“If life’s a nuisance, embrace your accidents,” advises Hans Pucket’s lead singer Oli Devlin, on the second track of the band’s second EP, Jalapeño. And though, just a couple songs later, he admits that he “never even takes [his] own advice” (“Illest”), the five-track release is evidence that the New Zealanders have indeed gladly rolled with the punches that have brought them to their current standing.
Hans Pucket started out as a twosome—the lo-fi, pop-punky project of twins Oliver and Callum Devlin. Their first EP arrived in January of 2014, comprised of seven songs totally steeped in reverb and delay, with some added psych-y effects which helped flesh out their recordings. As the months went on, the two went on tour, relocated to a new city, and discovered a new underground community, all while continuing their studies. They even added a third member to the group, drummer Jonathan Nott. Though live performances remained pretty regular, the recording process for their second release proved to be much more challenging than their first go around.
These unplanned twists in the band’s development turned out to be fruitful, to say the least. Though a two-year break in between their EPs was certainly not intentional, it allowed word-of-mouth about Hans Pucket to steadily spread, and Jalapeño is now being met with anticipation that was long simmering. They dedicated time to honing their live sound, while also being forced to do some recalibration following their evolution into a trio. Without a doubt, it’s all paid off: the five new tracks we’re getting showcase a sound that is more confident and much more nuanced.
The EP kicks off with a super engaging instrumental, featuring a hoppy lead guitar that shows just why “Jalapeño” would make for a fitting title. The sound is immediately noticeably different from the band’s previous release—punchier and neater, as though a layer of grime has been wiped right off. Once the vocals appear in the following tracks, the marked clarity of these recordings becomes even more obvious; gone is the super lo-fi aesthetic, but the garage-pop feel of the music remains, with minor psychedelic embellishments making an appearance from time to time. The third track, “Feelings,” makes all of these elements recognizable up front: a woozy opening leads to hard-hitting, ‘70s-leaning power chords, while catchy hooks and “ooh”s in the chorus reinforce the pop angle.
Mostly, these tracks are rather mellow, but they each involve a heavy amount of instrumental and even lyrical playfulness that keep things very interesting. And at these somewhat slower tempos, it’s easier still to perceive how much refinement and growth Hans Pucket has undergone. Though it’s merely a five-track, sophomore release, Jalapeño is no doubt a statement. If the trio continue at this rate, a full-length album from them is sure to be a stunner.