Andrew Pawelski: [vox, guitar, bass]
Nick Chevillet: [vox, guitar, bass]
Jesse Shepherd-Bates: [vox, guitar, bass, percussion]
Joby Kaslowski: [drums, drums, drums. drums]
Handgrenades was formed by high school friends Andrew Pawelski and Nick Chevillet in “Downriver,” the unofficial name of a collection of suburban cities south of Detroit. Bonding over a shared love of The Beatles, the pair began performing together in 2008 as The HandGrenades (“The band wasn’t a joke, but the name was,” says Pawelski.)
A variety of additional musicians came and went (including Andrew’s brother, Tom Pawelski, who was key in developing the band’s signature vocal style), until the band added drummer, Joby Kaslowski, and released a debut EP in 2011. A full-length was released in 2012, produced at Ghetto Recorders in Detroit by Jim Diamond, best-known for his work on the first two albums by The White Stripes, and a second EP followed in 2014.
Now, a more refined, four-piece version of Handgrenades has arrived, including Detroit-based guitar stalwart, Jesse Shepherd-Bates. This evolution of the band is not only noted in the sleeker presentation of the its name, but also in the sound of Tunnels, the second full-length Handgrenades album, recently released in November 2016.
Produced by Zach Shipps (Electric Six), the songs on Tunnels could only have emerged from this veritable cauldron of the Detroit music scene, simmering for a decade, and now boiling over with one catchy tune after another.
For the recording of Tunnels, with three singers and three writers now in the band, the members of Handgrenades knew they’d need a strong leader in the studio, not only to fulfill the potential of the songs, but also to retain the distinctive elements that the guys had honed over the years. For this, they turned once again to Shipps, who had produced the most recent Handgrenades EP.
Shepherd-Bates adds, “Zach brings a lot of insight, and he really improved the structure of our songs. We adhered to a philosophy when making this record: Every idea, we’re going to see through, every idea, it will be attempted. These songs are a group effort, and nobody ever got shot down.”
In addition to the Beatles-esque melodies, three-part vocal harmonies, guitar rock edges, and Motown flavors that Handgrenades had already established as part of its music identity, Tunnels shows off modern influences such as The Flaming Lips, Radiohead, Jeff Buckley, and The National.
Oh, and David Lynch.
“A lot of David Lynch was watched,” Chevillet says of the inspiration for “Daily Routine,” the lead single from Tunnels. “I’ve never really liked anything creepy or dark before Lynch,” he explains. “This was the first time I’ve been able to avoid direct lyrics like ‘I love you,’ and ‘You broke my heart.’”
The term “dark” becomes pretty relative when listening to the upbeat, silvery vocals on the upcoming new album from Hangrenades, anyway. What you’ll hear are four good guys who are, essentially, the mitten state’s most energetic group of ruffians.