We Interviewed Hundred Waters
It’s of no surprise that Skrillex (a fan of music outside of derbsterp) signed Hundred Waters as the first official indie band to his label, OWSLA, because variety and talent is a good thing, especially when it comes from a state that looks like a...
Nothing tarnishes Florida’s name more so than Florida itself. As a borderline banana republic—and the unequivocal wang of the US—Florida as a cesspool of old people, tourism, Nascar fans, shame, and pretty much everything else that sucks, is the ongoing reason why a majority of music from the Sunshine State tends to suck as well. From shitty boy bands in the late 90s, to crappy pop-punk bands and revolting death-metal crapola, it’s hard to imagine anything musically proficient emerging from some place so awful.
But alas! Hell has finally frozen over, and the moment to rejoice begins now. Their name is Hundred Waters, and as an indie “electra avant-garde” folk band--channeling images of English countrysides, landscapes, sunsets, and other pastorally breathtaking images through baths of reverb and laptop programming—their mere existence as a Florida-bred act with actual talent redeems Florida for all its musical atrocities (even Jimmy Buffett) that have forsaken our eardrums and damaged our souls (also Jimmy Buffett).
With the release of their 2012 self-titled LP off of Skrillex-owned record label, OWSLA, Hundred Waters, a five-piece band from Gainesville, FL, sew the loose ends between folk, jazz, and electronic instrumentation, melding iridescent imagery with digitally enhanced beats and blips. On songs such as "Visitor," "Boreal," and "Thistle," three of the debut albums most memorable tracks—tales of cherry trees, arid lands, and veiled houses—are harmoniously sung (courtesy of vocalists Nicole Miglis and Sam Moss) atop electro-altered layers of noise and flute notes. And the juxtaposition between songs semi-stripped of enhancements versus songs fully digitized allows for a cushier listening platform (one you can hear yourself on their upcoming U.S. tour in March) that ceases from becoming redundant.
So really, it’s of no surprise that Skrillex (a fan of music outside of derbsterp) signed Hundred Waters as the first official Indie band to OWSLA because variety and talent is a good thing, especially when it comes from a state that looks like a penis.
[Quick Note: Exactly one minute prior to calling the band, I received a collect call from my brother who had just been arrested. So if I sound a bit aloof, you know the reason why. Also, I extend my deepest apologies to Hundred Waters for my lack of attention, and to my brother, as well, for not picking up the phone. My shitty plan doesn’t allow for collect calls anyway].
When I first found out where you guys were from, I couldn’t help but chuckle because when I think of music from Florida, I think of boy bands, death metal, pop punk, and Jimmy Buffett. I don’t necessarily think of Indie music. Is there a progressive indie rock scene in Gainsville?
Trayer Tryon(electronics, guitar): Well, when we were younger we were listening to the aforementioned types of music and we still listen to that now, but we listened to a whole lot of other stuff, too. I would say that we’re less influenced by music going on in Florida and more into music outside of Florida.
So what led to liking music like Jazz and folk?
Tray: We started off doing like 70s punkish music and pop-punk music, and then slowly heard more and more music and started to really enjoy it. There was always something else out there, and we kept finding it and eventually we ended up in a place a lot different than where we started.
Nicole Miglis (vocals, keyboard, flute): All the boys grew up in Orlando, so they were a part of the Orlando punk scene. In Melbourne, it was sort of similar—there was a really small scene. And in my scene there were songwriters, and a lot of lyric-based music, but there wasn’t a ton of it. I started writing songs on piano and playing them in different venues and coffee shops like a typical high school music scene, but Melbourne wasn’t a big melting pot of up-and-coming music.
How old were all of you the first time you played an instrument?
Nicole: I started with piano when I was like, five or six, so I’ve been playing that my whole life. And then I picked up flute and guitar and started singing in middle school and high school.
Tray: The rest of us started playing music in middle school and early high school, forming bands before we knew how to play any instruments at all, so there’s two thing—the act of being in a band and learning how to play music hand-in-hand, starting with guitars and basses and stuff like that.
Didn’t some of you meet in middle school?
Tray: Zach [Tetreault, drums, vocals] and Paul [Giese, guitar, electronics] knew each other in elementary school, and started playing in middle school; Zach and Trey in middle school; and then we all met Nicole and Sam [Moss, vocals] in college.
So it was the collegiate environment that brought the band together. Cool.
Tray: Well, it’s kind of like, what is together? Some of us have been together since elementary school. And some of us have been together for two years. We slowly came together and picked each other up and eventually we became this group.
When it comes to influences, Austrian painter (and sorry if I epically fail on the pronunciation of his name), Friedensreich Hundertwasser, has an impact on the band. His philosophy was allowing the viewer to interpret their own meaning of his paintings. Is that what you want listeners to do with your music?
Nicole: That’s a big part of it. Musically, that’s sort of a natural thing, but lyrically, I’m not a fan of forcing messages or words down someone’s throat. So if someone can listen to a piece of music and interpret it in their own way, and put their own spin on it, it’s a lot more meaningful. And it makes the song a lot more relatable and applicable to a lot of different things—not just to your one experience that made you write that song.
How about imagery? Are you trying to create an atmosphere with your music?
Tray: We try not to pigeonhole to any degree. It’s not impossible with lyrics, but musically, we deal out a space or a feeling and try to achieve it. And we aren’t expecting people to pick up on it because we wanted to make something cohesive.
Nicole: A lot of us draw and paint, so the visual aspect is definitely there. And we’ll make a world or realm with colors.
Tray: They’re very imaginative places and they’ve worked for us and what we feel happy with in the end.
What about the influence of pastoral music?
Nicole: My musical background is in classical music, like German and Italian. I think that’s where it comes from.
Tray: There was a friend of ours who helped out with a lot of songs on the album who made songs that sound like what you just described, and I think the first song on the album, "Sonnet," was darkly his initiation and that song in particular is more pastoral influenced.
Since you tend to cross-pollinate jazz, folk, and electronica, how many songs were improvised?
Tray: Some of the songs that the parts start from arose from improvisational sessions, or they were pieces of when we were playing together, or they were sort of little blips of something that we were playing. Middle parts that were the melody became the whole beginning. So sometimes improvisation became a building block for something very calculated and very composed.
Zach: You can’t make a part without trying stuff out, so you improvise and try stuff out and then you like something and then improvisation becomes a part of the song.
Nicole: And there’s also not a structured form. A lot of the songs are made linearly, and there’s always these parts that come in and out from different songs and we’ll use them. I think that’s sort of improvisational in a way.
Tray: But it’s more like solos and stuff like that. It’s not like we’re playing the 12-bar blues.
When you’re out on tour do you tend to strip down the songs?
Zach: We try really hard not to strip the songs down, and because of that there’s a lot of doubling that takes place. Like Nicole will be playing two separate lines on separate halves of the keyboard, or the keyboard will be separated out in three different sections. And Trey and Paul both have an abundance of gadgets that they can make sounds from and we’ll sometimes substitute things like flutes for voices, trumpets, or whatever, just to make everything happen, and I think we’ve pretty much achieved that whole album in a live setting without having to take anything out.
OK, I can’t go on any longer without asking questions about Skrillex. Was signing with Skrill and OWSLA your first choice of label or were there other labels you were considering?
Zach: There were a bunch of labels we were talking to. I mean, it was a really exciting time for us. We happened to finish the album and it had gotten out into the world, and before we had made a decision on a certain label partner and we were talking to a lot of labels that we admired a lot. It was a really hard decision to make until we starting talking to OWSLA and met everyone there and became more acquainted with them. They stepped out as bringing this thing together as a family and not being in it for a lot of the big record label reasons. And I think, also, we were very intrigued with it; I mean, it’s kind of bizarre.
Tray: It was a very strange force that we all saw promise in. We were also very intrigued with the possibilities.
I noticed a few of your songs were dubstepped on YouTube.
Tray: Yeah, we saw one of those two. We saw a video of a song called "Are/Or" from our album, and it’s sort of a key song, and we were just really surprised. I mean, that’s cool, ya know?
Nicole: The fact that there was someone who was really excited about what he made and he uploaded it to YouTube and he’s sharing it with other people. That seems pretty harmless.
Tray: A lot of people who make music like that don’t play instruments in the typical sense, they use pieces of other music to make their own. So if they use our music and make something that they love with it, it’s a good feeling to help someone out with what they’re doing in their lives.
Zach: We’re happy to be the grocery store that people cook their food from.
[And then, everybody laughed]
- Vice Blog