the AU interview: The Hundred in Hands (Brooklyn)

The Hundred in Hands

Amanda Picman recently had the chance to chat to Jason and Eleanore – the Brooklyn based duo otherwise known as The Hundred in the Hands. They’re getting ready to launch their debut album in Australia, so Amanda chats about this, their upbringings, Native American battles, their intentions to tour Australia in January and plenty more… read on!

Where did you two grow up?

Jason: I was born in South Africa, but I grew up in southern California and moved to New York.

What age were you when you moved to New York?

Jason: I was 18.

So had you just finished school?

Jason: High school, yes… and I was going to New York to go to art school and I was studying philosophy.

What about you Eleanore?

Eleanore: I grew up in San Francisco and then I went to college in the south in Nashville Tennessee and made my way up to New York in my early 20’s.

What did you study at college?

Eleanore: I studied music actually I studied opera singing and music history at a small music school.

So you definitely knew music was the avenue you wanted to go down?

Eleanore: I knew I loved music and you know it always seems like an unrealistic professional choice (laughs) so I think I was just extending my um infatuation with music when I went to college for it and then I wasn’t really sure what was going to happen when I moved to New York but luckily something came of it all and here I am.

Were you both in any bands after school?

Jason: I’ve always been in bands, but when I moved to New York I kind of stopped for a while and I was more focused on painting, I was making really pretentious music to go along with video installations and when I graduated and started playing in the band The Boggs I got distracted.

What were The Boggs like?

Jason: That’s how I met Eleanor actually; she joined to be part of that tour.

So, the tale goes that you two bonded in a van sharing different tunes? What actually happened leading up to the infamous connection? Where were you and what was happening?

Eleanore: Well it was kind of like a segue from what Jason was just saying. I joined The Boggs for the touring of the last record that he released with them and I wasn’t involved in the recording of that record at all but I was filling in parts that had been recorded for the live show. 

So we spent a month and half 8 hours a day in a practice space working on those songs, so you know by the time we went on tour we already knew we got along well, touring was just an opportunity to spend all day in a van listening to music so we found that we had a really close connection and shared interests in certain kinds of music. Just similar taste we liked the same things about the same songs and had a lot of conversations about it so it was logical to extend that into a music collaboration when we got done with the touring.

The name, you’ve indicated on myspace that the name came from a Native American battle which took place in the 1800s, is there any significance toward that particular conflict or were you two flicking through an old encyclopaedia and stumbled upon it?

Jason: We liked the name of it that’s part of it but it has reference points that we really liked, American battles that they won which were rare and also we liked the idea that it was a piece of history because it has a different name in American history so we liked that kind of relationship, for example Dressed in Dresden we thought had similar symmetry.

Eleanore: …but I mean we did have a book on Crazy Horse, we were flicking through books looking for names and I think that the name immediately jumped off the page to us it was like partially random but at the same time you don’t want to think too hard about your name you just want to settle on something that you agree on as soon as possible and I think for all the reasons Jason was saying it seemed logical and it stuck.

I like how you’ve highlighted the name on Myspace, you’ve scanned the book and posted it up.

Jason: Yeh that’s not the book we found it from, that’s a book we found on line. At first we didn’t say anything about what the name meant we just thought people would find it, but everyone made the assumption that the hundred meant money

That’s what I kind of first thought.

Jason: That had never occurred to us; that that could be an interpretation of the name, so we thought we’d better put up the actual source.

Good move. Lyrics, thematically what do you want to significantly express or communicate to your audience?

Jason: Well we both write lyrics and it’s an interesting process because they end up being a combination of our two identities they’re not autobiographical stories they are more vignettes of different stories usually about young people living in cities…

Eleanore: I would say a lot of them are love stories but maybe love stories with a tweak on the surface. They all involve some kind of romance but definitely the major themes would be cities, urban experience, cities as living organisms and how they grow, how they get sick, how they get injured um how human beings rely on them and they rely on us for energy and existence. Also a lot of it is about young people in cities; teenagers or a little bit older and their perspectives on things which are often a little dated or confused. I don’t know I think that we were having a lot of conversations about things as we were writing the lyrics and our different perspectives on those themes came out in the songs. But I think we it took us a while after we finished writing the songs to find the common thread throughout all of the songs, I thought we were just writing loves songs but it turns out that they had all these other…

Jason: Some of them also touch directly on Dressed in Dresden, Last City or The Beach, they’re playing with history and playing with ideas of cities but um in kind of like a double exposure way so you’ve got one story on the surface but its got hidden references and things going on behind it…

I definitely feel that sense when I was looking through the lyrics, I think there is this really strong element of wistful longing and a melancholic vibe because the city can be quite daunting and overwhelming at times, especially for young people…

Eleanore: I would say, that’s definitely a shared experience I’ve had with friends, like when you first get to New York or any big city I imagine similar experiences, there’s the initial elation then eventually it dies out and you’re left with just like an over exposure to things, which can make you feel kind of dull and flat, dead or something.

How does your live performance dynamic work? You’ve mentioned in other sources that you didn’t like to use computers on stage?

Jason: We have gone through a lot of different ways of trying to do it, originally we didn’t want to have any computers because whatever trigger we were using we wanted it to actually be coming from us, but eventually we ended up getting a laptop to act as the brain, to hold this thing because the devices we were using couldn’t hold enough information. But we now have our own little sound system on stage which gives all those things like the beats and bass line a whole physicality on stage, then I’m playing guitar and Eleanor it playing synths and singing…

Eleanore: I think it’s a constant shift between how much the two of us can physically do with our hands and how many devices we can have on stage and then how to supplement that element with beats and bass lines that we have recorded. I think the goal is first and foremost to feel like it’s dynamic and it’s live and it’s happening there in front of the audience rather than it feeling static.

How did you come up with the video clip to Pigeons? Is it in direct relationship to the lyrics?

Jason: Mostly it was Daniels who directed it but we wrote our own treatment on the song because we had a really clear idea of the narrative of the song and we sent that to them and they came back with a rewrite and we liked that,  it almost added a new verse to the song and from there it was just tweaking little ideas of who that person in the video actually was, what kind of character they were and then Eleanore cast them.

Eleanore: The girl who is in the video is a friend of mine and she’s a really amazing actress and I was really happy that the directors fell in love with her too and it all worked out, her name is Lila and she’s great!

Your tour looks pretty full for the next 2 months, when can we hope to see you guys heading to Australia?

Eleanore: We hope right after Christmas.

That would be awesome, I would be front row and centre.

Eleanore: Amazing.

If you were to describe your music as a food what would it be/taste like?

Eleanore: Peaches and cream.

Jason: I have no idea, not even a slight idea, I mean I just ate a cheeseburger so I guess ill go that right?

Eleanore and Amanda: Cheeseburger?

I don’t know about that one.

Jason: What food do you think it sounds like?

Some type of candy, actually I’m going along with Eleanore on this one…(laughs) You guys have a great night, I look forward to seeing you guys in Australia sometime soon and good luck with the rest of your tour.

Jason & Eleanore: Thank you so much!