There was a time when Hand Habits was reserved for the bedroom. That’s where guitarist and songwriter Meg Duffy would craft melodic homespun folk songs when not working as a touring musician.
“It started with me just writing songs, and it went through a lot of different outfits,” says Duffy. With a rotating cast of collaborators and a slew of attempts at different sounds, Duffy and Hand Habits first debuted in a self-recorded album, Wildly Idle (Humble Before the Void), in 2017.
Now, Hand Habits has solidified from a solo project into a full band with the release of Placeholder, the excellent new record that the group plays from when performing on March 22 at the Bolinas Community Center with Alex Bleeker and friends.
For the new record, Duffy went into the studio and emerged with 12 songs of guitar-driven melodic indie-rock that continues to establish the bandleader as a premiere guitarist and confident narrative songwriter.
“I always write the songs for a full band,” says Duffy. “I like playing solo now that I can with more confidence, but I much prefer playing with a band.”
Opening with the strong title track, Placeholder is largely an album about relationships. Yet within songs about breakups and heartache, Duffy explores deeper realms of internal struggles with anxiety or confusion, as well as identity and self-discovery, giving the record a welcome gravitas throughout.
“There’s a lot of gray area in human nature,” says Duffy. “When someone doesn’t understand something, I think they can be afraid of it rather than embrace it or hold it against something that they do understand.
“And for music, everybody is so quick to define anything as a genre or in relation to another artist so they can understand it, and that’s a beautiful thing, but it can also be really limiting.”
In terms of songwriting, Duffy excels as a storyteller crafting both the ambiguous and the embellished. “That interests me, living in the in-between areas,” the performer says.
Duffy was also interested in opening the band’s upcoming tour in West Marin, where they’ve played before.
“I really think it’s a beautiful place,” says Duffy. “I thought it was a good way to start the tour, rather than having a big L.A. show. It will more low-key and familial.”
Hand Habits play with Alex Bleeker and friends on Friday, March 22, at Bolinas Community Center, 14 Wharf Road, Bolinas. 7pm. $15–$20. handhabits.bandcamp.com.