Speaking to drummer Nick Ivarra of the Rich Hands on his band’s latest musings, I was surprised for a moment when he said, “We really don’t practice much in general.” Then I remembered a live recording I helped produce last year in which Ivarra, guitarist and singer Cody Mauser and bassist Matt Gonzalez loaded in and set up like worker ants, briskly mic-checked and burned through 10 or 12 songs without second takes, double the number from most bands. Laid-back and on-point through the process, the trio seemed to have internalized their stripped down, blown out rock ‘n’ roll as a mantra, reciting the stuff without strain.
For the Rich Hands, a band with nine national tours in the past two years, practice is play. On Dreamers, their 2012 debut on Detroit’s Fountain Records, the three-piece perfected their booze-bruised Motown approach. In the process, they swept the Current’s reader-chosen Music Awards in 2013, winning Best Album, Best Indie Rock Band and, oddly enough, Most Underrated Band.
Rather than chill on their popular SA appeal, the Rich Hands toured their way up to Detroit to tweak their sound for their second effort Out of My Head. In the studio with Deerhunter sound engineer Chris Koltay, the Rich Hands busted out their second record in a week. “We wanted a different album than Dreamers,” Ivarra said. “We still have the pop elements … but we wanted it to be more raw, driven and loud. With all the tools we had, we wanted to capture our live sound the best we can.”
In a previous interview with the Current, songwriter Cody Mauser said, “If Dreamers was the ’60s garage pop record, this new one is going to be more along the lines of ’70s power pop.” True to his word, the Rich Hands move their rock retrospective forward a decade, shuffling between the massive guitar glam of T. Rex and solo Lou Reed on “No Harm Blues” and album-closer “I Get By,” and Ramones-style pop-punk on the album’s first single, “Teenager.”
For the most part, the Rich Hands are still embedded in Dreamers’ three chord tales of rock ‘n’ roll love, though backtracking, overdubbed guitar licks and tempo changes add an air of newfound dexterity to the latest work. “I’d say the biggest difference [on Out of My Head] is that we’ve all gotten better at our instruments,” said Ivarra.
Normally at this point, the SA trio would pack their gear in the van and promote their new record, kicking ass across the lower 48. But after enough tours to make the saltiest of road veterans cringe, the Rich Hands will forgo a promotional trek across America, hanging instead in Texas.
“We’re all trying to settle down,” said Ivarra. “Nine tours in two years was a lot on us. We’re trying to catch up. As fun as it is, it’s hard just to do it all. We’re just taking a little break, then we’ll get back to it.” In the interim, Mauser has moved to Austin and Ivarra’s picked up his Fender in the Oblio’s, a “heavy fuzz band” also on Friday’s Limelight bill.
In some ways, the Rich Hands operate too quickly for the traditional recording and touring cycle. Like their fellow indie workaholics Mac Demarco and Ty Segall, the Rich Hands can never really get out of the rock ‘n’ roll headspace. “As soon as we finished [Dreamers], we started working and writing right away,” said Ivarra. Though Out of My Head has only just been released, “we’re almost over playing these songs. We’re already writing for the new album.”
With the dual support of Fountain Records and tastemaker Burger Records (which distributes the band’s cassette tapes), the Rich Hands can afford to slack on the national tour, letting the internet do the promotional work for them. “Just having that Burger name is massive,” said Ivarra. “They have so many awesome bands that get so much airplay and press, people take a look at Burger bands because there’s a hype to it, there’s that name to it.”
In the meantime, the Rich Hands will represent their Burger pride in San Antonio, where the atmosphere has “gotten way better,” Ivarra proclaimed. “It’s crazy ’cause I remember when we first started it was really hard to do anything, really hard to play shows, really hard to book shows. But now, there’s bands that are doing what we’re doing and they’re starting out and growing. More and better bands are touring through. People are recognizing SA as a cool place to play. It’s not really money central, but you’re gonna come and have a good time.”
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