THE HUNDRED IN THE HANDS Interview
New York male/female duo The Hundred In The Hands have seemingly sprung out of nowhere in no time at all. Within their one and a half year existence they have found themselves courted by and inking a deal with WARP records and have rapidly risen above the clustered New York scene to become one of the few new bands from the city that could actually make a lasting impact around the globe. This interview I did originally appeared in Penny Black Music. I caught up with the group on a rare day off during their current European tour. Questions grilled by me.
WALLERNOTWELLER: I’m obsessed with music from the 80’s. If you could name one 1980’s record that for you sums up the reason you do what you do what would it be?
Jason Friedman: Probably the record that made the biggest impact on me in the 80’s was Freakscene by Dinosaur Jr. when I heard that I literally jumped up on my bed and screamed this is what I’ve been waiting for. It was mainly the guitars that did it for me, I had just started playing guitar I think the year before. I went quickly from Guns N’ Roses to Led Zeppelin to Dinosaur Jr.
WNW: That band always play so ridiculously loud.
JF: Yeah, even with plugs in your ears. I saw them at one of the first shows after they got together in Berlin and I got to talk to Lou (Barlow) afterwards and he was just so excited to be playing with them again because you know he never wanted to leave the band in the first place and he had the same bass rig, the same amps, the same bass: he was so upset with them when they kicked him out he just gave it to someone else, he just couldn’t take it.
Eleanore Everdell: For me I would have to say in the 80’s it was Irene Cara that made the impact on me with Flashdance and Fame. As singles… well, I just thought she was cool, I dunno, super emotional and awesome when I was a kid (laughs). I loved Fame so much, it was my favourite song for years and years.
WNW: Did you ever watch Fame when Janet Jackson was in it, I thought the show jumped the shark at that point?
EE: No, no I am very loyal to the movie, I loved that dirty New York scene, still to this day it gets me all googly. I wasn’t really allowed to watch the TV show, there were rules about TV in our house.
WNW: To be honest I don’t think you missed out on much. Now if I may change the subject a little; Jason, I was quite the fan of The Boggs, the band you were in before The Hundred In The Hands, I know that Eleanor also played in that band but how exactly did you two meet? JF: Well I was putting together a band to tour that last Boggs record and I put together an entire line up for that and I met Eleanor through a mutual friend about a month before the tour was supposed to start so we had been really practicing a lot for that tour but we really got to know each other when we were actually touring that last Boggs record which we toured for about two months.
WNW: The Boggs had this haphazard way about them, a very different feel from The Hundred In The Hands. JF: Yeah, everything was so quickly done, everything was done fast with that last tour. I had gotten back from South By South-West and the band I had gone their with wasn’t going to be able to go any further so I literally had a month to find an entire band. The Mutual friend that introduced me and Eleanor was Holly Miranda who is on XL Records.
WNW: The Boggs had that indie rock guitar group sound which is at odds with The Hundred In The Hands more electronic direction, what was the catalyst for the change? JF: What I was getting exited with as soon as we started working together was with mixing the live elements with more electronic elements, the whole difference with production. Things can be cleaner and more sculpted and put in the right place and also that first song that we did which was Dressed In Dresden we split up the song writing, that song just happened to be one that I wrote but to hear Eleanor sing my words simply made me not want to sing anymore (laughs).
WNW: So being the 1st song you collaborated on was it originally meant to be a Boggs song?JF: Kinda, it was up in the air but it felt different enough to go a new place with. When we went into the studio the label that was setting it up had in their minds Dressed In Dresden as a Boggs song but we definitely felt different about it. Then it just sat around for a couple of months whilst I was supposed to be getting ready to go on tour with The Boggs again, this time in Europe but just thinking about having to build another line up started to seem really exhausting and I was way more excited about the possibilities involved in going with this other direction.
WNW: was there anything in particular you were listening to at the time that was spurring on this change in direction at all? JF: Well yeah but it wasn’t necessarily radically different music than what I always listen to but as we were driving around on that tour we were clicking over a lot of shared interests, listening to a lot of ska and dub, disco and more electronic things.
WNW: There is definitely a fresh element of pop coming through that The Boggs sometimes lacked with the new group. JF: We both really like pop, but not necessarily the newest and latest pop sensation. More really the more left of centre pop things that have always been there as well. I think from a writing point of view what is interesting is that Eleanor has studied musicology and opera and she has a real grounding in how music is supposed to work (laughs), where as I am a little more…
WNW: Organic? JF: Let’s say avant. How about that?
WNW: How important is being based in New York for you two? JF: It’s not an issue, it just happens to be where we live. To be honest we are in London for the rest of the summer and we just got back from Paris today. We were sort of half joking that we are going to have to take at least 4 to 5 months there to write our new record.
WNW: Well yeah, I can see that the tour you are currently in the middle of is a mammoth stint across Europe, is it the first you’ve been out for such a long period of time with THITH’s? JF: Easily this is the most intense thing we have done and is way longer even than we did with The Boggs. It’s a much better label and they have put a lot of effort in.
WNW: How has the reception been so far? JF: It’s been really good, I mean we are currently still at that really stage where each night we are trying to introduce ourselves. It’s strange in that way because it’s not like a proper
WNW: I can see that tomorrow night (TRAMLINES in Sheffield) you have been placed with the prime spot on the festival line up as the headline act, how much influence do you have over these things?
JF: Ha, none. I only just discovered that this morning and I was as shocked as you were (laughs).
WNW: Well, it seems strange to a point, you do have the single and the more reflective This Desert EP out and there is a buzz going around the internet about you, it’s not that much of a shock. JF: But it is strange, this feeling of them not knowing our songs yet. It will be really nice when people know them. Right now it is a case of a lot of people standing around staring at us until they hear the occasional song that they have heard.
WNW: Well that single Dressed in Dresden was a thumping tune but you chose to follow it with the far more sombre This Desert EP, was this done on purpose to show two different sides of the band? JF: Well we made that record and this album at the same time and it was definitely on purpose that we made this variety of things. We wrote everything at once and ended up with 20 songs and as we were finishing them off with different produces we broke them off into the two sets, we knew what would be the EP songs and which would be the album songs.
WNW: One song that I think suits both records is The Beach, what’s the story behind that? JF: I think it’s different from what was on the EP because on the EP everything was kind of more dubbed out and hazy but even though The Beach maybe the reflective song on the album in a way it’s in greater focus. It came from a set of lyrics that I had written down that was one of the only examples where just kind of ‘there’. I was just thinking of different vignettes of people in the city living their life, talking about things. There is a real element of romanticism to it, the short sleeves rolled, a sort of James Dean gesture and also there is the May ‘68 reference to The beach beneath the paving stones. I was just thinking about the lost rebellion of youth, that’s about it (laughs).
WNW: Did you write it to fit specifically as the final track on the album or was it just luck that it fit so well? JF: I think we were looking for something to end the record on and we felt good about it, it gets washed away. I like the way it ends with The Beach. Especially as it’s a little rush from Dressed In Dresden to Last City because those songs all kind of poke around with historic references.
WNW: When listening to the album in one go I always think of it as a party from it’s doors opening to the final guests start leaving with The Beach to play them out. JF: That sounds like a heavy party (laughs)
WNW: Who is it that writes the majority of the lyrics? EE: We both write them and it goes back and forth. With The Beach those lyrics are Jason’s, he had them all written down but I had all this music written, I had this chord progression and put a melody to the lyrics that were there. I would say in a lot of the songs it is more like half and half.
WNW: So how did the deal with WARP come along? JF: When we put Dressed In Dresden out on line it got quickly picked up and put out as a 7” in January of 2009 and that got us over to England for three shows and Steve Beckett and Stephen Christian from WARP came to one of those shows. They were two of seven people there in London and they just wanted to sign us.
WNW: What are your hopes for the band now you have some heavy weight backing from them? JF: Well the great thing about WARP is they really give you the time to do what you wanna do. They are a really supportive label. I don’t think most labels of that size would see us playing to a room of that few people and think ‘We should make records with this band’
WNW: How big is the staff there that’s looking after you now? JF: Well their London office is pretty big and they have offices in New York and Paris, there is a lot going on. It seems like they are far more territorial over who they pick to do things with. They were literally at the top of our list when we were day dreaming about which label would we love to sign us. It was always WARP.
WNW: How did you find out that they wanted you? JF: They just dropped us an email. It didn’t really sink in for a while but we said ‘Of course, sure’. I mean it did take a little while to sort out the contract but we were already working with their A&R guy and coming up with the plan on how best to make the record.
WNW: I can see that the European leg of the tour finishes at the end of august and you release the album at the beginning of September, what are you plans once it’s out? JF: We are planning on touring the USA all the way through October and are just at the planning stages of what happens after that, Hopefully it will be another UK and European run.
WNW: Thanks For the chat….