'Mandrake Handshake is a place of joy, even when we’re having a shit time'
Laviea Thomas
11:59 7th June 2021

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In the run up to the release of their debut studio EP, Shake the Hand that Feeds You, we spoke to the co-founders of technicoloured ten-piece – yes you read correctly: ten-piece - Mandrake Handshake; Trinity Oksana and Row Janjuah. 

Grabbing our attention with their kaleidoscopic 2020 single release, ‘Gonkulator,’ Mandrake Handshake have since been on an ascending spiral of captivating single releases. Forming in late 2019, vocalist Oksana tells us a bit about their set up and mission. “We’re one big happy family, we love being around each other and making music together. It’s been a really joyful journey; it’s really cool that we all vibe the music we’re creating. Mandrake Handshake is a place of joy, even when we’re having a shit time. The music we’re trying to create is very colourful and doesn’t hold back.” 

Adding, Janjuah details the logic behind Mandrake Handshake being such a huge collective. “To this day I still don’t understand how any band has fewer members, it’s the ultimate organic members policy! We have no temptation to rein it in, we have so many parts in each song, what’s the number of people we need to play these parts? It’s ten! I figured out later on that people are happy to sacrifice various things when they play live, but we’re just not going to do that.” 

Originally setting up under the name Nobble Heads (once again, you read that correctly), Mandrake Handshake have since welcomed the assistance of Steroelab’s Andy Ramsay on their up-and-coming EP. Oksana explains how the group made the transition from doing this as a hobby to something taken a bit more seriously. “When we started working with Andy Ramsay, he helped produce our latest EP and asked us, 'are you guys serious about this?' and we were like 'yeah, we want to make it'. He told us we had to change our name, and to pick something sexier. We were like *insert dramatic gasp*, 'no, we have to rebrand everything!' But it turned out to definitely be the right move.”

Being very new to the scene, it’s without a doubt intriguing to know how the turbulence of the pandemic affected the group's schedule. Speaking on this, Janjuah exclaims, “It’s quite funny, actually, because we recorded our first song as Mandrake Handshake in December 2019, ‘Hypersonic Super-Asterid’. And then we ended up recording with Ramsay in January 2020. We got it all finished it by February, and then lockdown hit in March, we got everything in just before, which meant we could spend the entirety of lockdown slowly releasing. There wasn’t a lot of noise, and so we ended up getting quite a lot of attention – in a weird way lockdown happened to fall in the right place for us.” Controversially, and fortunately for them, the pandemic hasn’t been quite the burden on Mandrake Handshake’s journey and has instead pushed them to the epicentre of the psych music scene.  

Curating their sound through a handful of influences, ranging from Brian Jonestown Massacre, to Stereolab, to even '90s Brazilian psych – Mandrake Handshake are one of the only bands I know of right now who are effortlessly getting psychedelic music down to a t. Having recently dropped their climactic offering ‘Monolith’ this April, it’s fair to say the group have their fans giddy for this EP release. Speaking of which, Janjuah delves into his eagerness for the release of Shake the Hand that Feeds You. “I’ve spent so long thinking about it that I don’t even know what it sounds like anymore! It got to a point where I knew I was genuinely happy with the EP, and so since then I’ve just been waiting to make sure everyone else is happy with it.”

Oksana adds, “I feel like we’ve been sitting on it for a while and we’re just itching to get back into the studio. We can’t wait to show people what direction we’ve taken because we’ve had a year of growth – we’re so proud of this EP and have our heads so far into the future.”

As we edge closer to the release date of Shake the Hand that Feeds You, Mandrake Handshake are gearing themselves up for some of the exciting projects they’ve got coming up, including that of a Rough Trade live stream. “We’ve not really had the chance to produce an asset as a band, so obviously I’m quite nervous. But it’s a great opportunity, the venue that we’re playing is beautiful, which is always nice! I think we’ll also be playing a song that we haven’t released yet, which is also exciting.”

Adding, Oksana details, “It’s really nerve-wracking as it’ll be the first show we’ll play together as a band for the first time in a year and a half. We’ve got a couple of rehearsals coming up, but at the same time, – I think everyone in the music industry felt this – we’ve really missed playing with our band and can’t wait to get back to it.”

Schedule for release June 18th via Nice Swan Records, we’re super excited to see what Shake that Hand that Feeds You has to offer as the debut studio EP of an incredibly promising collective.  

Shake the Hand That Feeds You arrives 18 June via Nice Swan Records.

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Photo: Jake Owens