In our first Meet The Band spotlight of 2021 are Buffalo, New York hard rockers Hearts & Hand Grenades. After an independently released EP in 2019, they just released their full-length debut Turning To Ashes. Vocalist/bassist Stephanie Wlosinski introduces us to her band.
Chad Bowar: Give us a brief history of Hearts & Hand Grenades.
Stephanie Wlosinski: We formed in 2019, having individually come from different cover bands that played in the western New York area. We all met each other playing various gigs in that scene for years. Mike (Bress, guitar/keyboards) and I formed H&HG after touring GCR Audio, a recording studio owned by Robby Takac of the Goo Goo Dolls, and we were hooked after seeing the place. We knew it was time to begin writing our own songs and creating our own original sound.
Describe the songwriting process for Turning To Ashes.
The album was a collaborative effort, and most of the tracks started with Mike and I working on the various rhythm parts. Once those were in place I would get to work on lyrics and pull in the rest of the band to tweak the leads and percussion. The track “Daggers” stemmed from the exciting intro riff on that one. Kenny (Blesy, lead guitar) brought that to the table and we knew right there that he was on to something and it had to be it’s own creation.
How did you come to work with producer Justin Rose (Goo Goo Dolls)?
Justin is a great engineer for GCR. When we first booked studio time there in 2019 we were lucky enough to get booked with Justin. He has a great ear for recording and producing and we’ve worked with him every time we’ve recorded now. He always offers productive and technical suggestions of different sounds we can try musically or vocally and each session has been a blast.
What will be your strongest memory of the recording of the album?
My personal favorite memory has got to be of Kenny trying everything he could to produce some guitar feedback for “Nothing Left.” We cranked everything up and he shook the hell out of his guitar but the thing just wouldn’t go. Kenny was in a room by himself while Mike, myself, and Justin Rose were at the sound board. Kenny was so frustrated shaking that guitar so when we all looked up and saw him basically convulsing it was just hysterical to see.
How would you describe the album’s style/sound?
The album is hard rock, and we experimented with some subgenres throughout the tracks. We knew that we didn’t want to create an album where all the tracks sound the same, and we definitely don’t want to sound like everything else coming out now in the rock scene. So we deliberately put the tracks in an order that will bring highs and lows for the listeners to make it more of an ebb and flow feel. How a listener connects to an album emotionally is so important and we didn’t want to overlook that with Turning To Ashes.
What lyrical topics do you cover?
I feel like I was all over the place with this album. The tracks cover topics such as a good old breakup song, feeling isolated and alone, wandering into a den of assassins, needing music as our “adrenaline”, and so much more. I write lyrics mostly based on emotional topics and not so much on singular events. However, “The In Crowd” came from a dream that I had and it was so inspiringly weird!
How did you come to sign with Eclipse Records?
When we were contacted by Eclipse Records that they were interested in our EP that we had put together at the time, we were thrilled. We knew the types of bands that Eclipse works with and we were very excited to join that roster.
What are your goals and expectations for the album?
We really just want to get the album out there and get as many people to listen to it as we can. We know its potential and we poured all of our energy into it. We have done pretty well in the UK so far and are very excited to continue spreading our sound around the globe. We’ve been patiently waiting for our tour opportunity to promote the album when covid restrictions allow us to do so. It’s been a little frustrating to push an album without scheduled tour dates but we promise that we will be out promoting it live as soon as possible!
How was the video shoot for “Turning To Ashes”? Were there any extra covid protocols you had to take?
The video shoot was really fun. We were excited to be on location in the city of Buffalo for the shoot, and the outdoor/building scenes are all authentic Buffalo, no backdrops. Walking through the pillars was pretty interesting though because we kept hearing someone cough off in the distance but could never actually find anyone in there with us. It made for a slightly creepy ambiance but the shoot continued ghost free. There were no additional covid restrictions other than the typical guidelines of keeping our distance from each other and masking up when appropriate. The shoot took place a bit before we moved to stricter guidelines so it wasn’t too bad at the time.
What has been your most memorable Hearts & Hand Grenades live show?
Since signing with Eclipse we have been under covid restrictions so we are still waiting for your dates to happen since then, but we have all played locally for many years in various cover bands. For me, my favorite gig was playing at The Town Ballroom in Buffalo for a biggest radio stations (WEDG) Halloween Party. We were on stage playing covers and decided to throw “Nothing Left” into the mix. The lights on stage were so bright that you can’t see the crowd, but we heard the place erupt after playing that one. The house flipped the lights to the audience and it was just packed! That was a great feeling to know that we played our original song to a packed venue that hosts major acts, and we got the crowd to roar!
When do you think you’ll be able to tour again?
We do have plans to jump right into a tour once covid policies start allowing venues to open back up again. I’m hoping that now with the release of a vaccine that it will be sooner than later but we can’t be certain just yet. We will be touring in the US and are very open to international tours as well but we will have to just wait and see how things go.
What has the impact been on the band’s operations and on you personally?
Operationally I think we all feel like a bunch of race horses stuck at the gate. We have been working non-stop to continue to create new music while we have been on hold from touring, but we are ready to go when that gate drops! Personally, I am always thinking about what’s next, and moving forward with the band. As soon as possible we will be out playing, sharing our music and experiences with our fans, and I can’t wait to keep recording new tracks. I feel like we are just hitting our stride creatively bit we can’t get out and share that with anyone yet. It’s frustrating but we are doing our best to stay positive like most bands are I’m sure.
How did you get started in music?
I’ve always enjoyed rock music. From the time I was a young kid I would listen to bands like Aerosmith and Heart, and then jump over to Green Day, Nirvana, and No Doubt. I think I have my mom to thank for the diversity. She was a genius, actually. She would put on the radio and crank it up when it was time to do chores. It made it a little more fun to run the vacuum. I also played in the orchestra from 4th grade through graduating high school so I definitely had a love for stringed instruments from that.
Who were your early influences and inspirations?
When I was younger I gravitated to bands like Green Day, Goldfinger, No Doubt, Reel Big Fish, etc. Then I discovered Muse and that was it for me. Their sound has been at the top of my list ever since and they are by far my favorite band.
What was the first concert you attended?
I think the first concert I ever went to was to see the Barenaked Ladies in Buffalo. At the time they were at the top of the pop charts and everyone had their own version of the lyrics for “One Week” so that was always fun to sing with friends.
Anything else you’d like to mention or promote?
Be sure to check us out on our social media platforms, check out the new album, and we have a bass guitar giveaway happening through February so definitely check that out, too. We can’t wait to hit the road and play live for everyone again and we will post that information on our website as soon as possible!
(interview published January 9, 2021)
Watch Hearts & Hand Grenades – “Turning To Ashes” Video