There are few things in this world that ignite motivation with more force than girls and solid deadlines. John Healy, frontman for Seattle-based the Hands, ought to know.
"I was really bummed out about this girl, for no good reason, and so we just decided to get drunk one day off a bottle of Old Overholt whiskey, and we ended up putting together three songs," says Healy, relating the moment when he and guitarist Eli Chuckovich came together for the first time in a basement practice space at Capitol Hill's Crybaby Studios.
First, there were two Hands, Healy and Chuckovich, both schooled at Olympia's progressive, structure-free Evergreen State College. After playing their loud, back-to-basics rock around Seattle a bit as a double-axed duo, the Hands became a quintet by adding drums and keys (Cary Davis and Jordan Lock, respectively, also from Evergreen) and bass (Clayton Kilkenny) to the mix.
Lineup in place, an actual release from the group could still have been easily put off amid the noise and distraction of day jobs and playing shows, but the stakes were ratcheted up as the deadline for Capitol Hill Block Party submissions closed in.
"I was a friend of a friend of the guy that was booking the block party, and we wanted a recording that we could submit; that was the real goal initially," says Healy of what marked the beginning of the creation of So Sweet, the band's debut EP. "We started recording a week before the deadline, and I thought we were going to do just a one-night recording. But Eli had other plans, like do all the drums at once and lay down the other stuff later.
"Eli was right, and I was wrong," acknowledges Healy, whose visage resembles a younger, thinner version of Jeff Daniels. "And it ended up taking a lot longer than we thought."
In true Evergreen style, the Hands didn't make the deadline for the block party, but did set a self-imposed deadline of Sept. 10 to have a finished product. To make it, they pooled resources, making use of the gratis, clubhouse-style studio in the basement of Ballard's Bop Street Records (brainchild of Chuckovich). The Hands emerged for a final mixing session at Jackpot! studios in Portland.
The finished product—an EP released on their collectively self-run Basement Empire label—is emblazoned with seven molten-hot garage-rock tracks and came in on time (a day early even). And the time invested paid dividends. The title track, "So Sweet," kicks the record off with a high-energy, ripping guitar intro and skips any sort of runway, taking off immediately with playfully morbid lyrics—"Right before we woke up/We all had the same dream/You drank the blood of a millionaire/Yeah, yeah, yeah"—setting the bar for the six well-crafted, catchy, fist-pumping creations that follow. And though the themes may vary, the underlying raw energy remains constant to the closer, "Praying Hands Will Make Fists," arguably the strongest track on the record, which kicks and screams from the word go.
With acclaim from KEXP—the band recently played both an in-studio and the station's Yule Benefit—and a solid-as-a-rock release, it's safe to say the Hands have started a fire. But with the shifting winds, the path they'll blaze may be less predictable.
"The So Sweet EP, while I'm a big fan of it, it's all go," says Healy, "I think the next release is going to be a lot more varied, with more space."
The Hands With the Cops and the Old Haunts. Tractor Tavern, 5213 Ballard Ave. N.W., 789-3599, www.tractortavern. citysearch.com. $7. 9:30 p.m. Sat., Jan. 13.