John recently underwent the grueling SFist interview process and has produced the gem below. In it you’ll find instructions on how to be a good fan to your favorite up and coming band, secrets of the east bay, and some seriously tasty vegetarian eateries.
Half-Handed Cloud will be playing with Casper and the Cookies on Friday September 1 at Bottom of the Hill.
Best shows you've ever played and what made them great?
It’s hard to pick, but here’s something: On the recent spring tour we got to play an art gallery in New York—The Brooklyn Fire Proof Gallery. There were all sorts of ingredients that made it pretty great; the fact that it’s an art gallery was the obvious initial good thing. They were excited about a music-preview write-up for this performance (a first for the gallery) in The New Yorker magazine; us too. Many old friends heard about the show and came—we made some new friends also because there was a pretty healthy turnout. Vollmar was opening that tour, and his music is a sure way to enrich any evening. Sufjan helped us run the sound system; he kind of looked like teen-wolf with these massive mutton chop sideburns. There was this generous Spirit in the room that colored everything, and…you know…our fingers, feet, and vocal chords hit whatever the “right notes” were for that night since Justin and I probably recognized each other’s cues pretty well by that point in the tour. The evening felt comfortable, but a little precarious—like sitting on grandma’s Parkinson’s-shake lap, with a real possibility of falling on the floor, but knowledge that we were held in loving and capable arms.
Another time, a few years ago, we played a house in Indianapolis, and that show was great because we started laughing at something ridiculous and couldn’t finish the set. Every time I would open my mouth to sing, only laughter would come out. It was pretty awesome/awful/the best.
Best venue in the world?
The Ramp. An extinct all-ages venue in the basement of an East Bay church from September 2002 to September 2003. It had a welcoming and weirdly-homemade atmosphere. So many great bands played there.
Best fans in the world?
The ones that sing-along, clap in time, write encouraging notes, bake some cookies, play tour-guide, let us sleep on their couches, etc.
What's your favorite song to perform?
Current favorite is a song from Halos & Lassos titled “Foot on the Brake,” especially if someone is helping me perform it—that one requires some instrument juggling. Sometimes people can talk me into singing Smiths covers…
Brandon Buckner (we shared a painting studio in college, and he recorded Halos & Lassos, etc), Sufjan Stevens (made a 5-song 7” record together, etc), Daniel Smith (mixed two Half-h albums with him), Jason Munn (sometimes helps me with layout projects), Yoni Wolf & Justin Vollmar (helped perform songs in different two-person versions of Half-h).