Hand Habits’ Meg Duffy discusses the inspirations behind new LP ‘Fun House’
Meg Duffy released Fun House, their third album as Hand Habits, today. Working with their roommates SASAMI (who produced) and Kyle "King Tuff" Thomas (who engineered), it's a big step forward for Duffy, a wonderful, harmony-laden pop album that still has the yearning spirit of Hand Habits' first two records. You read our review of the album and listen to the whole thing now.
We asked Meg to tell us a little bit about the inspirations behind Fun House and and they gave us a list that includes some clear sonic inspiration like Fleetwood Mac, as well as collaborators Perfume Genius (who appears on the album) and Christian Lee Hutson, films, poets, books and more. Meg's commentary is as thoughtful as their songs and it's a great read. Check that out below.
HAND HABITS - 10 INSPIRATIONS BEHIND 'FUN HOUSE'
1. Paris is Burning (1990) | During the late summer of 2020 when writing for Fun House, I found myself exploring parts of my identity that I had always been aware of, but intimidated to really face. Many friends had recommended this documentary that is primarily about the lives of black and hispanic drag queens in New York City in the mid to late '80s - the fashion, the classism, the homophobia, the racism, and how the world of drag gave these women and queens a sense of community and and expression. Although there is a thread of deep sadness that runs through the story, I felt moved by the care and tough love and acceptance there was within the stories these people told.
2. Ted Greene | Last year when I had more time to myself than ever before, I got into a routine of practicing guitar in a more technical and structured sense. A friend shared with me some Ted Greene YouTube videos of him teaching his students. He looks so cool and casual as he smokes during the lesson and plays the examples of voice leading seemingly effortlessly. I stumbled upon tedgreene.com and in the lesson section there are hundreds of free pdf’s of transcribed lessons from Ted’s personal archive, some with hand written notes and suggestions from Ted. I printed a stack out and would move through them (very very slowly). It helped me get back to the basics and remember the beauty that a guitar direct into an amp with no effects can facilitate. Ted’s sense of voice leading blows my mind, and his harp harmonics and overall understanding of the guitar completely lit a fire under me to remember to be more dedicated in this kind of practice. I wanted (and still want to) incorporate some of his grace into my playing.
3. My Meteorite by Harry Dodge (2020) | My friend Tara Jane O’Neil had a copy of this book on her bedside table when I was house sitting for her out in Landers, CA. I picked it up casually because a few friends had mentioned they were reading it, and that it seemed to have open a portal of continual synchronicity. I had been longing for a portal of this kind…one that throws me off balance and into a new lens, finding meaning in everything around me and linking it together. This book did that for me at the perfect time and turned my stagnant days into a kaleidoscope of signs and symbols that in turn ended up on the walls and mantels of Fun House.
4. Tusk by Fleetwood Mac | Tusk has always been one of my favorite albums, and when I moved into a house with Sasami and Kyle (aka King Tuff) it was on frequent rotation in the evenings when we all ate dinner together. We all agreed that this would be a major sonic and arrangement inspiration for Fun House. The dryness of this record has always baffled me, and for Fun House I wanted to move away from using so much reverb and atmospheric glue and lean into a bit more rawness. Also the drumming and percussion.
5. Two words: Krista Tippett | This particular episode helped me navigate some ambiguous feelings of loss and she speaks with Pauline Boss about how to grieve without closure.
6. My friend Christian Lee Hutson and I would send each other song ideas or snippets and talk about lyrics and phrasing. I have admired his musicality since we first met in a dorm in Wisconsin at a festival as strangers. The way his guitar arrangements seem linked genetically to his lyrics and melodies really excites me and I wanted to incorporate this kind of thoughtful and considerate guitar arrangements into my songs. Thankfully he let me bug him a lot when I was writing and was one of the few people I would send unfinished songs to for feedback.
7. Playing in Perfume Genius and practicing for the live stream we did last year seeped into my creative algorithm through osmosis- getting to know someone else’s songs and compositions really helps me get outside of myself creatively. I love the way that music seems to know no barriers, taking many shapes. I remember I had 2 very different song ideas kicking around for a while and had never considered merging them until learning the PG song “Some Dream” that has 3 very different sections in it but somehow seamlessly fits together. I tried to approach my song “The Answer” this way- by just allowing these ideas to exist in the same container.
8. Griffin Goldsmith who plays drums all over Fun House and Placeholder and is one of my favorite drummer/percussionist to play with (and watch) told me about his band mate’s guitars Gelber and Sons and was always telling me I should get one. I reached out to Wylie cold call style and stopped over to his studio that felt like a middle school shop class or your grandfather's basement. He lent me a red ‘radocaster’ with a huge baseball bat neck and some hot Bill Lawrence pickups I’d never tried before. I loved playing it, and it’s on “Concrete and Feathers,” and after the record I worked with Wylie to make a guitar for me. It’s now one of my favorite things to play and gives me an excuse to go talk to Wylie about his projects like casting dandelions in resin to make door knobs or what pickups he’s into modifying. Sometimes a new instrument can really bring songs out of me.
9. Louise Gluck - Vita Nova (2001) | Every time I come back to Gluck’s poems, it feels as though I’m reading through my own journals and uncovering some deep hidden memory and suddenly I’m back, I have the smells in my nose again and I can feel the quality of the atmosphere, the stinging of the emotion. She’s a poet whose books I like to always be around, and her sense of perspective is one I am often astounded by. It just seems to make sense to me - the shifting from inner world to outer, blending past with present, meanings drenched in her personal experience but universal enough to give me a heavy chest. Vita Nova gave me the final permission I think I needed to start speaking to my own pools of grief, my own missing pieces, and reminded me (again) that to love the world is to have images in my songs.
10. Pauline Oliveros Deep Listening Meditations | After a disagreement with someone I went through a deep period of being obsessed with becoming a better listener. I wanted to know what it takes to actually listen to someone, to be present with them, to hold space, to participate in the act (action) of listening. I found myself thinking of Pauline and her entire philosophy on the practice of Deep Listening, and dove into her suggested sonic meditations. Although I have yet to try these with a group. I found these to be reminders of the myriad of approaches one can take to listening whether to intentional music, to a friend speaking, to environmental sounds, or to my own playing.