobedience for Losers rips and pulls and pushes at listeners but, on the whole, it has no underlying theme. The songs came together in the last three years and Aikins suggests that some are, lyrically, kind of jokes, while others are more sombre and provocative.
“My wife works as a mental health therapist so, just hearing stories about people in her field, I got inspired to write ‘Centauri Teenage Riot,’” Aikins reveals. “Dan and I wrote it together but the idea came from a client my wife told me about. When you get into that kinda stuff with the crazy life stories people have and the insane amount of abuse some people go through, it’s really shocking to me. It’s kinda weird but it’s inspiring to see someone go through crazy things and come out the other side.”
“That song is through the eyes of someone with schizophrenia and the imagined world they live in,” he continues. “Through this band, I’ve learned to write lyrics and explore subjects like that.”
See Indian Handcrafts live on Nov. 2 at the Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto, and throughout the U.S. later that month.