May 4, 2016

Johnny O’Hagan – Idlehands


Vocalist Johnny O’Hagan may front San Diego’s groovy, progressive band Idlehands by night, but by day he’s spinning up lattes and getting a degree from Berklee College of Music. We took a moment to catch up with him about his band and what we can expect to see from them very soon.

Casual Punk Fan: What have you been up to?

Johnny: All of us have been busting ass. We usually take a week or so off after a tour but we’re trying not to do that anymore so we can use all the time we have. On top of that I’ve been working full time, going to school, practicing with the band and writing.

What are you focusing on at Berklee?

I’m working on my Bachelor of Professional Studies in Songwriting. That’s eventually what I’d like to do for work.

Totally. So when you’re done touring, you’ll keep working behind the scenes?

Hopefully at the same time!

Give us a rundown of your career in music.

Like a lot of people who started singing at a young age, I grew up in the church. My mother was a worship singer and a piano player. I learned how to sing and got into singing through her and started singing gospel songs and contemporary Christian music. Eventually, I got a guitar and pursued that for awhile. Singing became more important to me though and I began to only focus on that. Guitar didn’t come quickly for me and I gave it up. I always wanted to sing and I had a lot of friends in San Diego growing up that were in bands, but none of them really took me seriously with wanting to be a frontman. When I was 17, my neighbor had this funk and soul band and their singer had quit. They had all these songs and were like: “Hey do you wanna learn these and play shows with us?” So I just kinda jumped in and did it. And then from there I was approached by another friend in a band that was kinda like this post hardcore Dance Gavin Dance kind of ripoff band. [Laughs.] That group went on to later become the band Keyes after I quit to start Idlehands with Seancarlo and Michael. I met those two through playing local shows in our previous bands.

How long ago did you guys form Idlehands?

5 Years.

The first time we met you guys had been newly acquired by Equal Vision, or an imprint of Equal Vision. Is that still your home?

Yeah we are still with EVR.

Are there other groups on your imprint?

There are other bands on the imprint, but I can’t think of them off the top of my head. The imprint is undergoing a name change, so I’m not sure what is going on with it at the moment.

So what’s the story with Idlehands right now? What are you guys up to?

Booking and writing! We just announced a show for May 20th in Scottsdale with Polyenso that we’re pretty excited about. After that, we have a few California shows in June and then a west coast tour in July. Following that, we are playing a festival at the end of summer that we’re trying to book a tour around as well. We also are getting ready to record another single.

You guys had a single not too long ago, right?

Yeah, this will be our second. We’re writing a record but we kinda want to put out music right now because our last album (Dena Mora) took a really long time to get released. Because of the slow release process, we’re focusing on getting out some singles, so we have current material to tour off of.

We met in summer 2014 when Dena Mora was finished. But it still didn’t come out until late 2015, right?

Yeah. The record was actually done in October of 2013.

That’s a really long time. What happened with that release?

There’s a lot that went into it, but it wasn’t on us. We had a window with the label and a decent tour to put it out on but the producer took about 5 months to finish it. After that, the release just kept on getting pushed back until we had a good enough tour.

So you guys missed the boat on that huh?

Yeah. It was pretty shitty. It really kind of hurt the whole release so now we’re just itching to put out new music because that was so long ago. We’ve been pumping out songs pretty quickly and we’re all super happy with the new material. We had a few member changes and we’re working with a new rhythm section so it’s been a big adjustment, but the dynamic is much better now.

What caused all the changes?

Our bassist quit to move to Austin with his girlfriend. Our drummer Phil is still a part of it, but he’s getting married and he isn’t able to tour anymore. He also lives in New York, which has made practicing nearly impossible. We’re at a point now where we have to be rehearsing and writing several times a week. We can’t just have him fly out right before a tour and rehearse.

Getting caught on different sides of the US when you’re trying to get moving is tough I bet.

Totally. I did it myself at one point- I moved to NY and lived with Phil for six months while we were waiting for our record to get put out and it put a strain on the band. I wasn’t very happy with where I was at in my life, so I went out there to make a personal adjustment.

Glad things are on the mend. Anything else to add?

One thing that I’m proud of is that the new song we just did was with a guy that I never thought I’d be able to work with. Mike Sapone produced for our new song “Glass Eyed Boys.” He has done a lot of work for Brand New, O’Brother, and Taking Back Sunday. He’s a really talented guy so just to be in his house recording with him, in a place where some amazing records were born was really special. He’s also a great person to be around and he made us feel like we were longtime friends.

Absolutely. And are you guys going to meet with him again for the new single?

As of right now, it’s undecided. We will see what happens in these next few months.

Listen to the latest single from Idlehands:

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