Exclusive Premiere: Handgrenades Play with Perception in “The Watcher”

Handgrenades © Doug Coombe
Handgrenades © Doug Coombe

The world of music is one that arguably encompasses every sphere of our daily life. Something simple like a graffiti you spot while walking outside can inspire you, even the sounds of busy streets during rush hour can spark something in you. In the world we live in, there is rarely one moment of complete silence. And you can write music about everything, be it your deepest fear, the news, or that annoying chord progression you can’t stand listening to anymore. But the great majority of artists stick to writing about their personal experiences – it feels real, and is a cathartic experience even. Detroit band Handgrenades challenges this conception in their new single “The Watcher,” which Atwood Magazine is proudly premiering today, in which they write from the perspective of the man who conducted a shooting at a Santa Barbara college campus.

Listen: “The Watcher” – Handgrenades

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Tunnels - Handgrenades
Tunnels – Handgrenades

“It’s about how a creepy dude thought he was the shit. I was livid, and trying to understand how that kind of person can exist,” Nick Chevillet says. Everything about the song screams cinematic: It starts out with a bang, and once ‘The Watcher’ starts singing, you won’t be able to stop listening to the song until it’s over.

The juxtaposition that exists within the song is instantly perceived: A brighter, catchy melody serves as the background to the song’s fairly dark lyrics. This approach agrees with the intent behind the song, as Chevillet says, “Jesse wrote the song from the same voice but two different perspectives: Andrew singing the chorus and Jesse singing the verse. It’s about how a creepy-ass, shitty dude can be creepy (during the verse) but thinks he’s a romantic i.e. “every time your eyes meet mine” (the chorus). The shooter was this really fucking terrible dude, but he had convinced himself ‘I have a nice car, I have nice hair.’ He thought he was the shit, but he was a really horrible man.” The song, therefore, is an attempt at understanding the shooter’s psyche and how perceptions work in the world nowadays – does the way you see yourself accurately reflect how others see you and what you’re capable of?

I’ve been watching from afar
Watched you get in other peoples’ cars
None of them know what to do
When they get a girl like you

The songs starts off with the shooter craving a girl, admiring her from afar. The way the verse is delivered on the track hints at the possibility that this isn’t a traditional story of unrequited love, with the vocalist beautifully using his voice to display a mix of rage, jealousy, and lust.

Cause everytime your eyes meet mine, they always seem to shine
Always seem to shine
As long as I’m alive
Oh, I will try to make you mine
Try to make you mine

Handgrenades © Amanda Ray
Handgrenades © Amanda Ray

The chorus already presents us with another view of the story, a more romantic one which talks about the struggle of not being loved back by the one you love, and assures the listener that he will fight to have this woman’s heart. For a moment it even seems like the spark may be mutual, on the line “every time your eyes meet mine, they always seem to shine”. This change in perspective is also due to the fact that the vocalist changes from the verse to the chorus, as mentioned above, something which really highlights the two personalities of the shooter that Handgrenades is trying to convey.

Sittin’ pretty at the bar
In a minute you’ll be seeing stars
With someone who’s got the moves
I know what to do with you

The second verse represents the return of the previous voice, who now already indicates he wants to take action: “I know what to do with you”. There is even a veiled threat in the verse when he says that “in a minute” the woman he has been watching “will be seeing stars” – while this may just be referring to the fact that she’s drinking at a bar and soon will be drunk (and so “seeing stars”), given that we know it is the shooter speaking this line may also be an indication of the crime he is about to commit: he’ll shoot her, and soon she’ll be “seeing stars” because she will be amongst them and not on this planet anymore.

Handgrenades © Doug Coombe
Handgrenades (L-R): Jesse Shepherd-Bates, Joby Kaslowski, Andrew Pawelski, Nick Chevillet, Joel Sanders // © Doug Coombe

The chorus is repeated a few times, and one specifically strips away all instruments and leaves the vocalist singing a-cappella, with only a few snaps and harmonies in the background to accompany him. This can be seen as the turning moment in the song’s narrative, the moment of silence and last second of thought before the plan is put into action. Appropriately, on the next rendition of the chorus, the drums come in strongly and the song explodes again. The song is quick and ends abruptly, just like one’s life after he’s been shot, with its haunting last words being “I’ve been watching from afar, I know what to do with you”. The listener is then unexpectedly robbed of the rest of the song and is left wondering about the story it tells.

“The Watcher” is the new single off of Handgrenades’ second album, Tunnels, set to drop on November 4th, and it leaves you on the edge for what is to come next. It is a song which exemplifies the band’s meticulousness and skill when delivering the story they want to tell. Handgrenades has proven it is here to entertain but also leave its listeners wondering about greater issues, and we can’t wait to see what story they choose to tell us next.

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Tunnels - Handgrenades
Tunnels – Handgrenades
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cover photo: Handgrenades © Doug Coombe
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