“Fun House is lush, bright, in constant forward motion, in a constant state of change. Duffy’s third and best record, it possesses some grimy, earthen magic.” – The FADER
“‘Aquamarine’ is an expansive song that steadily builds to a pristine dancefloor-ready peak — a moment that Duffy brings to life on a brilliantly lit stage in the single-take video for the song, directed by V Haddad.” – Rolling Stone
“‘Aquamarine’ is an absolute doozy, the kind of song that can break your heart with one hand and piece it back together with the other, fragment by fragment, beat by beat. The joyous instrumental and gut-wrenching lyrics each magnify the other’s power, overwhelming your emotions to the point that little details land like atom bombs.” – Paste
“Fun House could be their most experimental (and exciting) album to date.” – FLOOD
“Hand Habits ditches the guitar for a pulsing dance beat that adds a delicious, heightened tension to their dewy and wistful vocals.” – Nylon
“Duffy shows us we can dance with our demons” – them.
“Explores electro-pop while remaining still very much a Hand Habits song.” – Brooklyn Vegan
Hand Habits, the project of Los Angeles-based musician Meg Duffy (they/them), has shared a video for ‘No Difference,’ the new single from their upcoming album,Fun House, available for pre-order now and due Friday 22 October via Milk! Records / Remote Control Records.
In an interview with Paste Magazine, Duffy said “I had spent so much of my life in scarcity and longing for something, feeling like there’s not really a difference between having it all and having nothing,” they say. “We always want to be seen and heard and understood. But me fixating on not being seen is actually blocking my view from seeing that person, too.”
Fun Houseis Duffy’s most ambitious Hand Habits album to date. Produced by Sasami Ashworth (SASAMI) and engineered by Kyle Thomas (King Tuff), the record was not intended as a reaction to the pandemic, but it was very much the result of taking a difficult, if much-needed, moment of pause. Emboldened by going into therapy and coaxed by Ashworth to push the songs into unexpected new shapes, the resulting music is more acutely personal and stylistically adventurous than anything you’ve heard from Hand Habits before.
While Fun House shares some of the same hallmarks as previous Hand Habits releases —a kind of outré queer sensibility, a gentle sense of vulnerability — the record is a marked sonic departure from the often muted tones of 2019’s Placeholderand 2017’s Wildly Idle (Humble Before the Void). Instead, the tracks onFun Housesparkle, moving in unexpected directions and eschewing any specific genre, packaging narratives about loss, romantic longing, and childhood trauma inside polished synth pop next to tracks with a ragged, Neil Young quality. The push/pull of styles, paired with songs that move deftly between the present and past, give the record a wildly diverse, hall of mirrors quality that befits its name. Where previous Hand Habits records could be fairly insular affairs, both in their creation and their execution, Fun Housefeels ebullient, lush, a fully-realised conversation.
Fun House is available for pre-order now and due October 22 via Milk! Records / Remote Control Records on an opaque red LP.
There is a moment halfway through Fun House where Duffy asks the question, “How many times must I rewind the tape?” It’s a fitting rhetorical question planted squarely in the middle of a sonically adventurous record concerned largely with making sense and taking stock. How much time must we spend examining our own past in order to fully understand it? How can we safely acknowledge pain in order to release it and fully actualise who we are supposed to be? Buffeted by strings, synths, and a gently-shook tambourine, the aptly-titled track, ‘TheAnswer,’ highlights the emotional engine at the heart of the record. “I know the answer,” Duffy sings, “Here’s what I hope to find – it’s always mine.”
“When the pandemic happened, everything stopped,” recalls Duffy. “I had been touring consistently for five years, both on my own and playing in other people’s bands, so I wasn’t really writing a lot in between. It had been full pedal to the metal in terms of travelling and scheduling, which meant I really didn’t have a lot of time to think about how I felt or really check in with myself. Then, when the world basically stopped, it turned out to be the longest I’ve been alone in my entire life — without being in a relationship, without being on the road, without working myself to exhaustion — and the result was really like, ‘holy shit’. I slammed on the brakes and everything psychologically that I’d been pushing down and ignoring for the past few years suddenly flew to the foreground.”
What started out as a personal reckoning eventually blossomed into a fruitful and convenient means of making new music. Grounded in LA and sharing a house with Ashworth and Thomas, who also runs a studio space in the building, Duffy began to flesh out the songs that would eventually become Fun House. The new songs also became a prism through which Duffy could begin to self-actualise in a new way.
“I felt a massive shift in the way that I was seeing the world and seeing myself, moving through certain emotional patterns and behavioral patterns, and really taking them apart,” explains Duffy. “Sasami empowered me to take up a lot of different sonic spaces and challenged me to rethink these limitations that I had about my own identity. I wouldn’t allow myself to step into certain roles because of the little box I was putting myself in based on all of these false narratives that I had come to believe about myself. I think this also coincides with my trans identity too, because so much of that journey for me has been me really fighting against what I’m not “allowed” to be.”
“I like that the idea of a ‘fun house’ can have so many different connotations,” says Duffy. “It’s disorienting, it’s filled with all these different rooms with different energies and emotions. There’s a risk that there will be manipulation happening to your environment, but you sign up for it. I really liked the idea that we could take risks, that these songs could sound very different but still make sense together. A lot of the demos for this record were really just folk songs — pretty slow and sparse —but the fun was thinking about what they could become. It was like, what if we wrapped this really traumatic, at times literal, loss of identity story from your life in a dance song? Or what if we layered this secret confession about your compulsive behavioral patterns within a beautiful acapella beach boys arrangement? Yes, let’s do that.”
In the end, the eleven tracks on Fun House represent the turning of a corner, a means of processing grief, trauma, and recovery while coming to a deeper understanding of one’s own history and what it means to step into your own power. It’s also, as Duffy imagines it, a testament to the power of creative community.
“I’m such a collaborative person and that’s where I get nourishment from,” Duffy explains. “That’s why I’m constantly playing in other people’s bands — Perfume Genius, Kevin Morby, Sylvan Esso etc. — and playing on other people’s records. It’s an open system for me, fresh energy, flow, and perspectives. I enjoy stepping into these other roles and taking direction. This time around, I wanted to have that experience with my own music. Also, I think it’s good to step back sometimes and question your own process and why you do what you do. The reason I make music is because I’m interested in connecting with people. I’m not talking to a specific ‘you’ when I’m singing a song. I’m talking to God. I’m talking to the void. It’s a little like casting a spell. And if you’re able to feel moved by it, I’m not thinking that you’re so moved by the tragedy of ‘my’ life or ‘my’ experience, but it’s maybe just that you can relate to the feeling of it. You want people to be able to project their own experiences onto this feeling that you’re trying to create and communicate. That’s the way the spell works. In order for other people to feel it, I have to make sure I’m feeling it too. And with these songs, I really do.”
Hand Habits – Fun House is out October 22
via Milk! Records / Remote Control Records Hand HabitsHand Habits – Fun House