Q&A with Amsterdam native Meg Duffy of Hand Habits (2024)

Amsterdam native Meg Duffy launched Hand Habits back in 2012, when the gifted guitarist lived in Albany and created atmospheric, intense indie rock sculpted by gorgeous, dream-punk guitar. Around that time, Duffy was a sought-after guitarist for local bands such as the Better Pills and also worked at Albany rock venue the Low Beat.

An opening gig for singer-songwriter Kevin Morby at the Half Moon in Hudson changed all that. It turned into a full-time gig in Morby’s band as guitarist. Duffy moved to Los Angeles and became a sought-after guitarist performing with, or playing on releases by, national indie acts, including Mega Bog, War on Drugs, Perfume Genius, Weyes Blood and Sylvan Esso.

As Hand Habits, Duffy also continued to release vital new music, including the 2017 full-length debut “Wildly Idle (Humble Before the Void)” on Woodsist Records. Hand Habits’ latest are 2021’s “Fun House” and 2023’s “Sugar the Bruise” EP. Duffy last performed in the area in September 2023, for two sold-out Hand Habits gigs at No Fun.

Duffy returns to No Fun in Troy on Monday, May 6, with Blue Ranger and Landfill Band opening. This time, Duffy will perform as Duffy X Uhlmann, an instrumental collaboration with Gregory Uhlmann, a guitarist who plays in Perfume Genius, Fell Runner and Hand Habits. The duo’s debut album, Doubles, is due out September 22 on Orindal Records.

Tickets are available at https://www.nofuntroy.com/events/duffy-x-uhlmann-blue-ranger-landfill-band.

We caught up with Duffy in advance of the Troy show for answers to a few questions.

Q: What can people expect on Monday when you perform without Hand Habits but as Duffy X Uhlmann?

A: I won’t give everything away, but there won’t be any singing. It’s a purely instrumental duo and half of the set will be pieces we’ve composed; the other half will be improvisation. The show will be pretty dynamic and repetitive.

Q: How did you come to form a band with Gregory Uhlmann and what inspires you about the musical collaboration?

A: Greg and I both play in many projects together, and in Perfume Genius we had the challenge of arranging guitar parts between us. We would practice very very slowly a few bars to make sure we were complimenting one another, and this was the inception of the project. It felt good to try and play as one.

Q: Can you tell us about the recording you are doing right now – is it a Hand Habits album?

Yes! Working on a new HH record right now. It feels like the most “me” record since “Wildly Idle” — a lot of space for compositions and lyrically it’s less heartache, I think. The people I want to impress are in the room with me, and that’s made the music feel much more alive and true.

A: How does it feel to return to your hometown area? Are there aspects of this music scene that you miss?

Typically I get very overwhelmed returning back to the 518 — on tour there is so little time, and if I’m singing, I always have to save my voice and miss out on catching up with everyone. I do miss being able to work a lot less and play in all of the bands in town — that was a special time for me, and I learned how to play a lot of different music before moving to LA. I miss house shows, although they are popping up here these days. I miss feeling like a big fish! Ha. Everyone’s 5x better and more established than you out here, and in some ways it makes me work harder, but it’s also quite tiring.

Q: Your guitar work was always impressive – going back to the early days of the first release. How would you say your guitar playing has evolved from then until now?

A: I think I’ve learned to listen since “Wildly Idle.” In a lot of ways, that record was me figuring out what I like, who I am musically. I think there are definitely things that are immovable about one’s “voice” on an instrument, and I can hear those tendencies on every release. “Doubles” has been really refreshing because neither Greg nor I are overthinking too much when we’re writing, and we have fallen into a very natural approach to playing with one another. In the early days of playing guitar, I think I only knew how to be a lead voice; I didn’t have the self- awareness to be a generous player to others. I didn’t have great time/pocket and playing with really solid rhythm sections helped me learn how to really groove. That and I think making the guitar not sound like a guitar has been huge. I only had my strat back then — and now I’ve amassed many different textures and tones that I hope can be unidentifiable as guitar.

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Q&A with Amsterdam native Meg Duffy of Hand Habits (2024)
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