The Hundred in the Hands Talk New Album ‘Red Night,’ Tour Disasters + More – Exclusive Interview
The Hundred in the Hands are a New York-based electro-pop duo featuring singer-keyboardist Eleanore Everdell and guitarist-programmer Jason Friedman, both former members of the post punk-inspired folk rock collective known as the Boggs. This week sees THITH return with ‘Red Night,’ the follow-up to their self-titled 2010 debut (both out on Warp Records). While ‘The Hundred in the Hands’ featured production work from Chris Zane (the Walkmen, Passion Pit), Richard X (Annie, Kelis) and others, for this latest album, Everdell and Friedman decided to handle production duties on their own. The result is both more intimate and more organic, taking the dark and dance-y electro stylings of their first album to a new level.
Diffuser.fm recently caught up with Everdell and Friedman, and the duo shared some tour nightmares, talked about ‘Red Night’ and compared the current New York City music scene to what it used to be.
You had a 2010 European tour interrupted by those volcano eruptions in Iceland. Has that been your biggest ordeal on tour so far? What other issues have you encountered on the road — any fun disaster stories?
Eleanore Everdell: That was nuts! Watching the news reports to see if our plane would take off and we ended up missing the first five dates of the tour or something. We had this other disastrous day getting to a show in Paris on another tour. Our van, which was actually our second of the tour, completely broke down 30 miles south of Lyon on a French holiday. We got a tow to a garage, but there was no one at work and we just sat there for hours trying to get a hold of someone to save us. And at the eleventh hour, when [we] had given up and booked a hotel for the night, someone turned up with a new van in Lyon. He came and picked us up, and then we raced to Paris. It was pouring rain, and we were still hours away, so we didn’t know if we were going to make it until we actually entered the city. We got to the venue when our set was supposed to be ending, threw everything onstage and just went straight into it. The place was completely packed. Everyone had just been sitting there waiting for us ,and we didn’t find out until after but nobody had actually explained the situation. But it didn’t seem to matter — it was such an amazing show in the end. I think we just had so much adrenaline it made it a great show.
The Boggs were pretty much guitar-driven rock, and Hundred in the Hands are much more electronic. Why the change in genres? Does this suit your personality more, or is it just another shade?
Jason Friedman: The thing that feels like a radical departure to me is writing with a partner. Eleanore and I both write lyrics and music, and it’s all shared equally. The first two Boggs records had all come from an idea that folk wasn’t limited to rural or acoustic traditions but was really the same as rock and punk and hip-hop. By the last Boggs record, it was really just me and whoever I could find to play with, and I was sick of constantly building bands. It felt more like a cover band and was frustrating. Eleanore joined for what ended up being the last Boggs tour. We connected immediately, and the time felt right to work on a shared vision. So, yeah, it’s just a different shade and at the same time, this new record does feel more like us, or is more personal than the first.
How does New York City influence your music these days? And how does the NYC music scene circa 2012 compare to when the Boggs were starting out?
JF: There really weren’t any bands in New York when I moved there, and that made that whole wave feel really exciting — being a part of that, seeing the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and the Rapture at early shows in small rooms. All the bands were really different, but there was a shared sense of community. After that, bands started moving to the city, and now there are so many it’s almost like a company town and you can’t possibly know them all, which is exciting in a totally different way. There’s always someone else more talented to remind you that you’re not as good as you think you are.
EE: New York attracts people who want to be serious about their art, and that’s a challenge and inspiring. Our studio is in a building with probably 30 other bands, almost all of whom are touring, putting out records, etc. Bear in Heaven were writing their record up the hall. You can’t help but feel lifted by that. The bar is raised really high.
Are there any bands in particular that influenced the new album ‘Red Night?’
JF: On the first record, we were still learning to write together, and the way we did that was to go back to the records we loved and use them as the blueprint, treating each song like its own universe. This time we wanted to have the whole record feel more singular, and that meant letting go of the crutch of bands to reference and to try and understand ourselves a bit more. And the roof leaked on our stereo, so we actually couldn’t listen to records at home.
EE: We did get pretty deep into the EPs Andy Stott put out last year with its rumbling low-end and sleazy drawl, and we also saw this installation that involved a piece of music by Thomas Tallis and 30 speakers playing individual voices. There were a lot of inspirations like that, indirect references like the film L’Atalante by Jean Vigo. It was more about absorbing and letting things sink in than looking directly for answers.
What is your favorite track off of the new album, and why?
EE: Right now, the title track ‘Red Night’ is my favorite. It just sort of flutters along but the song, although very electronic and manipulated, feels really organic to me. Like it’s breathing.
JF: For me, right now it’s ‘Stay the Night.’ The process for that and other tracks like ‘Red Night’ didn’t actually involve a lot of synths, and I got to record, manipulate, pitch and warp the guitars to create those textures. That felt really new for me and I also loved listening to Eleanore build up the harmonies in the break. It was a whole day of sitting there while she laid them down and then we layered and arranged them. It was pretty hypnotic.
Last month you released your new single ‘Keep It Low.’ What’s the story behind the song?
EE: Honestly, the song lyrically started as something I wrote to Jason. It’s like a creepy lullaby. We had been having some relationship struggles, and a big part of reconciling those kind of things is remembering all the reasons why you get along and realizing how powerful the connection between two people can be. There’s a bit of darkness still in the song which is about just our lives in these cities together and the stuff that isn’t perfect, but when it all comes down it, we know where we stand.
What was the biggest challenge in recording and producing the new album by yourselves?
JF: Other than just learning the technical side and dealing with a limited budget, it can just be hard because we both get pretty fiery when it comes to our ideas — and not having a third voice in the room to help settle the arguments can be frustrating.
You spoke of your love of Warp Records when you signed. Has the label met your expectations?
EE: In every way possible! It’s such a family atmosphere at Warp. They really push us to experiment and challenge ourselves and give us the time to find our way.
JF: They really are in it for the right reasons, putting out records because they love them rather than chasing trends. It’s a very special place.
You guys had a song featured on ‘Gossip Girl’ — in a previous era, that may have been seen as a sell out, but now it’s almost a rite of passage for young bands. Do you actively pursue such placement of your music, and what do you look to gain from it?
JF: It’s another thing we leave to Warp, and it’s something we can trust them with. We just see it as a necessary part of staying alive now because it’s so hard to make a living playing music. We give everything to our band, and all these things end up just being a drop in [the] bucket that keeps us afloat and able to tour and make records, which is the most important thing. I don’t think it’s much different than getting played on commercial radio or even interviewed in magazines next to banner ads.
Listen to the Hundred in the Hands’ ‘Keep It Low’