HUNDRED WATERS Learning to communicate

A lot has happened to LA trio Hundred Waters in the three years since their last album, 2014’s gorgeous exercise in dark, shimmering downtempo electro-folk, The Moon Rang Like A Bell. In the interim, the band – vocalist Nicole Miglis, multi-instrumentalist Trayer Tryon and drummer Zach Tetreault  – basically lost a band member, broke up as a group, only to have a change of heart and reunite again. Having gone through a period of such upheaval and intense highs and lows, it’s no surprise that Hundred Waters have returned with Communicating, their third and most impassioned album to date. ZACK YUSOF found Miglis and Tryon sat in their Los Angeles home, tinkling softly on acoustic guitars in the background, and eager to cut to the heart of their intriguing new album.

Following hot on the heels of the Currency EP, which they dropped back in May, Communicating is a self aware, brutally honest and passionate collection of songs that sees the band wearing their hearts on their sleeves in a lyrical sense whilst also trying to reinvent their sound by introducing new elements like soulful jazz and theatrical shoegaze, and adding a poppier slant to their atmospheric and intense electro stew.

They’ve also seen the festival that they established back in 2014 initially as a intimate album release show set in an exotic location – the FORM Festival set in the eco-friendly desert village of Arcosanti, Arizona – grow from an intimate, DIY affair into a proper, ticketed, annual event into its fourth year of existence with high profile headliners such as Father John Misty, James Blake, Solange and Skrillex, whose label OWSLA puts out the group’s music.

Communicating is a beautiful sounding record with an atmospheric vibe and a deeply personal slant to the lyrics. Was it always the plan to make such a heartfelt, confessional sounding record this time around?

Nicole Miglis: We tend to make confessional music anyway so we just followed our instincts to where it lead us. There wasn’t any plan to make a particular sounding record, we just did what came naturally to us and tried to let the music flow organically. A lot of the songs are about relationships and the huge changes that were happening in our lives and all the emotion and feelings from those experiences just manifested itself in the intense, interpersonal songs that we created for the record.

At the centre of the record is the relationship between the two of you, Nicole and Trayer. Does blurring the lines between your personal and professional life make for more interesting art or does it make things more difficult?

Trayer Tryon: Well, the way we made Communicating was basically the same way we made all our previous records. It’s just the way we usually tend to work. We don’t really know any other way to do it other than to completely immerse ourselves in the music and tune everything else out.

Your bio maintains that there is little separation between work and life, personal and social, inside and outside, physical and psychological in Hundred Waters. Living and working together, does it all get a bit claustrophobic? Could it be why there’s so much space and sparseness on your record, that yearning for a bit of space?

Nicole: I can see why someone would look at it that way from the outside looking in but as Trayer mentioned earlier, the way we made this record was the same way (that) we made all our other records. The process of making records for us is always a lot of work and a lot of emotion and this one was no different.

Is the album’s title a bit of a giveaway to what the album is about, the need to be understood and the need to express one’s feelings? What exactly are you trying to communicate with songs like Prison Guard and Blanket Me?

Nicole: Prison Guard is one of the more literal songs on the record. With Prison Guard, It’s kinda like a metaphor for somebody who puts you in a situation of feeling like you are trapped behind bars. It’s a balance of feeling trapped in a situation and wanting to free yourself from the position that you are in. For me personally, the song is about feeling that you’re behind bars in a situation that you don’t know how to get out of. Blanket Me is similar to what I was saying with Prison Guard. That song is about the duality of a relationship. You can either feel comforted by someone or you can feel suffocated and kind of conflicted.

Was Communicating a difficult record to make? What was the process like? What are some of the musical touchstones for the album?

Trayer: As far as a sustained effort goes, this record was the hardest thing that we’ve ever done. Part of its was down to the fact that we didn’t just make this record, we actually made 10 times the amount of songs on the album. All those songs really took a lot out of us. The way the music is, every time we write a song, it’s like restarting. There’s no ancient formula, no ready made solution that we can just input. Everything is different, and everything comes with a multitude of problems that we have to solve. It was a painstaking process getting those songs to completion but well worth it in the end. The record came out exactly the way we want it to come out.

Nicole: It’s probably the hardest record I’ve ever worked on. I tried not to listen to a lot of music whilst we were making the album. I tried to deliberately tune everything else out and just focus on the songs and let the ideas come naturally. Previously, I felt that something was not getting through when we were deliberately trying to reference people so this time around, I tried not to listen to records in order to really get to the heart of what we wanted to say, about the things that we were going through as a band and the things that i was feeling on a personal level.

America seems to be going through some turbulent times at the moment, resulting in the most amount of protest music coming out of the US since the 60s so it would seem. Did the current political climate in US affect the way the record turned out in any way?

Nicole: I really tried not to let all the political stuff that was happening during the time that we were making the record affect me. It was hard but I tuned all that stuff about the elections that was going out and cut myself off from the world whilst we were making the album. In terms of protest music, I think that a lot of our relationship songs are a micro-level protest anyway. I think you have to have a certain level of self-righteousness and to feel that you have a voice (in order) to write those kind of songs.

After everything that you’ve gone through to make Communicating, are you satisfied with the way the record has turned out?

Nicole: Well, I don’t think that the things that we wrote about on the record will ever be over. In fact, now the record is done, it feels more like the start of something, like the beginning of the new chapter. I’m really proud of what we’ve made. I feel that all the effort and struggles that we went through to make the record was worth it.

Trayer: I think personally, the record came out exactly the way we wanted it. There’s nothing lingering at the back of my mind about anything that we would have done differently. We made it exactly how we wanted to make it and it came out exactly the way we wanted it too.

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