Meg Duffy grew up in a small town in Upstate New York and they cut their teeth as a session guitarist and touring member of Kevin Morby’s band. The Hand Habits project emerged after Meg moved to Los Angeles; it started as a private songwriting outlet but soon evolved into a fully-fledged band with Meg at the helm. Hand Habits’ debut album, Wildly Idle (Humble Before The Void), was released by Woodsist Records in 2017. The LP was entirely self-produced and recorded in Meg’s home during spare moments when they weren’t touring. Wildly Idle (Humble Before The Void) is a lush, homespun collection of folk songs that found Meg in an exploratory state as an artist moving out on their own for the first time.
Two years later, Hand Habits has returned with their sophomore album, placeholder. To make this album, Meg chose to work in a studio and bring in collaborators, entrusting them with what had previously been a very personal creative process. Over the course of 12 tracks, Meg emerges with new confidence as both a bandleader and singer. This album is as tender and immediate as anything Meg’s ever written, but it’s also intensely focused and refined, the work of a meticulous musician ready to share their singular vision with the world.
The name placeholder stems from Meg’s fascination with the undefinable. Their songs serve as openings — carved-out spaces waiting to be endowed with meaning. As a lyricist, Meg is drawn to the in-between, and the songs on this new album primarily confront the ways in which certain experiences can serve as a stepping stone on the road to self-discovery. “A big aspect of my songwriting and the way I move through the world depends on my relationships with people. The songs on placeholder are about accountability and forgiveness,” Meg says. “These are all real stories. I don’t fictionalize much.”
“can’t calm down”, premiered on Matt Wilkinson’s Beats 1 show via Apple Music, is placeholder’s latest single. The song features vocal contribution from Elizabeth Powell (Land of Talk); Duffy says, “this song took the longest lyrically for me to finish. i started it about 3 years ago and kept it in progress throughout different cycles of feeling. ‘ancestral damage’ and learned behaviors and conditioning to react/hold and place certain emotions are patterns i’m interested in taking part and understanding better. what can one do with rage? with pain? with sadness? and is it is possible to learn how to wipe away completely the knee jerk reactions to situations that are buried deep in one’s dna? and the role models that taught us how to behave, whether directly or residually…are they the ones who should be held responsible or is memory partially to blame?”.
The accompanying indie rock vampire clip for “can’t calm down” first premiered on Gorilla vs. Bear, who called it “achingly beautiful and poignant… profoundly articulated and relatable”. Using spellbinding lighting on the darkened LA streets and underexposed pastels indoors, the video sullenly captures her awakening next to her latest capture. The moroseness hangs heavy in the room as she wanders out in search of her next prey. After being beckoned by the flashing lights of an underground club she makes her way indoors and locks her sights on the lead singer of the band onstage, played by Sari Lightman of the band Tasseomancy. It’s an ominous mood in the room, and though what comes next may have a cryptic feeling, there’s also a beauty wrapped inside it all.