Interview with Stephanie Wlosinski (Lead vocals and bass)
Interview by: Rebecca Bush
Hearts and Hand Grenades are a new hard rock band from Buffalo, New York. We talk to singer Stephanie Wlosinski about the band’s journey thus far and debut album ‘Turning to Ashes’, and find out a little about what makes them tick!
1. How did you all meet and come together as a band?
We all met over the years from playing in various cover bands in the Buffalo NY area. Once Mike and I had our sights set on writing original songs, we teamed up with Tom for the drums and brought in Kenny for lead guitar. We knew those guys from having worked some fill in gigs with them previously and were very much aware of what they could bring to the table. Once the four of us came together we found our stride pretty quickly and got to work on what became our first album, Turning to Ashes.
2. You started life as a covers band, what artists inspired you and who did you cover?
We all have a love of rock music in general and I think depending on who you ask in the band, the answer is probably a little different for each of us. For me, I’m a huge Muse fan and have been inspired by them along with other bands like Avatar, Flyleaf, AC/DC, then I go completely off in a different direction and absolutely love Reel Big Fish. We’ve covered a lot of AC/DC, and pulled from a good selection of classic rock and 90’s alternative music for our cover gig sets. For us, that just felt comfortable and when you really like the songs you’re playing, it’s just a good time.
3. Have you always aspired to be in a band? Had you pursued it via other avenues before forming this group?
I have always loved music and was actually way too shy as a kid to ever dream of attempting to play out live in front of people. It took a lot of soul searching to get up the courage to start singing in front of people but I’m so glad that I did. I have never looked back and couldn’t imagine doing anything else but performing live. It’s such an unbelievable feeling when we are all on stage and completely in sync with each other.
4. Last year you supported Goo Goo Dolls at the Variety Kids Telethon. Can you tell us how that came about and a little about the event?
Mike’s and my cover band had the opportunity to play at the local telethon, which is a charity event for the Oishei Children’s Hospital in Buffalo, that was held at the Seneca Niagara Casino. We found out we were playing right before the Goo Goo Dolls, so we thought “okay, cool, we got this”. Then we get set up on the stage and look out behind the cameras to see that they were also watching us, which was one of those moments where you’re just praying you don’t screw up! We performed great thankfully and had some fun doing it. After the Goo’s played their set, our band went downstairs for a “liquid lunch” and while hanging out at the bar, Robby Takac stopped to tell us he enjoyed us and asked if we had any original songs to record. At the time we did not, so he encouraged us to take a look at his studio, GCR Audio, and to get some original tracks put together. We took his advice and after taking a studio tour, were impressed with what we saw. We booked studio time and have been working with Justin Rose at GCR for the past year now. It’s been a great experience and we look forward to continuing that relationship with the studio.
5. Being approached by Robby Takac must have been incredible, how did that feel?
It was definitely a great experience and Robby is such a friendly, humble person. He has a reputation around Buffalo for being a big supporter of Buffalo in general and the local music scene. It was really nice to meet someone that’s accomplished what he has and is still so approachable and down to earth.
6. Did you have any original material waiting in the wings or did you have to write completely from scratch to have the body of work you needed to go into the studio?
We had only been talking about writing our own music at that time, and the tour of the studio was exactly what we needed to make that leap from cover song musicians to writing an EP, and eventually a full album. We really did it backwards, we booked the studio time and then hit the ground running to start writing the tracks.
7. Do you still play covers when you perform or is your set now comprised of solely your own material?
It really depends on the venue at this point. Locally, the cover music scene outshines the original music gigs in Western NY. It’s always fun to throw a cover or two into a set when your audience is a rowdy bunch that will sing along. I guess the right answer might be that there’s always a time and a place for cover songs so we read the crowd as best we can.
8. How has your sound evolved since playing your own songs, who would you say you are most influenced by?
Since writing our own material I think we have all learned a lot about listening to each other and finding our “sound” as a band. We weren’t quite sure what that was during the writing of our first EP but we definitely evolved and the songs seemed to get a little heavier as we went along. We hit our stride with our second round of songs and by the time we finished the album it just felt like we were full steam ahead. I’m really proud of the album and very excited to share it with everyone.
9. You released your first EP, ‘Wait’, independently, how was that received?
We got a lot of great feedback on the first EP but it took a lot of work to get the songs out there for people to hear. We got some encouraging feedback and that played a part in us finding our sound and identity as a rock band.
10. You worked with producer Justin Rose on ‘Turning to Ashes’, how was that?
Justin is awesome. He’s really easy to work with and has this calm way about him. It makes for a smooth recording session. We all felt right at home with him too once he agreed to play some pranks on Kenny with us.
11. Have you had many setbacks with this album due to the current pandemic? How have you overcome any difficulties you have faced?
We felt like we worked so hard to get the album out and then early on in the pandemic we were signed to Eclipse Records. It was very difficult to be bursting with excitement at that time just to find out that all of the gigs we had were getting cancelled and venues were shut down. It felt like a lot of excitement just to be so disappointed that we couldn’t get out there and play live. We’ve been able to utilize digital platforms to keep sharing our music and engaging fans but our hearts are still with live performances. A digital stream just can take place of hitting the stage. We are all anxiously awaiting the return of live performances for sure!
12. Tell us about ‘Turning to Ashes’; what is the theme and where did you draw your inspiration from?
Turning to Ashes is an album that was born of us putting our collective influences and emotion into it. We feel right at home with hard rock but we tend to dabble into cross genres as well. We have a touch of metal in a couple of tracks, then jump into a little punk swing in another. It’s like a rock roller coaster!
13. Did you all write together or do you work individually and bring it all together that way?
Mike and I work together for the most part then usually once we have the rhythms worked out, we bring in Kenny to add his lead line flavours to the tracks. We wrap it all up with Tom’s drums and the lyrics after that. At that point we start rehearsing and just see what gels and what doesn’t and make our adjustments from there. We are in no way one of those bands where one person does all of the writing. We like the songs to really take off once we are all putting our creative energies into playing the tracks together.
14. Have you been creating during this year or have you taken time out and spent it pursuing hobbies / spending time with family?
We knew what we were up against this year with the pandemic. We have been taking this time to stay busy and keep writing new material and doing what we can to fine tune the existing songs. Until we can get out and tour we will just keep working as hard as we can and promote the new album.
15. Which bands would you most love to play alongside?
I would love to share a stage with MUSE. Those guys are on a whole other level with their stage performances so that would be amazing. I’d also love to tour with Lacy Sturm and Lzzy Hale.
16. What’s the next step for Hearts and Hand Grenades?
The next inevitable step for us is to just get out on a tour as soon as the pandemic is under control. We are working hard to make sure that when the time does come that we will be ready and we promise to bring one hell of a performance. We hope to be able to promote the new album in 2021 and get the chance to show our fans what we can do!
17. It’s been great getting to know you better; do you have any words for our readers?
Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me and there are big things on our horizons. We will do our best to get out and see our fans and want to show the world who Hearts & Hand Grenades are. Be sure to check us out on our social media platforms and website to get the latest info when those dates are booked!