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One hAND on stardom?

So who do we have here?
This is progressive gothic metal band, hAND. Originally formed by singer Kat Ward and guitarist Kieren Johnstone at Tanbridge School, they are now a four piece. Drummer Cris Nelson joined in 2006 followed last summer by Tom Johnstone, on synths.

hAND? Is that spelt correctly?
Yes, to make it awkward for editors wanting to write is at the start of a sentence. Kat said they wanted a name that you “couldn’t derive any genre from or have any preconceptions about.” Kieren though admits it’s a bit of a cheap trick. “I thought if you capped up everything but the first letter then it’s obvious it’s supposed to be like that,” he said.

What are they - a gothic band?
This isn’t an entirely gothic band. When we asked Kat to ensure the band was dressed up and had a make-up box with them for our photo shoot, we were told that they’re not that sort of band.

So what sort of band are they then?
They’re a tight unit that blend several genres together. They’re metal but not to a roaring in the microphone extent, they’re gothic but don’t cover themselves in cobwebs, and they are prog but not to the extent that you get fifteen minute instrumentals. Kieren said: “I think we could play a prog gig, or a rock gig or a goth gig.”

Are they signed up?
Yes, to a management company (Femme Metal) that specialises in bands that typically have a goth with strings sound and a female on vocals.

Like Evanescence?
They would be the most famous example (the band have sold 20million albums and had a UK number one with ‘Bring Me To Life’). As Kieren said: ‘I think most people think of Femme Metal as orchestral vocals and strings with a gothic theme. We don’t do that but we fit in with it as we have a female lead singer.”

What’s been the band’s output so far then?
Having released two EPs and securing a top 20 place in the AKG Unsigned Heroes competition in 2007, the band signed to Copro Records, the birthplace of acts such as Panic Cell, Forever Never & I-Def-I and released their first album, Deadroom Journal.

A signed band?
Yes, there aren’t too many of them around here. The album was released worldwide in September 2008 and received a good review from (leading rock and metal magazines) Kerrang! and Metal Hammer.

What did Kerrang give it?
A creditable three stars out of five. Kieren said: “We heard about Kerrang! by accident. We played a gig in Guildford and someone who goes to a lot of our gigs said ‘you got a good review in Kerrang!’ We rushed out to Tesco to grab one that night. It was a three star review, and there wasn’t a bad word in it so I was happy.”

Was it good enough to earn them a second album?
It was. The band’s second album, Breathing, is due to be launched on June 6th.

And has much changed from the first album?
More of an advancement than a whole new sound, the band say it is more polished and accomplished than the happily named Deadroom Journal. “The sound has progressed and is more technical,” said Kat. “When you’re in the studio, some things that you expect to work don’t and vice versa. We’ve learnt from that and adapted our style.”

And what about the synths? That sounds exciting.
It does indeed. As the band points out, there are a surprising number of rock bands that have introduced synth sounds to their records in recent years, and Tom’s introduction could herald a new direction. However, he arrived a bit late for the second album and features on just one track.

But the third album?
Could be very interesting. Tom said: “It’s adding another layer. There are more possibilities for our sound, especially in a live show.”

So does fame and fortune beckon?
The band remain realistic about the short and long term goals, but do point out that there are many different ways of ‘making it’ these days. “We get people that come to just about every one of our gigs, so there are different levels of making it,” said Cris. “There are people who religiously follow us!”

So where can I catch them live?
You’ll do well to see them around Horsham, although there may be a local launch party for the album. hAND tend to play city venues, often on a bill featuring bands of a similar ilk.

And where can I buy the album?
You’ll be able to pick it up at some of the bigger HMV stores, as well as online record shops and Amazon. It’ll be available digitally through another distributor.

Do they have a website?
Yes, you can listen to a few tracks and keep up to date with the band at www.handtheband.com

Kat at rehearsals

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