Interview: Hundred Waters
Formerly from Gainesville, Hundred Waters is a four-piece band that formed in 2011, consisting of Nicole Miglis, Trayer Tryon, Paul Giese and Zach Tetreault. After releasing their self-titled debut album in 2012, they’ve since toured with everyone from Julia Holter to Skrillex, relocated to Los Angeles, and signed to the OWSLA label for the release of their second album, The Moon Rang Like A Bell. Now they’re on tour, and earlier this year, they stopped in Tallahassee to perform at the Side Bar. Before the show, we got to sit down with them and talk about the making of the record, not being pigeonholed, and the mini-festival they held for the album’s release in Arcosanti, an experimental town in Texas. Below we have some excerpts from the transcript of our conversation.
The Moon Rang Like A Bell is out now on OWSLA.
V89 (David Wolfson): How’s it going, guys? You just started your tour, coming off of a big festival-thing at Arcosanti. How did that go?
Zach Tetreault: It wasn’t really big, but it was big in our hearts.
Trayer Tryon: And it wasn’t quite a festival.
V89: It was pretty well-publicized; I guess that’s what I mean by big. But where did the whole idea for that come from?
Paul Giese: I learned about Arcosanti when I was studying architecture. I just stumbled across it; it looked really interesting. On our way out here, at the beginning of the year, Tray and Nicole had already gone to California, to finish up the record. And Zach and I had been in Florida, near Orlando. As we were making our way over there, we decided to stop by Arcosanti and check it out. And as soon as we got there, it was just really incredible. I think we both immediately were like, “We really want to do something here.” And we had talked to some residents and people who worked there, and they seemed into it too, from the beginning. So we kind of stepped away from it without a concrete way of doing things, or what exactly we were gonna do. We knew we wanted to play music there, but we weren’t sure exactly what or why we’d do it. And then it sort of lined up for several reasons. We had all gone back there on the way to SXSW, and I think we all got pretty excited about it…
TT: We finished the album, that’s where we turned it in. Because we sent it off into the big world, never got to be able to touch it again. And three months later, we were doing that.
V89: Were all the acts just people you’d met on the road, and been friends with? It all seems like it was a very communal thing.
TT: They’re mostly friends.
Nicole Miglis: We didn’t know Tom, from How To Dress Well. But it was friends of friends, so it was all in a similar circle.
V89: I also wanted to ask you guys about the “Murmurs” video. I heard from someone that that was shot at your old house. Is that true?
NM: My old house? No. It kind of had that vibe to it, but that was in upstate New York.
V89: Oh, okay.
NM: Yeah, kind of far.
V89: I’d heard that you guys had a house in Gainesville where you lived with David from Levek and had like a big, communal space.
TT: You know what? Speaking of Levek, we played in this very room we’re sitting in right now before they sold it to Crepe’s, with Levek.
[The interview took place inside of The Crepevine, right next to The Side Bar.]
ZT: This used to be The Farside, right?
ZT: Yeah, we played here with Levek.
TT: They’re selling crepes where we played with him.
TT: Actually, that was right as that was ending and this was starting.
V89: I know you guys also lost a member recently – you’re down from five people to four. Has that presented a lot of difficulty in writing the new record and touring behind these songs?
NM: I wouldn’t say so, only because we kind of wrote with less harmonies and less textures […] our music’s become a little more condensed. It’s been not too different. It’s actually easier performing this music because it was written with the performance in mind.
TT: The other one wasn’t written with five people in mind, it just ended up being like that because she was a friend of ours.
V89: You guys made up for it a little, it seemed, with having multitracked vocals and choral-type stuff on the new record.
TT: That’s how it always was. She didn’t have anything to do with making any of the music.
ZT: The previous singer came into the band after the album was made. We contacted her because she played in Levek.
V89: Oh, okay. That makes sense; I didn’t know that. I also wanted to ask about the writing process; I know you wrote this new album on the road for the most part, which seems like a pretty drastic change from before, when you guys were just in Gainesville, at your compound. Do you think that shaped the record in a lot of ways?
NM: Oh yeah, I think it completely shaped it. I mean, moving so much and not having access to instruments, not having access to guitars and piano a lot of the time.
V89: How did it come together then? Were you just sketching ideas and then once you settled down, you fleshed them out?
TT: Well, we weren’t on the road for that entire duration. We’d be home for a few months, or here for a month or whatever, so in those spaces big things would happen. So there was home time; it wasn’t always just sitting in the car. Not all the songs are written ever in a car, like “Murmurs” – we were never on the road doing that one. That was actually the most stationary we were. It’s not like all this music comes from the road – it comes from… the years.
NM: But it’s mentally more P.C. too. Our heads have been in a million different places.
TT: There are a lot of other songs, too, than what got on the album. So in that sense, I guess it’s complicated.
NM: It depends on the songs.
V89: Did you guys pick the ones that ended up on the album based on what went together, or was there something special about this set of songs to you guys?
NM: Yeah. We had a lot of music, and I think those are the ones that we kept going back to, for whatever reason. I don’t know why.
TT: And then they fell into this order. They fell into this way and they all kind of started bleeding into each other. And then after that, new songs started being made still. But by the end, the album was already laid out. There’s a lot of music that came after these songs that didn’t have a place in this, but will probably have a place somewhere else.
V89: Were there any places that you guys saw that you found particularly inspiring for the album? I mean, I guess you went to Arcosanti right after finishing it. But was there anything in particular on tour that inspired you guys? Do you guys have any funny stories about making these songs? I read that the alarm sounds on “Murmurs” came from pulling a fire alarm.
TT: [laughing] No, it’s not even like that.
NM: We did have to set off an alarm to go on the roof…
TT: It’s more complicated than that though… well, the song “Show Me Love,” right before it? Nicole wrote that, and just wrote it really quick. And it was a very good song, and we liked it. Then, after she recorded it, we went out on the street with a big set of speakers in Skid Row – downtown LA. We went upstairs, and in order to get on top of our roof, we had to set off the building alarm. It’s in a so-called “bad area” that people don’t come usually, so we just set off the alarm. But the cops came this time, so Paul’s out in the middle of the street, blasting “Show Me Love.” And we’re up on the roof, with microphones pointing down, recording it. And a cop just comes up, looks at Paul, and just drives off. I can’t imagine he knew what was going on, but I guess he saw it wasn’t violence or something.
That’s in “Show Me Love,” and when that dropped into the actual song on the computer, it accidentally landed also in “Murmurs.” It was perfect, and when I first heard it, I thought it was someone outside, but it wasn’t. That’s from “Show Me Love.” That’s from our building alarm, that’s from recording the vocals blasting out on Skid Row from the roof, and a cop getting called.
V89: That’s a good story. I was listening to that song today in my car, and [when the alarm part came] I started looking around, like “Is there a cop I need to pull over for?”
TT: Is it that loud?
V89: It’s not too loud, but when I’m playing the song loudly, and I can hear it in the background, it’s like, “Oh, gotta turn this down.”
PG: I’ve heard that in a bunch of songs, and I always hated it.
TT: Oh, when I first heard it, I loved it.
PG: Oh, I’m not talking about “Murmurs,” I’m talking about all the other songs that have had, like, police noises. There’s a bunch of rap songs… it always freaked me out, but [in “Murmurs”] it landed perfectly. It was very serendipitous, so I’d state.
V89: Are you guys pretty much settled and living in LA now? I mean, I suppose you’re going to be spending a lot of time on the road.
TT: We’re going to be out in the world for another month or more, and then I think we’re going to Europe. So we don’t really get settled.
[While Tray is talking, Zach’s phone buzzes. He looks at it.]
ZT: And then we’re going on tour with Interpol.
PG: Is that happening?
TT: Shit. Can I say that?
NM: I don’t know… let’s wait.
V89: I can cut that out, if you guys want.
ZT: We’re still thinking about that.
[The Interpol tour has since been announced, hence its inclusion here.]
V89: Do you guys have any other special plans, besides touring? You guys have already put out a few videos and done this interesting festival-thing. Is there anything else in the can?
PG: There’s a lot in the can. There’s a couple more videos, lots of weird stuff.
TT: We’re thinking about doing something in Berlin, like the thing we did in Arcosanti. Thinking about it.
PG: The Arcosanti thing was sort of a start of a platform of these events, to do them all over the place. So we definitely intend to do more of those. And to do another one at Arcosanti next year, at the same time. Memorial Day weekend.
TT: That’s all up in the air right now.
PG: Yeah, all these things are ideas that we’re excited about, but other exciting ideas often happen too. So we’ll see.
V89: That’s totally understandable. Thanks so much for sitting down with me, guys.
NM: Yeah! Welcome to the Crepevine.
V89: I also wanted to ask you something Nicole. I was looking at stuff online and I came across a couple songs from your folk project from before. And I saw a link to a Bandcamp, but the Bandcamp isn’t up anymore.
V89: Is that down just to move past it?
TT: It’s been down forever.
NM: Uhh, well I took it down a couple – I don’t know, those songs are really old, they were like two years old when I recorded them, and I was kind of in the process of finishing more recent songs right around the time that this album finished. And I haven’t really had time to do those since. I felt like it was an old representation of what I was doing that I didn’t want to just stay there forever, because I was into a lot of different music.
TT: It’s funny, like normally when you put out an album, and it’s just your old album, and you have to live with it forever. But if you have it on Bandcamp, you can just take it down.
NM: I don’ t know. Sometimes, I want to put it back up.
V89: I think you should do it, you know? I don’t know it my opinion means anything, I haven’t heard the whole thing – I only heard a couple songs; I think “Pagan Bible” is one of them?
NM: Oh, “Moody Bible”.
V89: Yeah. It made sense hearing that, and then hearing Tray’s solo project, and just being like “Okay, there’s the roots of Hundred Waters.”
TT: Except for all the screaming and insanity and shit.
TT: We got some songs that are crazier, and we got some songs that are more like her stuff, but this album didn’t really have either of those. There’s like 40 other songs.
V89: Oh, wow. That seems like a lot to cut down from.
TT: There’s a lot of really acoustic—
NM: We all make a lot of different kinds of music, and I do too, and I felt like I was kind of being pigeonholed into, like, “You’re a folk artist.” I just wanted to, before I released that as my identity as a songwriter, figure out what kind of music I really want to release under my own name. I make a lot of different kinds of music.
TT: Yeah, but the thing is, whatever you can call it — like, this kind or that kind — it’s just really good, so you know… what the fuck.
NM: Oh, I can’t answer that one.
V89: I understand, I just wanted to ask about that.
NM: Yeah. People usually bring it up when I’m in Florida too.
V89: [laughs] It’s like your past is coming back to you every time you return home.
NM: The ghost of the EP.