A few months ago we shot a video for ‘What About Us’. The video was shot in Portland with our favorite director Scott Coffey.
Check out some pictures from the video shoot here.Also please check out this incredible article from L Magazine entitled ‘Indie Rock Publications Still Mostly Scared to Death of Vagina: Reactions to the Handsome Furs Album Cover’.
This is coming from a band that played in Vietnam while the venue flooded, during monsoon season. This is coming from a band that played in Kosovo when the lights went out repeatedly due to an overworked generator. This is coming from a band that has had to bribe cops and customs officials in order to make shows happen. This is coming from a band that has been electrocuted in Chiang’Mai. This is coming from a band that got stuck in a car park in Wuhan and played during 47 degree Celsius heat without air conditioning, without any air at all really. We have endured bad monitors, bootleg monitors and no monitors. We have eaten bad food or no food prior to shows. We have basically played under all conditions possible, hot and cold, sick and wet, tired and hurried, unequipped and underpaid. So when I say this, Liverpool, I do not say it lightly.
You need to get your shit together.
Your Sound City Music Festival was the most disorganized festival we have ever played. Was it the long lines to get the Artist Registration wristbands, manned by teenagers who cannot spell or, well, think for themselves? Was it the fact that no one could decide whether any bands got soundchecks and it was finally decided that we alone did not? Was it the fact that there was no booze or hospitality “back stage”? Was it the fact that the food was the worst festival food I have ever been persuaded to eat? – your frozen pea and carrot vegetable “curry” mush served with overcooked rice and poisonous mackerel rolls and freezer burn phyllo treats were vomitous? Was it the fact that you ran out of this inedible grub by 6pm – a rather usual dinner hour for the 200 bands you are hosting in your city? Was it the fact that you wouldn’t let us park our van to load our gear? Or, at the evening’s end when we had to unload our gear, you refused to open the stage doors until, well, logic forced your hand to reconsider? Was it the fact that the schedule you printed did not match the schedules you had given the bands? Was it the fact that, though we were told to be on stage at 8:25pm, you forced us on stage at the timely hour of 8:07 and told us that we needed to be off stage by our scheduled start time? When we told you that we couldn’t even set up and line check within that time allotment, you made us take stage any way? Was it the fact that the soundman asked us to start before there was even a guitar amp plugged in? And repeatedly continued to ask us to start before there were even DI boxes or mics or monitors or any of the equipment necessary to put on a show? Was it the fact that when we started actually playing the monitor engineer refused to put synths in the front so that neither of us could play the songs, despite me running over to him like a deranged lunatic mid-song three times? Was it the fact that twelve minutes into the set the sound man yelled into the monitors “one more song” over and over again and loud enough for the audience to hear despite the fact that the scheduling fuck up was entirely your fault? Was it the fact that every single band was treated this way? Herded and hurried and uncared for? Well, let me put it this way: I suppose it was a combination of all of the above that made your festival the worst of all festivals we have ever played.
And the thing that made it even worse was because you allowed nice art school students to volunteer but did not even show up yourselves there was no one to get mad at. And every volunteer and band member felt sick and dismayed and disappointed. You were very rude and we’re not sure why.
We liked your city before hand. It showed us a good time. It was sunny in the square and we bought some great books at your socialist bookshop and even found a rare comic we’d been looking for at your graphic art mart. And it seems like you have a lot going on. Cool kids making good art and noisily creating good new songs. In fact we know you had a relatively successful band come from your turf. We even agree they trumped Jesus.
So it’s surprising, Liverpool, that you still need to get your shit together.
But you do. You really do. And we hope all the actual nice people we met – fans and volunteers and gig promoters – don’t take offense to this. Because, when we come back, (and we totally will) we’ll come back for you and we’ll work with you… and we have a feeling it’ll work out a little better for all involved.
That’s about the only two “words” I can make out from Scotland’s Glaswegian repartee. Hell, we know what you’re saying is definitely ripe with wordplay and you’re all capable of some of the best raillery and ribbing the world has to offer but we just can’t understand a single second of it. We can make out a few cuts and thrusts just because you all start reeling with hearty laughs. But jesus hell I’ve never had to inject more “Pardon mes” and “Sorry, what’s thats?” to fellow Anglophones in my whole life. It’s nice to bandy about with you but I’ll have to have some schooling to find it fair game next time! At Captain’s Rest, the staff – when I can understand them – are truly delightful. They swiftly take us through soundcheck and serve us espressos and delicious burgers and ciders. It is a place that I know would be our own drinking hole if we lived here. The charm of a longstanding divey pub, peppered with hip non-conformists (which sounds oxymoronic but is actually really suitable here.) Any Colour Black is recovering from hangovers and Boycotts are excited about their new record. If I understand them all correctly that is. And I’m pretty sure I do. I know, for sure, one’s drinking her eighth cup of coffee and another is figuring out how many days she can take off work in order to play some festivals. I feel friendship with these fellow hardworking underdogs of the music-making sphere. They are truly at it. I feel proud to be sharing the same stage with them. In a nineties crumpled black velvet dress and converse shoes, Boycott’s frontwoman can barrel through some tunes. She is one of those wonders who make you wonder where she hides her lung capacity. Short in stature but utterly full of song. We face some technical problems from the UK’s overpowering but manage to unplug and replug things enough times that my synths don’t stay pitifully detuned and my drum machine phased out for the entire set. And it doesn’t seem to matter much anyhow. The crowd is in high spirits. And they are funny beyond funny. As I mentioned the only “words” I can make out in response to our comedy routine/stage banter are Aye and Och but they get repeated so many times I know it’s going well. Aye.
You guys rule. I can’t wait to return and try to get in a word or two.
We arrive early as shiny red double deckers careen through sunny Soho streets of eager fashionistas, tourists stretching their zealous necks to snap blurry facades. Despite the fact that too many Brits wear too much make up and opt for fake tans to mask their usual mushroomy pallor, this area seems reserved for the tastefully attired. And I feel, humbly, underdressed. Dan and I snack on samosas before heading straight to Sounds of the Universe to shop for reggae records, aptly combining our love for two of London’s greatest charms: Indian food and Jamaican imports. England, you surely have reaped a few rewards from your albeit brutal history of colonization. And I suppose, well, it made our day swell too.
At Lexington we are listed strictly as Live Music for the evening. We put on our best “stiff upper lips” thinking that the show might be a dud due to lack of promotion but are quickly assured by club owner extraordinaire, Marco, that ticket sales are almost sold out. In the back stage, Marco has provided a full buffet of gleaming fruits and homemade sandwiches and chocolates and every kind of crisp one can imagine. When shown the spread, we gulp and think, “Well, hell, England for once you’ve done your job!” Marco chimes in, “I’m Italian, you know. And London is, hmm, notorious for only providing a bag of chips… if you’re lucky.” Trust us, Marco, we do know. So “Graci mille!”
Sergio, the sound tech, is from Uruguay and also obscenely warm. Helpful and humourous and smooth. With thick South American textures smoothing out his every word, he jokes that all Brits find him sexy “until they see my face.” It is still daylight when Dan and I meander through streets and underneath a shopping arcade to one of the city’s best food districts. Our eyes salivate over menus featuring Pad Prik curries and Picadillos and Jerk chicken and Puttanescas and Tandooris before we settle on a tiny tiny little Turkish place off the main drag. We sit outside, feasting on a table laid in checkered white and blue. The host occasionally joins us to reminisce about Istanbul and, since we’ve recently visited the city, to inquire about any changes to his favourite fish sandwiches. We assure him that they are still the most delicious snack the Bosphorus has to offer. By the time we return to the Lexington, a core circle of true fans (including Codrin, Emi, Cyprian’s brother Michael, a whole team of Irish and the sweet Brits who also joined us in Wales) are drinking ciders and readying themselves for a good night. Ours has already begun. We feel utterly “up to the brim” with joy. Back stage with DeLooze, we swap tour and recording stories and share lipstick and talk about the appeal of the British teen drama Skins for a North American crowd. Trust us, we doknow it’s the equivalent of Beverly Hills 90210 but it seems funnier and trashier and morereal with those Bristol accents. Obviously, we’re getting a little “tipsy” with them and feeling let loose. We shuffle through the crowd and watch DeLooze conduct themselves through brand new songs with grace. And the crowd feels peppy. Ready. Keen. Despite the fact that NME swears there are a million better things to do than be here, we have a full attendance of happy followers and we are nervous with adrenalin. Right before taking stage, I mix my words and wish Dan “a good London,” and when he approaches the mic, the first thing he slurs to the audience in a fake British accent is: “And a good London to you all!” I nearly die with laughter. And it becomes one of the best shows of the tour. One of those ones you can’t sum up without sweat and tears. Trust us, you shoulda been there. And if you were, we love you for it. And in fact you got us to perform three encores so you know just how much fun it was. And, London, we know you’ve seen it all and that you can see it all every night of the week but this felt pretty special. Afterwards England’s best promoter Karina hugs me tightly and Codrin whispers that it was “magic” and Emi, shocked by the crowds’ effusiveness, says “They almost could’ve been Polish.” The Irish rush the stage for photos and kisses. Two Canadians tell me it’s the best show they’ve seen in years. Spidey and Don are “knackered” from having danced up front all night. Sergio and Marco gesticulate madly as only those with that certain speed of blood can do. (I know it well from my own family’s coursing veins and competitive discourse.) And the young trendsetters of Britain embrace me deeply and let me feel a part of their bustling city. It is the megatropolis that allows this incredible mix of fans and artists and fellow musicians from all over to gather and feel something truly great. We are right tuckered. Spent from too much beauty. So: A Good London to you all, London. We do love you.
At Great Escape, we are surprised to learn that we are playing an “M for Montreal” event so Dan and I keep joking about how we always get unknowingly roped into these “Canadian showcases” despite the fact that the government won’t offer our particular band any grant money. “Hmmmpf,” we think. “I suppose our tax dollars have technically paid for this yet we never get a slice…..” So when we take stage, we tell England’s music industry middlemen that “We are Handsome Furs from Montenegro. M for Montenegro. “ and it goes off without a hitch. But there are true fans in the crowd who know when to laugh – I can see Emi from Warsaw bouncing about and Codrin from Bucharest bopping near the back. Johnny and Jenny from up the road confess their sins by singing along to all the songs from our leaked album. And a Canuck repeatedly yells, “I love you Alexei,” and foolishly hugs my sweaty body when I meet him outside after the spectacle. Blaine from L.A. beams from the sidelines. And most people laugh when I say, “ I realize we have a lot of competition tonight. I mean Brighton has a lot going on this weekend.[Neglecting to mention the myriad of other bands playing at venues across town, I opt to talk about “The Lady Boys of Bangkok” musical and the “Netherlands National traveling Circus” instead and the whole thing feels really funny. As England would say, “Some times you have to take the piss.” During What About Us?, Dan perches himself first on a monitor then on the stage barrier before swiftly thrusting himself into a Chinese fan who takes a photo right in his face. It’s all absurd and perfect. And we race outside and into the sea – well, we wet our toes at the sea front – a little too “nippy” for an actual dip. But it is beautiful to be there at the beach with my man under the moon. Nothing makes me happier than these opportunities actually. A bright moon, a beach and the man of my dreams. I am a lucky girl. After Radio Dept’s set, the unusually friendly festival staff help us lug our gear up the ramps to street level and we all share hugs on the sidewalk as the brashness of Brighton’s youth takes over. At an All Night Kebab and Doner shop, Dan and I are swarmed by pasty legs in short sequin skirts. The heavily made-up faces of the bottle blondes are blurry from booze. It seems not one can speak under screeching pitch and what they have to say is ultimately gross and sleazy and plain sad to overhear. And of course, as is the style in UK street life, the dudes are picking fights with each other over ball caps. We spend the first two hours back at Preston Hotel trying to sleep before realizing we are being eaten alive by bed bugs. I have sixteen bites down one arm alone and I feel sick at the sight of the blood stuffed bodies of these evil sucklings. This hotel’s four crown rating system of its own devise is a fucking joke and we are miserable beyond miserable. I actually start sobbing. At reception, the Egyptian concierge is at a loss as to what to do. With no other available rooms (due to the festival attendance at which we have just starred), he offers us the floor of the conference room. With no other available bedding, he offers us tablecloths and fire blankets. It is, well, as you can imagine, not much fun. But Dan and I spoon despite the stress and sadness of it all. When we “wake up,” we are ready to continue this UK segment of the tour.
And all the things Dan loves to hate about England: the music industry, the food, the prices, the accommodation can’t keep us down. I am proud to say he remains keen. “I must be having the best tour ever,” he says. Unfettered. Nothing, no single thing can deter us now.
I’ve noticed: The more money a country has the more money they tend to charge you for the internet. Thus, when we arrive to our hotel in the outskirts of Amsterdam in our continual progress westwards since the Balkan portion of this tour, I am relieved to find time to play with the bunnies in the green patches around the parking lot instead of tending to the business piling up in my inbox. Dan coins the nickname “Mark Van Der Wooteen” for a particularly fluffy rabbit and deems him worthy as our new and first “band manager.” We’d like to have all technical difficulties and hospitality issues fielded by Mr. Van Der Wooteen from now on. Just no one can say no to him! Dan gushes. And when I run into the grass to play, Dan frowns, “Why are you chasing them away?” Confused, I say, “Fuck. I thought we were running together.” There are these delicious moments on tour when you just drop everything and enjoy the unusual surprises you’re given.
Back to reality: There are basically far too many cyclists in Amsterdam to keep the streets safe for motorists or pedestrians. At nearly every turn, we are terrified of crushing bicycle parts and bones beneath us. And as we are trying to load gear into Bitter Zoet, I am alarmed by more bells rung peppily by erect Hollanders than I can count. Their health frustrates me. The well-doing tend to have little interest in those in need, preferring to speed along heartily with their own best interests.
After soundcheck, Dan, JC and I try to determine the actual origin of the staff at the “Chinese” restaurant we dine at. After discerning some Indonesian and Cantonese and Singlish being spoken between the staff, we understand why the food sucks. It is an establishment for Dutch folk and tourists who have likely never been east of the city.
“Oh well,” quips Dan, “at least we’re going to England tomorrow where the food is so awesome.” “And cheap,” I concur.
Three Trapped Tigers get stuck in traffic and arrive awfully late and unrested but in kind spirits. We go on first and win the crowd over. One of our loveliest fans, Lindsay is, as always, in attendance. Front row and dead centre and beaming the whole time. The lighting technician energetically offers us “UFO landings” and “space disco” because I’ve asked him to give us “crazy lights.” And despite the early hour, the crowd is wholly effusive. In the backstage, we share drinks with some fans who, sadly, missed half the show or only caught the last two songs because of the confused billing but we promise a speedy return to the country. We’ll make up for it folks. You know we will.
The drummer in Three Trapped Tigers sweats through a new Handsome Furs shirt on stage and we all feel like we’ve created a dang successful evening in the end.
Lindsay lives near the airport and we decide to give her a ride home so she doesn’t have to get “sketched out” at the central station on her own. She sits on the generator box and catches us up on her studies and such.
Back at the hotel, the bunnies are still scampering about outside our window and Dan and I can hardly sleep, wanting to watch their absurd cuteness all night.
Goodnight Mr. Van Der Wooteen. Your first day on the job was a banner success.
Spring must have arrived early this year in Gent because all the upright cyclists have wet red faces from the heat and sun. Plus all the students are milling around in shorts and short skirts and loose grins. Belgian beer seems to be sloshing down the streets in celebration. Lucky us.
We spend the day looking through record stores and vintage shops and a plethora of lingerie stores – they do lace well in these parts! – and we stock up on socks and get our laundry done while we lunch on microwaved pastas at a deli, glommy with sauce and nearly inedible. But at least JC gets moussaka – when we toured in Greece last year, we had anticipated the dish in multitudes but it had managed, somehow, to evade us.
In the city centre, Dan and I meander about on the cobblestones and sit on terraces drinking espressos. It feels like a vacation.
When we arrive to the venue, Brooklyn duo CREEP are mid soundcheck. Both women are named Lauren and both have opposing hair cuts – one long and curly and shaved on the left, the other short and straight and parted, slanting forward, from the right. They too have been on tour for a stretch, wearing dirty black attire, and it’s nice to see other folks looking a little gritty in this clean city. Plus they are awesome. I feel a kinship with them quickly. They are loud and heavy and their projected visuals remind me of the split screen camera work in Brian de Palma’s Sisters.
An older Rockabilly with Werner Herzog elocution and a Willem Dafoe physiognomy handles our soundcheck with expertise. When we repeatedly thank him for making it perfect for us, he looks down at the board and breathes, “Well. It is that it is all…. flat…. so…. I suppose it is you… actually…. really.” He has quiet style of a man I could really like. He is made of edges but is a kind.
In the kitchen above the venue, the chef is adding the finishing touches to a truly delicious home-cooked meal that I can tell he is particularly proud of when he, realizing he likes our company, sits down to eat at the same time. “What the hell.” The venue has been in operation for such a long time that it is nice to see its family of freaks all finding their niche within it. It’s a really lovely atmosphere and I feel happy to reap the rewards. Even the large and once-gruff bartender makes Dan some mint tea and makes fun of Belgium’s token system.
The show begins early but people are undeterred by the sunlit hour. They bop and clap and nod and laugh with us. I feel energized by the amazing sound and the lovely crowd. Afterwards I help a fan from Shanghai make her boyfriend jealous (still in China, he couldn’t make it to the show so I write a personalized note for her to share with him via Skype). The flourescent red-headed wiry butch bathroom attendant hugs me and winks at me and, despite her inability to speak English, manages to let me know that “normally [she] hate music… young people” but we’ve given her some pause for thought. That makes me feel perfect and I laugh with her. This cast of eccentric characters would, of course, make a great Lynch movie but they also make for a beautiful reality. Pretty fucking rad.
Off to Berlin, bellies still swimming from Becherovka and some of the world’s best ales, but prepared to ‘rock it like a hurricane.’ At a posh and freshly renovated Motel One, we sit in a tiny outside lounge, sandwiched between East and West Germany buildings, eating sandwiches. Salina Barth arrives and an afternoon of press begins through her coordination. Her sunkissed and freckled face looks over occasionally with raised eyebrows and a tap on her watch, a polite gesture to the journalists to keep things running smoothly and on time. Fortunately, we’re really in the mood for it all and Dan and I banter gingerly back and forth with each new writer. Berlin always feels like such a big deal to me. I am always so excited to be here but always sickly nervous about the shows. Perhaps it is because Berlin is the European capital I most want to impress. I think it’s cooler than London and it has more grit than Paris and Barcelona’s usually indifferent anyhow. I always feel kept on my toes by this town. Because there are so many fellow artists and musicians and writers, I feel amongst brethren but also that I want to make sure that they really love me. I want to feel kinship here. But I also want to seem cool.
The venue we’re playing at is called West Germany, a legendary little art rocker spot that is hidden above a pharmacy next to a car wash. It is one of those secret gems that can only exist in Berlin. Where neighbours will allow you your illegal venue if you promise to keep the windows closed once the show has started. It feels good here. I could live here, easily and in a heartbeat. There’s a million things going on and we get to be one of many and yet it feels special.
The staff are, of course, fucking rad and the promoter, Kevin, is wholly lovely. He is relatively new in the game and he has done a beautiful job in meeting our every need – even kindly providing Georgian wine and Russian vodka, keenly aware of our love of Eastern European treats. He is absolutely perfect and thoughtful and good to us.
Jonas, our formidable Finnish pal and the mixing genius behind our upcoming album, arrives. Having spent some of the winter chatting our ideas out via Skype, it is a blessing to see him in the flesh which is precisely what he says to me, while squeezing my heart out. Despite the club’s dodgy gear and unfortunate noise limiters, Jonas makes us sound just the way I like to. Having added his personal flare to the record, it is incredible to have him perform his genius live.
We all walk together through hipster central over hang out bridge. A million folks are out with their beers and their dogs, donning punk haircuts and edgy dresses and low crotched pants and new patterns and a general savvy for style. Berlin, you always look so damn good. Again, it feels like summer and I’m in love.
Kevin races back after dinner because he is alerted to the fact that there is already a line up at the club. I high five him with my eyes! This is a good sign! And we all feel in the throes of this night that, now, nothing can go wrong. And yet the adrenalin swells and the nerves jitter even quicker. Now it gets to be exciting. And the terror to do well registers itself as a time bomb inside me. Countdown to show time and we better put out.
Fellow Canucks, Basketball, put their highest energy on. They swivel and thrash and grind. It’s a beautiful perfect messy riot. Already we are sweating.
On stage, I tell the crowd I am fearful of them and some one yells, “But we like you!” and I am surged by good feeling. The sentiment I needed spurs me on. I like you too, Berlin. So much. And I am glad we are in this dirty sauna filled with too many bodies and too much noise. There isn’t enough room but for any other feelings than the ones in this room. Maxed. The world has met its match here.
By the third song, Dan and I are so slick with sweat that the crowd, also drenched, suggests we remove at least a few layers of clothing. I yell, “I will if you will,” and three gentleman promptly strip to their nitty gritties taking my challenge. Stunned and happy to combine forces, Dan and I peel off our soaking shirts and play the rest of the show half nude, still near passing out from overheating!
Berlin, you came out for us and we put out our best for you.
We couldn’t love you more. You are the epitome of radness, and you make us cooler by association.
Plus, only in Berlin, is it possible to polish off the evening at a gay bar that is covered in pink faux fur with half the crowd squeezed in despite the late hours.
Too fucking rad.