The Hundred in the Hands’ first full-length album, retains the excitement and fervour expected of a debut, while creating a practiced, coherent sound. Following the release of their self-titled EP, we caught up with the band, which is Eleanore Everdell and Jason Grant Friedman, to talk influences and synth-pop. The Hundred in the Hands’ sound takes Friedman’s former band The Boggs’ rough electro-beats and sweetens them with Everdell’s chilled out, 1980s pop-queen lyrics. Originally hailing from New York, both members knew early-on that they wanted to be in music, but it wasn’t until they met and realised they shared the same musical influences, that it all came together with the birth of The Hundred in the Hands in 2009. The band’s name is a Lakota reference to the Fetterman Massacre or Battle of the Hundred Slain in 1866. Their intelligent reference to brutal and complex matters for their moniker precedes the multifaceted nature of their debut.
The single that started it all, post-punk Dressed in Dresden, was released as a 45 by a UK record shop, prompting their signing, and is included on their eponymous self-titled album. It’s a balanced mix of catchy guitar riffs, electronic beats and Everdell’s Siouxie-esque voice, reminiscent of School of Seven Bells or Ladyhawke. This sound transcends into the album, the band “wrote Dressed in Dresden in a couple of days” and used it to define the sound that is now their signature. Describing their sound as “avant-pop split between the austere and feverish”, The Hundred in the Hands certainly have a particular style. Songs such as Pigeons have catchy Little Boots-like vocal riffs concerned with the passing of time, a theme echoed in the metronomic clicking of time in the beat. Commotion is a sure winner on the album, beginning with live guitars echoing Editors’ riffs, and intense vocals form a marriage between the sound and the song’s title. This track brings together the digital side of the band, with the more traditional indie-pop elements. This Day Is Made sees Everdell’s vocal talent put to chilled-out mesmerising use, with a simple backdrop of beats, the melody comes primarily from her vocal harmonies alone.
The band’s coherent, uniform sound, is a result of entirely collaborative writing: “One or the other brings in the foundation of a new track or lyrics and the two of us add to it, writing as we record, offsetting the precision of electronic production with analogue machines. We combine live guitars, vocals and percussion with stiff and exact programming.” This combination of electronic versus organic is what saves the songs from being too digital and accurate – arguably the real beauty in the songs is the addition of live guitars, and of course, the at-times vulnerable vocals. The consistent nature of the record could be construed as homogenised, but the overall effect works well as a full album, progressing from track to track.
Although all sources cite the 1980s as a major resource for The Hundred in the Hands’ inspiration, they insist this isn’t the case: “There are other influences we think of first before the 1980s, such as French House & minimal techno, post-punk, vintage hip-hop, garage, and girl groups, but we can see where that idea comes from. We have our influences, but we try to keep it fresh and avoid imitation.”
Even though The Hundred in the Hands fit roughly into current trends, combining female vocals with drum machines and digital accompaniments, it’s their varied instrumentation, focused sound, and Everdell’s voice, that sets them apart. Their distance from pop also allows the band to keep their edge, writing more complex pop songs than their rivals. www.thehundredinthehands.com.