It's a well-known fact that most band names are essentially gobbledygook, but here at Rocks Off we're trying hard to find meaning in the oddest monikers.
HPMA-winning group the Handshake's music sounds like it's being pulled out of an old radio one note at a time by an angst-ridden teenager with a pair of pliers. The sound is somewhat thin and stretched, with high-pitched vocals and guitar melodies that dance above you on the ceiling just out of reach. Songs like "Soldier" speak poignantly, even with elegance, but at the core the music remains something unsettled and waiting.
That being said, the band's American Arguments EP does speak wonders for the band's potential. Indie-rock, Radiohead sensibilities collide with a distinctive Texas semi-country sound in a way that cleaves both sides together on "The River." David Elkin's guitar brings a solid blues presence on "South," including a simple but tremendously powerful solo outing near the end, but drummer and singer Lucas Eason doesn't really have the tortured voice of good blues. He's much more at home in the Canned Acoustica version of "Soldier," where he pulls in his performance down a half-step and shows his obvious connection for roots a bit more clearly.
We'd like to see the Handshake in the grip of Magnolia Red, guiding them into the full exploration of what they can do. Until then, we'll impatiently watch them level grind into something grand. That name, though...
What kind of name for a band is the Handshake? Handshaking is for business people, not wild, free music men. You hug, or fist-bump, or throw up on each other for a greeting. You seal deals with drugs and high fives.
Handshakes are something you get when you're up too early after a gig and haven't had any caffeine, not your unholy warcry. We decided to harass Elkin through Facebook for answers on his choice of name.
"The Handshake originated out of a dire need for a band name," he says. "Our first show was one of those high-school battle of the bands and we didn't have a name two weeks before the event. We were originally going to go with They Turn Me, which is a lyric to a Radiohead song, but figured that would be a little confusing and none of us were actually crazy about it.
So as the event came closer and closer I took the age-old tradition of looking for seemingly cool song titles, and found "The Handshake" by MGMT. It seemed like a good idea at the time, just because a handshake can have so many connotations, not to mention I just really love the song. I guess I was naive enough to think that no one would figure it out, but it took very little time for people to realize that's where it came from.
The song itself is actually incredible, because it shifts from style to style flawlessly. I guess that could apply to how we have gradually evolved into playing the way we do now. We certainly didn't plan it that way though."
Well, far be it from us to mock someone for naming themselves after a favorite song. However, the handshake has a long and proud history.
It's at least as old as 5th-century BCE Greece. Funeral art from that time period depicts handshakes between husbands and wives, and between soldiers. The latter is significant, as it is commonly believed that the origin of the gestures involves proving that your hands are free of weapons.
"The only thing we are armed with is a bassist with outrageous facial hair," says Elkin, referring to bassist Aidan Kennedy.
The Prophet Mohammed was a big fan of the gesture, and even though it is taboo in some orthodox interpretations of Islam for members of the opposite sex to physically touch each other in public, handshakes are still exchanged between people of the same gender.
It's thought that Sir Walter Raleigh introduced the Western world to the handshake... presumably by doing one on some very confused people at first. Today, it's the No. 1 form of greeting, used by leaders all around the world either exclusively, or in conjunction with other forms such as the Japanese bow.
"We tend to greet each other with obscene hand gestures, and when we leave we yell nice things at each other until we're out of earshot," says Elkin.
Honestly, the world might be a better place if our leaders tried the same tactic every now and again.
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SHOW ME HOW
Handshake (n) 1. A growing band based in Houston and Austin. 2. A form of greeting. 3. Beard-based, hands-free weaponry.
The Handshake plays with Wild Child and Prairie Cadets at Fitzgerald's Sunday, February 26. You can purchase American Arguments at their BandCamp site.