Hearts and Hand Grenades – 2023 Interview

Midnight Tornado Touring are honoured and excited to welcome Hearts and Hand Grenades to our shores for their first UK tour.  We checked in with Mike and Stephanie to see how the guys are feeling about coming over and bringing their music to the UK audience.
Stephanie – I can’t wait. I’m so excited and it’s going to be so fun. There’s so much anticipation on our end. We’ve been putting this tour together for a long time and we finally got all the pieces in place. Mike was great, he got everything worked out and it’s almost here.

Mike – It is very exciting. I can’t wait to get over there and melt you guys faces off with our music!

Victoria – Have you played a UK audience before? Is this your first trip over? I talk to a lot of bands from the States, and they quite often say that a UK audience is a lot more animated, a lot more receptive to rock and roll – it’s still a bit of a lifestyle over here if it’s your thing. 

Mike – It’s our first time playing in the UK and we imagine it to be quite different from our hometown audiences, yes!


Victoria – Can I get a bit of history about you guys? I understand you started out as a covers band.

Stephanie – We’ve played locally in the Buffalo area for a long time. Mike and I have been in cover bands together since 2012, and that’s how we met the other guys playing, too. You make these mutual contacts through the cover band scene because it’s so big out here. There’s a lot of bands and not a lot of places to play, so you meet a lot of people along the way. And it’s been really a fun process going from that covers scene, shifting into the original music scene.

Mike – I used to be heavy into mixed martial arts and I own a martial arts studio, and that’s where I met Steph, she came to work out in the cardio class. We became friends working out together and whatnot there, and at one point she overheard a conversation I was having with somebody else there that we needed a bass player. Steph was like, well I play bass. And I said, hey, you don’t play bass, you’re a girl. Get out of here.  And she did. She played really well, and we started playing from with her from there on. A few years after that, we met Kenny, our lead guitar player, at an open mic night, we walked in, and he was just shredding a solo. I looked at Stephanie, said, this is the guy we need! The drummer’s seat has been a bit of a revolving door, but we’re happy to have Cory Michalski from Co Op (Dash Cooper’s band). He’s a fantastic drummer and we’re looking forward to the whole tour with him.

Stephanie – You get to a point where it’s fun to cover other people’s music, it’s always a good time when you’re playing a show like that because everybody’s into it, everybody likes it. But for us, we decided that it was time to do something more. We wanted to branch out, work on our own material. So really 2019 is when it kicked off and we’ve been Hearts and Hand Grenades ever since.


Victoria – How did you come up with that name?

Stephanie – We wanted something that was contrasting because the four of us have these different influences and we figured, let’s try to have a band name that sort of encompasses that aspect as well. We shot a lot of stuff around, but we ended up with Hearts and Hand Grenades because you can be nice and cuddly and then you could be beastly and explosive at the same time!


Victoria – You released ‘Wait’ in 2019. That was your first release?
Mike – That’s our first EP, we put out four songs, ‘Wait’ and ‘Secret’, we also had two other songs that were not at all this genre of music.

Stephanie – One was very much pop, the other one more like plain rock, soft rock, maybe. We were trying different things, like, let’s do four songs that sound nothing like each other and just see what sticks.

Mike – The rock and metal songs were what everybody seemed to like the most, so we ditched the other two. They exist. They’re not on any platforms. We have them recorded, but we’re not going to release them because they just don’t fit what we do at this point.


Victoria – And then pretty quickly after that, the first album came out. That was January 2021, so you must have been making that in the middle of the pandemic?
Stephanie – Yes, so everything being shut down and you really had nothing to do and nowhere to go, so it kind of worked out great for us, being at the point that we were at and deciding it was time to write our own music because we had time to do that. We rehearsed as much as we could, put ideas together and it worked out great. The timing, it was right, and we ended up releasing two albums in the same year, basically because of all that.


Victoria – Quite a lot of people held off their album releases until things were in a better place and people’s general attitude was that they didn’t want to release an album in the middle of the pandemic. But I guess that didn’t hold you back.

Stephanie – We talked about it, we put some thought into it, and we said, we’re releasing a first album. It’s like, you’re the new kid in town so why are we waiting? Let’s just get it out there and see what happens. It went well. We got a lot of positive responses from it, and then I think by the end of that year, when we were ready to release the second album, we made enough of a splash with the first one that we were able to roll out the second one with a bigger audience, with more people knowing who we were. And we kept the momentum going that way.


Victoria – You put the album out and then you’d usually plan a run of shows off the back of it, that must have been so frustrating, having to hang on until you could perform live again?

Stephanie – It was very frustrating. But the good part of it was we released two albums. We now have 20 songs that we’re able to take on tour. We’ve got this catalogue now that we can pull from, so we were able to put together a show with the best of both albums. If you only have the one to tour you’re going to play some snoozers and you’re going to play some bangers. We were able to just pull only the bangers and put together a show full of them!


Victoria – Do you only play your originals now or are you still on the covers circuit?

Mike – The music scene here in Buffalo is very difficult for original bands. There’s a very small handful of venues that you can even play your music at. You got to kind of pick and choose what you do here; the cover bands, on the other hand, they get paid a fortune here in Buffalo to play three, four shows, so we’ll play the cover shows to feed the originals band. The original band is very expensive. It costs a lot of money to record music, make videos, promote it, and then touring and hotel rooms and gas money and so on. The costs are enormous. We fund the original band with the cover band until the original band is doing well enough on its own that it can sustain itself, then we stop doing the cover band.

Stephanie – It’s fun, but like I said earlier, you can only go so far playing somebody else’s stuff. It’s so much more fulfilling to say, I wrote this song and people genuinely enjoyed it. And then you’re having the most wonderful euphoric time on stage when you’re playing your own music and people are actually enjoying it with you. There’s no feeling like that.


Victoria – Are there any particular venues that you’re looking forward to? Any parts of the UK that you’re wanting to explore or feel excited about coming to visit?

Stephanie – Yeah, all of it. We’ve never been before, so it’s a huge event for us just to say, like, hey, I’m going to cross an entire ocean and go to a different country. I want to find the Loch Ness Monster. I decided that’s my mission, I’m going to find Nessie.


Victoria – Once this gets done, what will be the next thing on the agenda for you guys? You’re going to be coming back over again in a few months and you’ll be playing at HRH, where do you want to go from there?

Stephanie – After we get back from this first tour, we’re really going to dig into working on our third album and we’re actually going to be recording some of those songs this weekend. But we’re going to dig into it once we get back from this first UK trip, for sure.

Mike – We are also going to surprise everybody in the UK. We are going to play a couple of those songs for you guys on this tour.  It’ll be the first time they will have been heard live!

Hearts & Hand Grenades links:
Band/Artist location – Buffalo New York
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