It's Only Rock 'n' Roll

The members of Cold Hands ignore their punk pedigrees in favor of smart, danceable pop-rock

Considering the musical lineage of the members of Cold Hands, it's somewhat astonishing that the group has ended up where it has. A supergroup of sorts, Cold Hands' various members comprise a who's who of Knoxville's punk/hardcore community of the last decade: vocalist/guitarist Henry Gibson is an alum of Chelsea Horror and several other projects; guitarist Zach Land once played in Past Mistakes; and drummer Gene Priest has filtered through several area bands, including his own My Lost Cause. So it's a bit of a surprise that the band has largely abandoned its louder/faster roots in favor of a more melodic, danceable sound with choruses that stick in your head like the arena-rock anthems of Queen, T. Rex, and even U2.

That's not to say that Cold Hands has ditched underground integrity for crass, commercial schlock. But there's something big about the band's sound that indicates the potential to echo far beyond the confines of the tiny clubs where the band plays at the moment.

"I try to make the guitar parts interesting, and everyone else in the band tries to make the music as listener-friendly as possible," explains Land. "When we write songs I'm usually coming from a completely different direction. But in the end, it's just a rock 'n' roll band."

The 11 tracks of the band's upcoming LP, Sex. Beats. Romance., are intelligently wrought, offering jagged guitars and sinuous bass rhythms that culminate in huge choruses and catchy back-up vocals. With a sound similar to that of the Cure, Echo and the Bunnymen, or contemporary bands like British Sea Power, Cold Hands add humanity to the chill of late-1970s U.K. post-punk, delivering danceable pop-rock that never panders, is reassuringly simple, and avoids predictability.

"The new record just kind of happened organically," says Land. "We really weren't going for a specific sound or trying to change. We just wrote the songs and they came together."

While inflating travel costs have crimped Cold Hands' touring, the band remains active through record releases and Internet distribution. "With gas prices being the way they are, traveling isn't really the easiest thing to do," says Land. "So recently we've been as regional as possible, playing Asheville a lot and making it to Atlanta and Nashville when we can. As far as big, long tours go, well, none of us are independently wealthy."

Interestingly, Cold Hands will soon be on the silver screen. The group recently completed shooting an appearance in the upcoming film My Name Is Jerry, starring fantasy film stalwart Doug Jones.

"[Jones] was the fish guy in Hellboy, he was the guy with the eyeballs in his hands in Pan's Labyrinth, and he was the Silver Surfer," explains Land. "This is his first out-of-makeup role, playing a door-to-door salesman who meets a punk-rock girl who changes his life."

The band members have cameo appearances in a scene shot in a rock club. "Of course, it's ‘the bar scene' that we're in," Land says. "But luckily, we're actually playing ourselves in the movie. There are people in the audience wearing Cold Hands T-shirts. We're definitely in the movie and on the soundtrack, and we may end up doing the entire soundtrack. That could be a really good opportunity for us."

While the band is certainly aiming high and hoping for some kind of massive exposure, the group's focus is intently on its music.

"I don't want to say that we're just typical or anything like that," Land says. "But I don't think there's anything that's completely out of the norm about us. None of us breathes fire, and we don't really wear funny outfits.

"I think what we're doing musically is kind of a reflection of our own growing up. You know, you get older and you start listen to The Beatles more. You just kind of take whatever pieces that you like from all of the different genres and put it into one giant pile, creating something that you hope ends up somehow being your own. Then again, is it even possible to have an original song these days?"