Hundredth Throw Their Metalcore Past Into a ‘Hole’
When a band changes their sound entirely, a couple things can happen. Fans can react violently, taking aim at their former heroes' perceived betrayal and leaving them in the dust. Or the artists can shed their past and move onto something new and more engaging — which is exactly what Hundredth did. Since 2010, the band had been putting out melodic hardcore albums, but now, on Rare, they've dropped most traces of their past in favor of washed-out, acidic indie rock. The evolution has allowed the Myrtle Beach, S.C., outfit to access a wider palette of emotions and sounds. Today, they're premiering "Hole," which filters influences like the Jesus and the Mary Chain or Stone Roses into a summery, upbeat jam. Throughout the album, skeletons of their past still remain, but the fast-paced mindset of hardcore transfers to a style of shoegaze that's not only exuberant and dreamy, but surprisingly capable of working breakdowns into new contexts to great effect. It's a startling, but welcome change for the band — we only wish it happened sooner.
Stream "Hole" below and read our chat with singer Chadwick Johnson.
I want to be straight up about where I’m coming from in this interview: I’ve known about Hundredth for a while. The music never really did anything for me. But this new record, I’m sure I’ve listened to it at least 20 times. It’s interesting seeing a band take a huge risk in changing up their sound — sometimes they fuck it up, but I think it really paid off for you guys.
Fuck yeah, man, thank you. That’s cool because, truth be told, none of us really liked the music we were playing. We would never show it off to our friends and be like, “Yo, check out this cool fucking record we made.” We did that when we were 19, but I dunno, it was never really us [after that]. It’s kind of a weird thing to start with — we’re all into different shit, but it turned into a hardcore or metalcore band, whatever the fuck it was. It’s cool to hear you say that, that you’re into it now, ’cause I’m into it more than any record we’ve ever made.
Have you always felt like that? I guess when I talk to bands, it seems like the frustrating thing is always being on a bill with five other bands that sound similar and play breakdowns. Was there always a kind of dissatisfaction?
Yeah, I think there was an underlying dissatisfaction all the way. We were just a little bit in denial of it. When we started the band, we weren’t that heavy. Before we released anything, we were more like an As Cities Burn: a little aggressive, but a little more post-everything. We wanted to go on tour; we started a band because we wanted to go on tour. We started Hundredth because we liked Shai Hulud, Strongarm, things like that. That wasn’t all we liked, but it was an element we felt we could easily play at the level of talent we were at the time, so that’s the way we went with it. And then it just morphed into what it was. I think we always wanted to do something different, but we were in that well-oiled machine of, "We’re on this record label that wants us to write a record like this; I guess we’re getting bigger, so why would we ruffle the feathers?" I think it just came to a boil when our original guitar player came back in the band and we were like, “Dude, this is fucking lame. I don’t want to write this kind of music anymore.” I’ve been [unhappy] for years; I’ve just swallowed it because it’s a paycheck, y’know?
When did writing the record for you begin? When did you guys come together and realize this would specifically be the direction you were taking?
I think all of us, obviously, we spend a lot of time in vans and buses together, just touring with bands that we don’t fucking get and couldn’t fucking click with. It was rare we’d get along with a band. Probably ’cause we’re all kind of introverted, and also we were a part of that scene. Our cringe threshold is way different than everyone else’s. We’d say to ourselves, “What are they doing? Why is this happening? Are we the only people that think this is lame?” We kind of alienated ourselves in a weird way, and I think we were all listening to different stuff at the time. Me and Alex [Blackwell IV] — our original guitar player who I mentioned earlier — we started going into the record thinking, "Let’s just do whatever the fuck we want. Let’s write whatever music we want." I don’t think Hopeless Records is going to drop us; if they do, whatever. All of us were at that point. Just, fuck it, let’s try to make something way different because we think it would make us happier. When we went into writing it, we had an agreement [that] it would be pretty out there and there’d be no boundaries at all. So, me and Alex started writing instrumentals and sending them back and forth. The three of us surf pretty heavily, so we’ve always been into a little more of the surfy kind of sound when we’re just listening to stuff hanging out. Like, we’d never put on Metallica or Slayer or some shit to hang out to. So, we’re not metalheads and we never really were. We would put on, like, Future Islands when we hung out. [I] only said Future Islands because that’s what’s playing at the moment. [Laughs] When we came into writing, we just said, "Eh, fuck it, no boundaries. Let’s do what we like and solely rely on instinct and not think [about] who’s going to like it or where it’s going to go."
Lyrically, too, I feel like a lot of the “core” music, the way the songs are structured for many bands, the verses end up having a predictable rhyme scheme. But on Rare, it seems like the music allows you to be a little more surreal.
Yeah, we noticed what you’re saying, too. We call it hickory-dickory-dock vocal patterns; everything is just predictable and cheesy. It’s just thin and trite to me. And also I felt like, getting to the lyrics part, when we decided we were going to move in a new direction, we knew there’d be no screaming on the record; it wouldn’t be as abrasive a record. I immediately thought I could say a lot more shit this way than I could screaming. You can only scream about certain things before it feels fucking weird. If you’re screaming about laying on the floor listening to music, it’s like, why are you screaming like that? That’s normal. I felt like once we crossed that part of the change, it was like lyrically we can go anywhere — I can write a song about a weird metaphor. For me, lyrically, I’ve never super connected to many [heavy] bands; aside from Shai Hulud, [which is] well-crafted and thought-out. I connect more deeply to lyrics from the National or the Cure — those are some of my favorite bands ever. That’s more of a long-lasting favorite band, and that’s where I’ve been for years now. I dunno, I don’t want to talk shit about hardcore bands, but it’s hard for a hardcore song to resonate with you [for] different decades of your life the way a song from the Cure might, or the Smiths might. So, I’ve always admired that longevity with those kinds of songs, and how they truly stood the test of time, and I think that was the method I took when I started writing lyrics. Once you’re three songs in, it’s like, I’m going to write whatever. Found the groove a little bit and went with my instincts on everything.
You guys tour a lot. Did you feel a common thing that bands sort of feel within the genre, like they’re getting old and the genre is staying stagnant, or was that limited to your own band?
I don’t know if I ever really thought about it like that. If I think about it right now, it seems like everyone’s kind of comfortable where they are — at least the bands we were surrounded with and constantly touring with. Like, their band is growing slowly, and it’s been like, “We’ve been doing this — let’s just keep doing it because we’re getting late in our 20s and we’re still making money and can travel the world.” Which is completely cool. I get it. This band has shown us the world, and we wouldn’t have seen it otherwise. I get the comfortability, but at some point, everyone goes to sleep at night thinking, “Am I really about this? Is this really what I am?” And maybe they are, which is fucking awesome. A band like Terror, obviously those dudes keep going, and it’s fucking awesome, good for them. But we just found ourselves feeling like we didn’t want to be there anymore; we didn’t like where it was going, and seeing all the trends come and go in that world. It’s so cliquey, just thin to me. So, I don’t know if other bands feel that way. I can only speak for us, and we were definitely dissatisfied.
I guess more specifically metalcore, it’s weird for me to see a lot of these bands start out when they’re 16-17, really young. The intent is just, “I want to play in a band, I want to play music.” But you grow up and start changing and there’s a lot more complexity in people. So, it’s weird seeing bands full of late-20s guys who never changed things up. Too many bands seem afraid of changing up how they do things in case it alienates people.
Yeah, I don’t know. If my parents ever expressed interest in coming to a show and we were playing the material we had two years ago, I’d be like, “I know you guys are being nice — you really don’t have to come. It’s kind of a weird thing. I get it.” Childhood friends, I dunno. I mean it’s cool there’s a scene and it’s this underground thing, but ... I’m not showing my grandparents the music. [This is] the first record my parents are interested in what it sounds like. Before that they were like, “I don’t really get this.” [Laughs] So, it does change. Maybe we were at the point where it was like, “Do we even want to do this anymore? Or do we want to do this on our own terms?” And I’m glad we chose to do it. Feels good.
Talking about the record specifically, there’s some obvious shoegaze influences. For me, I heard bits of the Jesus and the Mary Chain and Stone Roses. For you, who are some of the less obvious influences?
Yeah, I’d say maybe Nada Surf; Alex is super into them. Obviously, there’s Slowdive and My Bloody Valentine, that kind of thing. Maybe, like, there’s some Smashing Pumpkins a little bit buried in there, Chapterhouse. I think at one point we knew where we were going with the sound, and afterwards it was like, “I don’t know where this is going. I don’t know what this genre even is.” I guess you can consider it shoegaze because there’s a fuckload of guitar pedals going on and everything is drenched, and all you can hear is drums, so maybe?
I guess I’m asking mostly because a lot of dudes I know who start shoegaze bands, they sort of get lost in the pedals and the distortion, and what interested me so much about this record is that even though it’s a pretty huge departure from the other stuff, there’s still a lot of grooves, and there’s moments of heaviness, sometimes even breakdowns. There’s an approach to these sounds that you don’t usually hear from other bands.
Yeah, I completely agree. I thought about it for a while when I knew which world we were going in, and I knew lazier listeners would compare it to pop-punk bands that went into that world, but I think it has an energy that did come from heavier music. I dunno — it’s still got a post-hardcore vibe, and that kind of came from a darker, heavier spot than Blink-182.
I feel like some of those bands were capable of writing really great hooks — extremely catchy, joyful stuff — but the new work they put out is totally devoid of any kind of enjoyment. There’s a balance to be had when you’re writing moodier music, but having bursts of actual joy. On your record specifically, there’s that song “Down” — really melancholy parts, but with a genuinely super catchy chorus.
Yeah, they’re afraid to be vulnerable on that part of things. They think it has to all be sad. But one of the coolest things is realizing duality is real, and it’s cool to have something completely happy and then the next part of the song have something completely dark over the song. So, I agree — I do feel like some people think it’s cool to be sad or something, but half the time I’m not fucking sad. The only time I get really introspective is when some kind of music pushes me emotionally to where my mind doesn’t usually go on the day-to-day.
How do you see the record impacting the way you play live? I know you’re on guitar duty now.
Yeah, I don’t know how people are going to receive it, but we’re only playing this record from now on until we write a new one. We’re not playing anything before this record. It feels like if we’re going to move on, we’re going to move on. Which isn’t going to go so well. It’s completely cool. We don’t care. We’d rather that than end our set and look at each other like, “That was fucking wack; that wasn’t fun at all.” I don’t think it’s going to be smooth at all, but we’re going to go for it, see what the fuck happens. [Laughs]
I think it’s super sick that you’ve got this cool, weird record that’s totally different from your other shit, and you’re about to go on Warped Tour.
Yeah, we joke about it all the time. We’re probably too self-aware about what the fuck is going on. So, we just fuck with each other all the time about what’s going to happen, like, what the fuck are these kids going to do? They’re just going to come to our merch tent and cry? But, like, dude, we’re going to be on the same stage as Hatebreed and GWAR. If you want to listen to heavy shit, you have all day to do it. Half these bands sound the fucking same anyway, so what are you mad about? You get to see 12 hours of that shit. [Laughs] We’re trying to give you a break, I guess. I’m not shitting on Warped Tour; they’ve been insanely good to us and they really do look out for us. It’s not necessarily the world we want to be in, obviously. We were confirmed for it and we knew going into it the first tour on this record would be Warped Tour.
Do you feel like you have the opportunity to get kids who’ve been Hundredth fans for a while into new genres of music?
Yeah, I definitely think so. Just based on how wack some of the comparisons were, I don’t think the average Hundredth fan really knows about bands like this. So, yeah, that’ll definitely happen. Hopefully some of the bands in that world aren’t like, “Wow, way to bring a bunch of weirdos over.” But if they are like that, whatever, get the fuck over it.
That’s always my favorite shit in general. I think there’s a weird ouroboros of metalcore bands only listening to metalcore, a never-ending cycle of that. When you have a band sowing seeds of other genres, I think everyone wins.
Totally agree. I would’ve never been super into the Smiths or anything if I never listened to Thursday way back in the day, just making that connection of, “Okay, where did this come from?” And you go even deeper, you find New Order and Joy Division, and you go all the way back to Warsaw — like, music is crazy and this is sick. Once you find a new hole, I’m obsessed with that shit and go way down that hole. Hopefully that happens, ’cause I think it’s badass.
Aesthetically, what informs the band? Even when I wasn’t really listening, I couldn't tell if you guys had a really set thing in terms of merch and album art.
I’m mainly the person in control of all that. I’d say the way our band is marketed and presented is a little more normal than other bands. It’s hard to navigate this conversation without sounding like a pretentious douchebag, but we don’t ever want shirts with shit all over it. We kind of catered it to merch we wanted to wear — more subtle, refined stuff — and I think it might be due to being raised in the skateboarding / surf world.
You into streetwear at all?
Not heavy into it. I like a couple cool brands, but I’m not a Supreme kid or anything. I don’t camp out for sneakers or anything like that. I keep my eye on it. I think there’s cool garment manufacturing in that world. The quality that comes from a band like Noah is badass; I’m willing to spend $100 on a shirt that’ll last me 10 years. We’re obsessed with branding and the way Patagonia has functioned as a brand for so long. Their values are super admirable to me — quality over quantity, a super refined, “We want this to last you; we don’t want you to have to buy another one in a year” kind of thing. Yeah, just being into more outdoorsy, durable things has shaped our approach.
I like what you said about Patagonia and building shit to last that you won’t throw out in a year. It feels like a metaphor for what you’re trying to do — not get lost in whatever trend and have a record that sounds as good 10 years later as it does now.
Yeah, I never thought about it that way. That’s cool you made that connection. Hopefully it will be that way. There’s records that don’t sound like they came out 10 years ago; you turn on Interpol’s Turn on the Bright Lights and it sounds like it could’ve been made two years ago. I’m super into that.
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