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Escape Velocity

Screwing It Up: The Hundred In The Hands Interviewed
Valerie Siebert , September 28th, 2010 07:06

Valerie Siebert talks to New York duo The Hundred In The Hands about their recently released self-titled debut album

Having had the likes of Johnny Marr attend their gigs and Foals remix their music, New York duo The Hundred In The Hands have been making fans in high places. And with their debut album out now, it won't be long before the everyday trendy and tunic-clad Shoreditch indie electro-kid will be blasting them out of their first floor Dalston studio windows.

Comprised of guitarist Jason Friedman and vocalist Eleanore Everdell, THITH formed in 2008 with what was supposed to be a one-off collaboration - resulting in the staccato post-punk gem 'Dressed in Dresden'. The tune hit the net and was subsequently fawned over by UK record labels, eventually bringing the attention of Warp Records upon them. Their new album comes on the heels of the duo's critically acclaimed EP This Desert which came out in May.

Shuffling through an already impressive back catalogue, a myriad of influences seep through in forms including dub, ska, disco, post-punk and no wave. Friedman's previous group, The Boggs, (described by themselves as a "proto post folk garage punk folk punk blues and disco" band), he was sole songwriter, while with THITH he has found himself with a partner in composition. Eleanore Everdell's contribution is transparent as a buffer to Friedman when comparing The Boggs with THITH and she is also graced with a face fit for pop. An angelic visage often obscured by her long fringe which grazes high cheekbones as she rocks from side to side in sway with the atmospheric pulsations. Her Feistian vocals never rise above a velvet soft level and provide tantalising juxtaposition upon Friedman's gunshot guitar lines and throbbing bass.

The group are currently living in London in order to be in the centre of the summer festival action and are leap-frogging about Europe, but The Quietus managed to corner them in a small Soho pub before a gig where they impressed with their vast eclectic tastes and refreshingly unpretentious demeanour.

So, the new album. What sets it apart from the This Desert EP?

Jason Friedman: I think it's tighter, more pulled together. We wrote both at the same time, but we thought these songs were more gauzy and slowed down. I think this album has more things going on – every song's a little bit different.

Eleanore Everdell: More in focus I would say.

Seeing as you recorded it first, why did 'Dressed in Dresden' make it onto the album and not the EP?

JF: Well, because 'Dressed in Dresden' has those qualities like the album – it's more in focus. And that was kind of the point – while we were making them, we knew which songs were going to be on the EP and which songs were going to be on the album. We let those EP songs come out really different, while everything else we do is....

EE: I think it's also one of those things where we created demos and we did a lot of production on our own and then took that into the studio and finished them off with producers. And I would say that the EP songs are more closely aligned to the demo form while some of the stuff on the new records pushed a little further with production. So like, the Richard X stuff – he produces the Warp tracks – sounds bigger and slicker than we could ever do with our production.

With regards to 'Dressed in Dresden'; listening to it along with the rest of the album you can get the impression that it shows a gradual progression from previous work with The Boggs, where things were more guitar heavy, to where you are at the moment which is more and more electronic and atmospheric. Do you think this is a natural shift or are you deliberately moving away from what you've already done?

JF: When we made 'Dressed in Dresden' we didn't know what it was going to be, so it came out sounding a bit closer in line with The Boggs – faster, more guitars – and it's not that we've consciously gone out and said 'we're not doing that anymore, we're doing this'. All the things that we're interested in come out in different ways – some of those things might have more guitars and more energy and others might be of a more restrained vibe.

EE: I think, yes, there is a progression from where Jason started in his career at the beginning... and I think it was a conscious progression through The Boggs; developing a sound that was more produced, more modern, applying more modern influences. It is true that this project is sort of a further extension of what he was working on before in the sense that we're pushing into more electronic sounds and higher levels of production. It's not something that we think about or talk about very much - but it is interesting to notice that.

JF: And also The Boggs was just me writing whereas we write everything together so that would be part of the different sound.

How do you find writing with someone else as opposed to by yourself?

JF: Well it takes a while sometimes, but it's always good. We write separately on our own and build the foundations for something whether it be some lyrics or a chord progression or just a beat. And then we get together and finish it off – it's a good process.

Reading up on your wide range of influences, you mention in your interviews being very influenced by British Invasion bands and girl bands of the 60s, but listening to your music, the effect of groups such as The Cure and New Order is much more apparent. Where does this 60s influence sneak in?

JF: It's really in the guitars as well as in harmonics – like the chords that we choose.

EE: Yeah, I would say that, but also just the style....

JF: You mean the look?

EE: Well yes, a little bit of that, but I feel it's just a part of who we are.

JF: It's just the stuff that we really like. All of that music was just these guys trying to be old blues men and screwing it up and in doing so they make a new thing. So I guess what we're doing is similar...

Are you saying that you're screwing something up?

JF: We must be if it's not coming across at all!! But I think a lot of the guitar stuff I do reminds me of that era – particularly the first few records of The Who.

With all these British bands that you list as influences, it seems you might have a slight obsession with British music...

JF: I wouldn't call it an obsession as such, Warp asked us when we were coming over to make a list of British bands that we like but we never sit down and listen to a band just because they are British. If there was any culture that we were obsessed with it would probably be Jamaican...

EE: Yeah, like ska and dub. But obviously the songs that come out are not what you listen to and I think that's the case with a lot of people unless you're really going for something specific. At least that's the case with us... we listen to a lot of things and whatever comes out, comes out. It's sometimes hard to tell where the influences are until you listen to it later on.

So you never set yourself a goal in terms of songwriting?

EE: Occasionally there is a seed of something, like we want it to be this certain amount of bpms because we want it to feel a certain way in terms of dance vibes or this kind of a bassline because we really like the groove or the feel.

JF: Rather than us saying a song will be 'this kind of a song' as we're writing, things will just come up. Like 'oh that hook reminds me of that Nina Cherry song' and then we'll move in that direction for a little bit. But we never acknowledge in a way that's like 'this has a girl group sound so let's make the entire thing sound like a girl group song' we're just borrowing a little echo of it.

You are also living in London for the festival season, how have you been finding it?

JF: Yeah we have a flat in Hackney. But this is the fourth time we've been to London in the past year so it's becoming really familiar. We actually recorded some of the album here. It doesn't even feel new anymore.

EE: It's just at the point now where all I'm thinking about is 'where do I go to get to the bank' and trying to remember what sides the cars come on – I've almost been run over about eight times already.

JF: It's not even just that they're on the wrong side, there's just something really confusing about the streets here...

EE: I feel like a stunned animal walking around, I can't figure it out...

Pedestrians don't seem to have the right of way as they do in North America...

EE: It's true! I had one guy get mad at me because I was standing a little too close and he honked really loud and accelerated right past me – brushed my hair it was so close – it terrified me! Very, very scary.

There's been some attention coming your way since Foals remixed your track 'Pigeons'. How did that come about and what do you think of their version?

JF: I really like their version actually, I love the horns that they've put on it. As far as I know, they just wanted to do it... I think Warp might have asked them. We haven't actually met them –that's the way it is with remixes I suppose, but it's kind of more fun that way be – like a pleasant surprise.

What kind of audience do you write for?

JF: Ourselves and our friends I think, but we don't really think about it. We have a vague idea of what we want, but we never try to make something that people will necessarily like. There's no demographic – it's much more of a small pool of the 20 people that I really care about.

EE: I think we are working in more pop forms than either of us have before. So there is an intention there for it to be more fun, more dancy and uplifting rather than me in my bedroom making broody music for myself – it's more extroverted than the music I've played before. We want at our live show for people to dance and get into it. It's a conscious choice you have to make when you decide on the music you play. How you want people to feel by listening to it.

You talked about writing for certain beats per minute and how you like people dancing at the shows... if you had to classify yourselves... would you be a dance group?

EE: There are some songs that are more like that and some that aren't...

JF: Well the way I look at it is that rock and roll has always been dance music. It is what it is, whether it's British Invasion or whatever.

I saw a pattern when reading articles about you. A lot of them start with 'oh no! Yet another electro-rock dance band... but these guys are different'. What makes you different from bands people compare you to?

JF: I don't think we're really writing from a place of listening to electro-dance music.

EE: We don't even really like electro-dance music...

JF: But maybe it just inherently comes out.

EE: We listen to a lot of old disco.

JF: But not the glitzy, studio 54 type of stuff, but more like mutant disco. But like I said, those currents of rock and roll that started in the late 50s it's always been R&B dance music while the 70s was more dancy in the disco sense and that carried on to more electronic things. I mean, if you put a synthesizer into a recording, it's going to sound like electro music regardless of what you're doing. I just think it's different because we're not writing electro dance music.

EE: It's a bit of a lame answer to say 'oh, we're genreless'; of course we're part of some genre, but it's hard for us to tell because we don't think of it from that perspective. We will say these are the sonic elements that we're combining, this is the instrument pattern, these are the kind of hooks that we're writing and the chords that we're using. I would say you're better qualified to define us.

What are your plans for the next record? Will you continue to move away from that Bogg's style guitar music?

JF: Yeah, I think we're going to continue on from the same thing that we've been doing, but there are always some songs that make sense to be a guitar song, they're not necessarily one after another how we wrote them, some of the songs that are the most guitar based are the last ones we wrote.

EE: We spend a lot of time just holed up in our practice space just writing melodies and hooks and things like that. I think that now that now we've been playing live we'll be developing the songs with that live energy, and maybe more guitar sounds. I think the next batch may be more going for that organic live energy. So probably more guitar, actually. Everything we're working on now is in preparation for when the record drops, but we might start writing again in December when we have more of a break.

Your current album relies quite heavily on production. Is there a difficulty reproducing it in the live show that's making you think about going more 'organic'?

JF: Well we use a lot of backing tracks in the live show so a lot of the production stays there, but we're constantly changing it and tweaking it. We have a sound system on stage with us so there is plenty of that stuff and as we're going from show to show, we're working on the backing tracks. The guitar is the last thing to be added, obviously as we're playing.

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The Hundred In The Hands is out now, and the band will play the following shows supporting !!!:

October 29 Academy II, Manchester
October 30 Classic Grand, Glasgow
October 31 Stanley Theatre, Liverpool
November 1 The Cockpit, Leeds
November 2 Anson Rooms, Bristol
November 3 Concorde II, Brighton
November 4 Koko, London

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