Grubby Little Hands is the woozy, psychedelic pop project of Philly-based songwriters and multi-instrumentalists Donnie Felton and Brian Hall, who began collaborating in college as music theory and composition students. As a duo, they released two albums: Imaginary Friends (2009) and The Grass Grew Around Our Feet (2012). Leading up to their forthcoming third record Garden Party (2016), guitarist Joseph Primavera and drummer Chad Brown were added to the lineup, significantly enriching the sound palette. On Garden Party, the band use tuneful melodies, densely layered guitar and synth textures, and tight rhythmic foundations to create an amalgam of pop songwriting, paisley psychedelia, and vibrant avant-rock. This is packaged into songs that range from stadium-ready anthems and buoyant surf-rock to whispering lullabies and contemplative deep-cuts, making for a dynamic and mercurial listening experience.
Conceptually, much of Garden Party’s lyrics are rooted in an existential anxiety that Felton and Hall experience on both a macro and micro level. The ever-looming- but-never- arriving imminent doom of civilization that pervades 21 st century mass media and internet culture leaves Felton and Hall with a seemingly distant or apathetic perspective. Album opener Dial Tone fantasizes about a hypothetical party where no people are present but automated technology goes through the motions nonetheless. Don’t Shoot Straight describes catastrophic destruction from the perspective of theater patrons who are humored by the apocalypse that’s unfolding before their eyes. But Felton and Hall have a very personal appreciation for their own mortality, as victims of separate cases of random violence that left them near-death. Felton was once beaten unconscious by a group of young men in a case of mistaken identity, and this incident is referenced in the track Michael. Years later in 2008, during production of their first album, Hall was stabbed in the abdomen with a 12” hunting knife by a complete stranger in center city Philadelphia in an unprovoked attack. He narrowly survived, and his attacker was convicted of attempted murder and imprisoned. So as album closer We Don’t Exist explores various afterlife theories, accepting and ultimately embracing the inevitable end, there is clearly a personal significance underlying the bigger picture being painted.