A long and winding road led to the formation of local indie outfit House Handshake.
The band is currently comprised of Quinton Poitras (vocals, frets), Darrell Anderson (frets, vocals), Sarah Greco (vocals, ukulele), Tanner Link (keys, frets, vocals), Brennan Saul (drums) and Tate Hiebert (frets, vocals, keys).
The band members have created a unique sound reminiscent of counterculture folk-rock bands from the 1970s, drawing from their eclectic musical influences.
House Handshake has only officially been a band since the beginning of 2018, but their journey goes further back than that.
The band came together gradually. Poitras had started dating Greco in Winnipeg in 2016, but shortly after he said he “decided to go chase some dreams in B.C.”
Even though they had not been dating long, Poitras invited Greco to come live with him and a friend in B.C.
Meanwhile, Anderson was going through a difficult time back in Winnipeg.
The same friend who invited Poitras out to B.C. reached out to him to come stay with them.
Poitras, Greco and Anderson began to play music together, finding open mics to play in Vancouver.
Poitras realized he had found what he thought he was missing in Winnipeg.
“One day, it just kind of clicked in me,” he said.
“I was playing music and it’s just like, I no longer need to search. I said I was chasing a dream, which was to find my band, I realized I didn’t need to search anymore because I lived with my band.”
Unexpectedly, it took leaving Winnipeg for the three Manitoban musicians to come together and make music.
Vancouver’s music scene was not working out for Poitras, Anderson and Greco — it was very competitive and almost unfriendly, according to Poitras.
“We were like ‘Fuck it, let’s go back to home where the music is good, the people are good,’” he said.
In 2017 Poitras, Anderson and Greco moved back to Manitoba and stayed at Poitras’s dad’s house in the small town of Ladywood for a few months.
Tanner Link, an old friend of Anderson’s, lived nearby and began coming over regularly to jam with them.
The four became focused on creating their sound, practising every day.
“It was almost gruelling,” said Anderson.
They eventually found a house in Winnipeg together.
“2018, I like to say, was our launch,” said Poitras.
Poitras, Anderson, Greco and Link began trying to make a name for themselves in Winnipeg as House Handshake.
“We were hitting the open mics like crazy, just around the city, there was one almost every day,” said Anderson.
House Handshake began to get recognized around the music scene and recruited Brennan Saul as their drummer.
Poitras broke his wrist at the beginning of the summer of 2018 and was unable to play the shows they had lined up for the festival season.
Tate Hiebert stepped in and learned all of Poitras’s parts in a few days.
After Poitras’s wrist healed, the band did not want to let Hiebert go, so they became a six-piece.
The band is now integrating a seventh member, vocalist Lauren Willems.
Her first set was House Handshake’s UMFM set on Sept. 18.
Winnipeg has proved to be a much better home for House Handshake than Vancouver.
Anderson and Poitras said the tight-knit community, combined with multiple venues in the city, has allowed the band to play frequently for appreciative crowds and connect with other musicians.
“We’re always like, looking to work with other bands somehow, and they seem to be doing the same for us,” said Poitras.
“Yeah, everyone’s really open to collaborating and stuff which is cool too,” Anderson added.
The bandmates also ensure they collaborate within their own band as well.
All of House Handshake’s members contribute lyrics and participate in the song-writing process.
“I always aim for being helpful about something, like personal, maybe something that’s like, hard to say or hard to admit, and so I always come up with weird twisted ways to talk about myself and hope that other people relate to it,” said Poitras.
House Handshake’s lyrics also reflect the closeness its bandmates have developed, according to Anderson.
“I’ve found that a lot of the newer songs that come out of us now kind of feel like it’s about all of us in a weird way,” he said.
Six musicians — now seven — in one band can get a little crowded, but House Handshake prioritizes uplifting each other over trying to show off individual musical prowess.
“One of the things that we kind of agreed upon when we first all got together was that even just above the music, we’ve got to focus on self-improvement and loving each other, and putting compassion before our egos,” said Anderson.
“We believe that it really helps the overall sound.”
Poitras believes this ethos can extend beyond band dynamics.
“With the songs and the music and what we aim for, you can only go so far with self-love,” he said.
“When you let someone in, you’ll understand balance in places you didn’t know you needed.
“We want community in a larger scale in the entire world and we think music can be a thing that does that.
“It’s not all about you, we try to remember that when we’re onstage,” he said.
House Handshake is currently working on their first full album, due for release next summer.
Visit House Handshake’s Facebook page or househandshake.com for more information on the band. Their music is available on major streaming platforms. Catch their live set on “Live at the One oh One Five” on The Manitoban‘s Facebook and Instagram page.