Handsomebeast is a five-piece band out of Houston. Comprised of members Nick Serena, Jacob Rodriguez, Peewee Ruiz, Carlos Ortiz, and Tony Ortiz, the band has dubbed their sound “space-rock-bump-n-grind”, which incorporates elements of classic and indie rock with futuristic electrofunk and infectious pop. I got the chance to talk with singer Nick Serena about how the band got started, the evolution of their sound, their latest single “Playboi” and so much more. Keep reading this amusing interview to see what he had to say!
For those who might not have heard of Ya’ll, can you give us a brief history of the band and how it culminated into what it is now?
Everyone in the band, except for Nick, grew up in Houston playing in bands with each other since they were 13. They were little punk rockers who took the Houston scene by storm. At that time, Jacob had a rainbow mohawk that was about a foot tall. Pretty gnarly. They were the real deal.
Handsomebeast was formed in 2009 at the University of Loyola New Orleans, where Nick, Jacob, Peewee, and Tony were freshmen. After that first year, everyone except Nick (is there a theme developing here) returned to Houston. But the love was true, and the band stayed alive with the members traveling back and forth between the cities to play shows together and keep the Handsomebeast dream alive.
In 2013, after graduating with no honors, Nick moved to Houston and HB started to hit the ground running. Tony’s older cousin (who originally taught him how to play the drums) joined the band shortly after.
Handsomebeast is one hell of a name for a band. I know it was inspired by Will Ferrell’s Ron Burgundy character in Anchorman, but how exactly did your band’s name come about? And is there a particular reason for it being all one word vs. two separate words?
A plethora of putrid band names were put forth before we came up with the right one. Peewee’s dad had a band in Mexico called “Bestia,” and I believe that was what got the ball rolling. It truly is, Beauty and the Beast. And a rather Handsomebeast at that, I might add.
Handsomebeast is ONE WORD, EVERYBODY. COMPOUND WORD. LIKE SKATEBOARD. There is another band in Europe called The Handsome Beasts. They have an album called Beastiality. We are not them.
I know you guys are from Houston and have a solid following there. Does Houston play a role in the music you create, whether it be referenced in the lyrics or just the overall sound of your music?
RIP DJ SCREW! RIP PIMP C! RIP BIG MOE! RIP MARVIN ZINDLER!
Space City has been good to us.
The new music we’ve been making has a distinctly syrupy flavor to it.
You guys have dubbed your genre as “space-rock-bump-n-grind.” What does that mean, exactly? At its core, what kind of music do you guys produce?
We have actually evolved into “Astro Soul,” or “Psychedelic G-Funk” at this point now. We combine elements of classic rock-n-roll with modern pop (whatever that word means now), that is all coated in some type of futuristic reflective goo.
Let’s talk about your new single, “Playboi.” What inspired this track?
We were quite enamored with classic and modern heist movies at the time. This interest coincided with a desire to explore the merits of minimalism in music — or at least minimalism in comparison to the raw awesome jammage of our early records. We have matured into sleazy gentlemen.
Talk about your writing process for this song in particular. Did you write it by yourself or did you collaborate with other writers?
We wrote it by ourselves, but it was indeed birthed from a slightly alternative process compared to our usual collaborations. Nick made the outline and melody for the song on his cell phone (GarageBand) while drunkenly stumbling around his apartment complex parking lot. Then he brought it into the studio (King Benny House of Sound, which serves as the band’s home base and recording studio that Jacob runs) and the band brought it to life.
Since we just talked about being inspired to write songs, who are some of your musical influences when it comes to songwriting?
This is a hugely varied list, and while there is an area of the ven diagram in which all the members equally enjoy a particular artist, everyone in the band has pretty unique taste.
That being said, here’s a list of some of the band’s favorite songwriters:
Vulfpeck, Alex Turner, Jimi Hendrix, St. Vincent, Radiohead, The Rolling Stones, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Outkast and Sturgill Simpson.
Talk a little bit about shooting the music video. I know this is the first in a series about this particular “Playboi” character. Does that mean the next bit of music you put out will continue to tell the story of this character, or just the music videos themselves?
There is definitely more where that came from… although the story may not be so much a linear narrative, as it is an impressionist painting. The character of “The Playboi” and “The Goons” will definitely be popping up in some more videos and songs.
There may not be a sequence-of-events story occurring, but you’ll be getting more glimpses into the world that those characters live in.
Frankly, we’re just not that smart, to orchestrate that type of air-tight endeavor. Plus, we prefer if there is a certain level of ambiguity in music for people to interpret songs in different ways.
Musically, what can people expect from you for the rest of 2018? Is there an EP or a full-length album release coming anytime soon?
There will be at least one more single coming out in 2018, if not more. You can expect an EP or quite probably a full-length in 2019.
Last question — we’re called Talk Nerdy With Us because we all have an inner-nerd. What is something, besides music, that you nerd out about?
Each one of the band members has some particular subject that they nerd out about, but collectively, we’d have to say the band nerds out over exotic hot sauces. Most of the band members, besides Nick (whoa, weird!), have a pretty impressive spice tolerance, but Peewee holds the position of Grand Spicelord. Tony contests this statement. Only time will tell.
Our favorite show is Hot Ones (the show with hot questions, and even hotter wings) on YouTube via Complex and First We Feast. One of our highest career aspirations is to be featured on that show. For anyone who watches the show, let it be known that Peewee actually ENJOYS “Da Bomb.” He’s a psychopath.
Here are some of the boys’ nerd interests on an individual level:
Peewee: super pumped for new Dragon Ball Super, unofficial semi-professional level Super Mario player
Nick: diehard Supernatural fan, Team Free Will, and lover of literally anything and everything Joss Whedon puts out.
Jacob: FOR REAL Star Wars head (Starhead?), at very least padawan level, high midichlorian count
Tony: unregistered bayou fishing scout, whittler