Wednesday 6 June 2012, 11:58 | By Andy Malt
Q&A: The Hundred In The Hands
Eleanore Everdell and Jason Friedman formed The Hundred In The Hands in 2008 as a side project to Friedman’s main band The Boggs, of which Everdell had become a touring member a year earlier. They released their debut single, ‘Dressed In Dresden’, through Pure Groove in 2009, shortly afterwards signing to Warp for the release of their eponymous debut album, which came out in 2010.
Having worked with producers, including Richard X, on their debut, Everdell and Friedman decided to work alone on the follow-up, ‘Red Night’, which is released by Warp on 11 Jun, with the single ‘Keep It Low’ preceding it last week.
While over in the UK for a show at London’s Hoxton Bar & Kitchen, CMU’s Andy Malt caught up with Eleanore and Jason to ask some questions.
AM: It’s nearly two years since you released your debut album, how have things changed for you since then?
EE: Well for me it’s been a real change. The EP and the debut were my first records ever to be released by a label. That was a major milestone and still feels exciting even now. I suppose our lives feel that they have changed because we feel secure in being able to write and record music professionally now. Just as matter of lifestyle, we are out of town a lot more on tour, so it’s harder to stay connected with friends.
JF: Yeah, we spent most of the first year and half on the road and then came back and lived in our tiny black box of a studio.
AM: When did you start writing songs from ‘Red Night’?
EE: We had a plan to start writing this record last April between tour dates, but it took a while to get going.
JF: Actually, it didn’t really get going until the fall but then we were working on it pretty intensely.
AM: How long did the album take to complete?
JF: Really a matter of a few months, although it’s hard to really tell, because so much of what really influenced the record and gave it its tone had been developing throughout the previous winter and summer.
EE: The bulk of the writing and recording was done from September to December. The album was mastered after some finishing touches in late January.
AM: Did touring the first album and playing those songs live affect your writing on ‘Red Night’?
EE: Definitely. We had a much heavier thicker sound live than how the debut record sounded. The production on the debut is quite clean. On ‘Red Night’ we let the guitar sounds get more experimental and manipulated, as is the case with live. And we allowed the recordings to be a bit denser and more atmospheric, which is in keeping with the live textures.
JF: At the same time we really love the whole idea of using the studio as an instrument and there’s things that can be done that are actually impossible in the real world. A lot of the heavy textures on the record, which sound like synths are really guitars slowed down. And we did similar things with vocals, with Eleanore building these dense harmonies. Playing with those things with a more direct confidence that came from touring was kind of liberating.
AM: You worked with a few producers on your debut, this time you worked alone. Why did you make that decision and how did it change the recording experience?
EE: It was not easy producing it ourselves. We learned a lot but it was certainly challenging. We chose to do it because the production is a very creative part of the process. On par with the lyric writing, writing the music, performing it, etc. We wanted to experiment with the possibilities without the constraint of finite studio time or producer time. Also, most of our electronic music influences are all self-produced and part of the thing that makes them so rad is the fresh way that sounds are being manipulated. We wanted a chance to make some of those choices and experiment ourselves.
AM: Was it easier to maintain a cohesive sound for the record as a whole working by yourselves?
JF: Yes, and that’s really why we did it. The last record, we approached every song as it’s own universe, more like singles. That was exciting for us then, but this time we wanted something that would feel like a whole, which for us meant getting to know it inside and out. We were incredibly lucky to work with the producers we worked with, but that approach is very different because fresh ears come in and it changes the direction of things. They hear things that weren’t part of the original discussion. This time we were excited to trade the slickness that provides for something dirtier and less refined but more complete.
AM: Were you influenced by any other producers in particular while trying to find the sound for the album?
EE: We weren’t geeking out on many records while writing ‘Red Night’, but one that really turned our heads and had an influence on the sounds we were developing was ‘Passed Me By’ by Andy Stott. This record has a very heavy low end with the growly noise beats and bits. We had never heard anything quite like it from electronic production before. It has a really organic quality. We felt connected to it because we were already working on something that felt somnambulant and urban.
JF: And at the same time that it felt unexpected and new, it also seemed to give a solidity to a lot of the ideas we were already playing with. On our first record we were still learning to write together and we used the records we always loved as a meeting point to answer questions. This time we let go of that as a crutch and sought to look for questions that we couldn’t answer. Plus, the roof leaked on our home stereo and we actually couldn’t listen to records at home.
AM: Were any other artists or genres particularly influential on the writing and recording of this album?
EE: As I said Andy Stott was big. An early French film by Jean Vigo called ‘L’Atalante’ was an influence. Genres not so much. We were much more influence focused last time round. This was a more internal personal type of exploration I guess.
AM: Yeah, ‘Faded’ particularly stands out as a very emotionally raw song – both lyrically and in the performance. How did that come about?
EE: ‘Faded’ was developed from a very personal experience that Jason went through with a close friend who tragically fell into an addiction. For me, finding the vocal melody and performance was easy because the emotion was so present. This was a song that came out early in the writing process and really informed our approach to the whole record. It is so personal and exposed and we had both been a bit tentative about that territory on the last record. But after working on ‘Faded’, we decided to try and find a bit more of that honesty in the lyrical content of the whole record this time round.
JF: It was a tragic thing for me because it really ruined a friendship, and so it was a love song to a lost friend. It was the first thing we wrote along with ‘Empty Stations’ and there was a darkness in the room. I think that’s because there was something going on with us as a couple and getting into these darker things was a way of addressing something we didn’t know how to talk about yet. Once we got through it the first thing that came out was ‘Lead In The Light’ and bridging that, from the darkness of ‘Empty Stations’ to the light at the end became the theme of the record. A long night searching to get back to the one you love.
AM: And now you’ve made it to the point of releasing the album what are your hopes for the future?
JF: We’re both just very grateful to get to make records and tour.