Band Without Hands
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Band Without Hands

Boston, Massachusetts, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2013 | SELF

Boston, Massachusetts, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 2013
Band Rock Post-punk




"Boston Emissions: The Watch List"

I discovered Band Without Hands very recently when they sent an email to say hello, share music and upcoming shows. I listened through their links, loved what I heard and immediately added “Hello Despair (NO BS Mix)” to the show. I love their style, their songs, and that members of the band call two states home.I always ask bands how they heard of Boston Emissions, and it’s clear in Jess’s answer that they are more than aware of what the show is about – “I’ve been listening to this show since I was a teenager back in the 90s. As I was growing up I loved learning about local bands and hoped one day to have something on the show. And well, lookee here!”
Hello Despair has been in the New Music Top 3 Poll for the past few weeks.

Meet Band Without Hands.
They are Jess Jacobs on lead vocals, guitar, bass, and keys; Brien Sweet on vocals, guitar, bass, keys, Nick Martinelle handles drums, sounds/samples, and sometimes BWH also includes John McKusick on guitars, bass, vocals, keys, drum machines, grooveboxes, and Rob Martinelle – guitar and bass. They are ball all accounts a “kind of a loose collective but always with the three core members.” Previously known as Akisma, it was a different incarnation featuring Brien and Jess. Some of those songs made it into Band Without Hands. Brien has a project called Safer by the Shore, a cover band called Reckless. Jess has been in bands all over the place, from a trip hop outfit Krona in NYC (on bass) and a rock outfit out of Santa Cruz, CA called Tumbleweed. Brien and Jess have also been solo artists for many years, under our names and various other monikers (Akisma). Jess is also helping local band Unstraight produce their first album.
Band Without Hands on Bandcamp /// Band Without Hands on Facebook /// Follow Band Without Hands // // BWH on Instagram
Photo by Shannon Reynolds. Used with permission.
Nick, Jess, Brien. Photo by Shannon Reynolds. Used with permission.
What I Say.
Band Without Hands are an oft distorted riff-fest with trippy electro fits and moments of graceful balladry. A three-plus piece with very well-crafted songs and great versatility.
What They Say.
Band Without Hands was a plan hatched in Vacationland… which quickly grew from Brien Sweet and Jess Jacobs working with samples and drum machines to a rock monster additionally fueled by Nick Martinelle’s double kicking feet and John McKusick’s guitar wizardry. At once political and emotionally vulnerable, the hard rock fabric is interwoven with elements of new wave, industrial, and trip hop, creating a unique sound that infuses the audience with excitement. With members influenced by pretty much every genre under the sun, Band Without Hands draws from a vast palette to create cohesive, intriguing, adrenaline-fueled social and emotional commentary. The band loves playing live, loves supporting our brothers and sisters in our beloved music scene, and loves connecting with area musicians and music lovers alike! We bring an exciting, high energy, emotive, and varied set to local clubs and it usually ends up with people dancing (or moshing, one time!) and jumping around. We seek to bring a wall of sound, but not without dynamics and heartfelt lyrics.
How They Sound.
Band Without Hand’s sound it something like dance rock and trip hop combined. Jess and Brien come from widely varied backgrounds, with favorites ranging from the Sneaker Pimps/IAMX to the Joy Formidable to Alice in Chains to Bjork. Maybe “trip rock” should be a new genre. We’re certainly rock, but with a lot of rhythmical and melodic flavor borrowed from trip hop and electronic music.
Who They Like.
So many! Death Waltz 76; Powerslut; Versa Contrast blew my mind at a show we played with them in June; Unstraight; Sinnet; Parlour Bells; Let’s Wait will make you dance your ass off! - Boston Emissions/Anngelle Wood

"I Wanna Cover You Like an Animal"

Michael Marotta November 5, 2014 10:01 am Boston News 0 Comments

The dream of the ’90s was alive and well along Harvard Avenue in Allston on Halloween night.

While we were busy getting our Smashing Pumpkins on with Vary Lumar, Boston’s Band Without Hands were ripping shit up at O’Brien’s Pub as Nine Inch Nails.

Maybe this Halloween throwdown could rekindle some kind of renewed rivalry between Billy Corgan and Trent Reznor, or maybe it can just further prove that our city knows how to party. Watch Band Without Hands doing “March Of The Pigs” and “Wish” — our two favorite performances from their set — via YouTube below, and peep the Bandcamp for audio of their entire performance. Their rendition of “Hurt” was so powerful it made the camera explode, so be warned, it cuts off before it finishes.

As for Band Without Hands and their day job playing feisty synth-punk originals, catch them live and in action November 15 at Wonderbar in Allston and December 6 at Copperfield’s in the Fenway. We’re told we’re getting a new Band Without Hands LP by year’s end, as well as two new singles, one of which could surface in the next two weeks.

Check out Barry Thompson’s April interview with the band, and get your NIN on with the videos below. - Vanyaland


We’ve read a lot about musicians who played in rock bands for several years, then got bored and/or realized they hate working with other people, and repackaged themselves as electronic artists. Turned upside down, that sentence describes the current state of Jess Jacobs and Brien Sweet’s creative career.

Originally, the near-lifelong buddies more-or-less imagined crafting something in the vein of ambient dance-pop under the nomenclature Akisma. But once drummer Nick Martinelle and guitarist John McKusick entered the picture, a mutual appreciation for the harsher vibes of Trent Reznor and his contemporaries led to something quite a bit more, well, rawk. Observe the quartet’s debut EP, Epochalypse — in which massive guitars battle murky synths, until they decide fighting is stupid, call it a tie, and become pals.

Also, Akisma changed their name to Band Without Hands, because no one could figure out how to pronounce Akisma. To plug their show tonight at T.T.’s, we met up at Bronwyn in Union Square, where the jukebox played quite a lot of Sade and I ate a purple deviled egg.

Barry Thompson: You guys call yourselves Band Without Hands now. You all clearly have hands. What the fuck?

Jess Jacobs: Um, well, okay, there’s a couple of different ways you could look at it. Brien works with his hands tearing apart computers and shit like that all the time, and I’m fucking around with woodstoves ‘n shit at my house. So, basically, we end up injuring our hands. I fried my thumb doing something idiotic on a cast-iron pan, and he cut his hand wide open cutting…plastic?

Brien Sweet: Probably metal. Probably a circuit board or something.

Jess Jacobs: So we were like, “Oh shit! Guitarist’s hands are fucked!” So we went, “Oh, Band Without Hands, that’s actually kind of catchy.” I’d like to think, symbolically, it represents hands being tied. There’s only so much you can do about any given situation — emotional, political, whatever — and that’s a lot of the topics we write about, so it was kind of serendipitous.

Brien Sweet: Overcoming adversity. That’s our thing. Or something.

I feel like some bands will throw music snobby acts like Fugazi or Sonic Youth on their list of influences largely to advertise their own supposed music snobbery. You guys have no problem including Deftones on there. Deftones aren’t music snobby.

Brien Sweet: I read in some interview once that back in the nu-metal days, Deftones were the Miss Congeniality band. They were never going to be KoRn, they were never going to be the biggest of those bands, but everybody likes them. It’s not a bad place to be. They’re not associated with that scene, and they’re making way better albums now.

Jess Jacobs: Good side projects. Crosses.

Nick Martinelle: I only got into the Deftones through these guys.

Brien Sweet: You’re my first drummer who’s not obsessed with Deftones, ever.

Nick Martinelle: I was obsessed with KoRn back in the day, and Neil Peart all the time.

Brien Sweet: How many drummers play the title track to Around the Fur? Boom. Boom boom boom chicka boom boom. It’s just a simple dumb beat. It’s like how “Higher Ground” is for bass players .

Nick Martinelle: I can play it if you want me to.

Brien Sweet: Once you hear it, you’ll love it, and you’ll become that guy, too.

In my high school, if you were going to make out in the drama department closet, you had to be listening to Deftones throughout.

Brien Sweet: I felt the opposite spectrum when I was a teenager loving the Deftones.

Jess Jacobs: I thought about breaking shit and murdering people.

Nick Martinelle: People who wanted to murder each other would make out.

Jess Jacobs: And then murder each other.

Do you feel Band Without Hands is continuing the Deftones tradition of music for people who want to murder each other to make out to?

Jess Jacobs: Not intentionally. I think our sound is pretty hard right now, pretty aggressive. It’s not only a reflection of where some of us have been personally over the last couple of years, but when you’re starting as a new band, you want to figure out how far you can push a show, and then figure out the more subtle details. So maybe that’s why we’ve kind of gone that way. Also, we ended up being a little more metal and hard than the initial concept… we never made a conscious decision and said “We’re not going to do this in an electronic way.” It just started coming through when we started playing with a full band.

It was like, “Hey, I’ve been making electronic music by myself for six years now, and I’m kinda fucking sick of it… I mean, when I first learned to play, I was playing mostly Smashing Pumpkins and Alice In Chains or whatever, and I never got the chance to explore that more, ‘cause I was always doing solo shit and that’s not really conducive to (playing solo). So once that started happening I was like, “Wow, cool, let’s go in this direction! Fuck what we had!”

You do a song called “Hello Despair,” which seems to be about breaking up with an abstract concept. If you can break up with an abstract concept, you can also, y’know, do it with an abstract concept. So which abstract concept would you guys most like to bang?

Jess Jacobs: Actually, it would also be despair, I think.

Nick Martinelle: I don’t know. Paranoia, I guess. I’d say happiness, but… Is paranoia an abstract concept?….Are you sure?

Happiness would be boring.

Nick Martinelle: Yeah, I’m sort of already happy. I’d want to fuck with something kind of weird. Plus I’m paranoid way too often. I should be able to break up with it. No Black Sabbath references, please.

Jess Jacobs: Maybe loneliness. I’m trying to look at it through the lens of a guilty pleasure emotional indulgence I find myself hanging out with a lot. Otherwise, it seems to easy. Happiness or lust or something like that — yeah, sure, but that’s already in the definition of those things that they’re things you want. I guess I’m a weirdo for spending so much time with emotions I don’t like.

Brien Sweet: I’m going to pick vanity.

Nick Martinelle: You probably think this interview is about you, don’t you?

Jess Jacobs: Starfucker!

If Epochalypse was a video game soundtrack, what kind of video game would it be for?

Jess Jacobs: It’s pretty aggressive, except for “Solace.” It’s aggressive with tenderness. Final Fantasy, maybe?

Nick Martinelle: RPG First-person shooter Donkey Kong. It describes our music, ‘cause we can’t focus.

Brien Sweet: I’d be choosing a Mario Kart 64 level. I’d say probably, like, Mario Raceway, ‘cause it’s all pretty on the outside, but there are dangerous turns and annoying bastards and plants that will come out and eat you at every turn. It’s a fast track. I’d say Bowser’s Castle but it’s too evil.

Jess Jacobs: I totally grew up playing Final Fantasy — every one — and RPGs of various stripes and structures. As a result, I got exposed to some of the best video game music. Nobuo Uematsu, I totally grew up listening to that dude and all his Final Fantasy themes and grandiosity and things like that. It works its way in. - Vanyaland

"Meet: Band Without Hands"

QWIMB asked band member Jess Jacobs to answer some questions for us, and here is what she said:
What brought you to Boston?
Most of us grew up in the area; Jess and Brien grew up in Merrimack NH, John in Pepperell MA, and Nick on Long Island. It was a natural migration from Southern NH for us art and music (and queer culture!) seekers.

Have you experienced a strong scene for queer women in the city in terms of music/performers etc?
I have met many queer lady performers, but I haven’t yet experienced a solidly organized community in that sense – we perform frequently with Unstraight, an all-queer band, (catch us both June 6th at Copperfield’s for a seriously awesome pride kickoff party) but I would love to start or contribute to a more formal organization of us queer entertainers.

Do you have any sense of a history of a queer scene here or is the past a faded memory?
It seems to me that there were a lot of scenes here that somehow have dried up after years of corporate takeover and rising property values. Everybody suffers when the art/music scene is starved out of existence, but I think it impacts the queer community heavily because they are typically very intertwined. I also think that the queer community suffers the same plight. I remember going to places like ManRay when I was younger and it was such a great place for everyone to have, and nothing has really come along to replace it. I’m sad to see local venues disappear or get absorbed by national interests, and I’m sad to see places being forced out of business by circumstance and lack of revenue; I guess it’s hard to compete with Netflix. But the people that ARE out seeing shows, buying merch, playing indie bands on their radio shows and car stereos, spreading the word about great art and music, all of us together are building this really vibrant and friendly community and it’s very exciting.

What made you decide to join a band?
I never decided to join a band, per se. I’ve been playing and writing music for more than two decades, so it’s always been a part of my life. This particular band, I came back from living far away for a number of years and really wanted to take the reigns and all of my experience with the industry and see what the hell I could make happen. Brien and I happened to grab a beer very soon after I was back in town and he wanted to do the same thing, so we teamed up.

Are there any artists that you look up to or who have inspired your own music?
Absolutely! I personally really look up to bold artists who aren’t afraid to challenge the norm in terms of musical style or message. Trent Reznor, Zack de la Rocha, Tori Amos, PJ Harvey, Bjork, Karen O. I grew up listening to lots of new wave and electronica, along with 90s rock, Alice in Chains, Smashing Pumpkins, that kind of thing. There’s also a huge chunk of ambient, like Boards of Canada, and classical music, primarily modern classical, from playing in concert bands and orchestras. It’s a widely varied pastiche, for sure. Tegan and Sara are a recent acquisition in my catalog (amazingly, I know, where have I been), and I really look up to them as queer performers and songwriters.

Do think things are getting better for queer female performers or are there still barriers to overcome?
I definitely think things have gotten better, and are getting better, but there will always be certain types of harassment – and that’s true regardless of sexual preference. I’ve played shows and been followed around by the – to put it nicely – very typical dude who won’t respect your sexuality for hours, and it gets to a point where you feel unsafe sometimes, so we all have to stick together. I started carrying a pocket knife, for what it’s worth.

Are you in any other bands?
I am not in any other bands at this time; however, I’m working with Unstraight on their upcoming release, doing production and mixing work.

What has been your proudest moment as a member of a band?
I honestly continue to experience my proudest moment every time we step on stage. We put in a lot of effort and the payoff is huge, when I see the audience having a great time – that’s the most proud I’ll ever be, always. It’s not a one sided satisfaction, like “oh, i’m playing my songs on stage” – we’re there to facilitate a great time and hopefully connect with people, remind everyone of the all too oft forgotten universal bonds that hold us all together like loving arms. And maybe, just maybe, inspire questioning of authority and culture.

What advice would you give to a woman thinking about starting a band or learning an instrument?
Cliche, but don’t be afraid what anyone else thinks, especially not in the beginning, whether of an instrument or of a band. Find your bond with an instrument – find that texture that just draws you in, soothes you. The love you pour into an instrument – or band – like that, it feeds that bond. Then when you go to step on stage, you won’t be terrified and nervous, because you know you can rely on your instrument and/or your band.

Are there any other current or former bands you would like to see featured
Unstraight and Petty Morals come to mind! - QWIMB - Queer Women in Music Boston


Hello Despair
Never Leave My Mind
Hello Despair (OG Demo mix)



Band Without Hands are an oft distorted riff-fest with trippy electro fits and moments of graceful balladry. A three-plus piece with very well-crafted songs and great versatility. At once political and emotionally vulnerable, the hard rock fabric is interwoven with elements of new wave, industrial, and trip hop, creating a unique sound that infuses the audience with excitement. With members influenced by pretty much every genre under the sun, Band Without Hands draws from a vast palette to create cohesive, intriguing, adrenaline-fueled social and emotional commentary.

Band Members