To say that Hundred Waters, a four-piece Florida electro-pop band with a whole lot of soul, has matured isn't quite fair. From their first album in 2012, Hundred Waters emerged as a thoughtful group with a swirling, entrancing sound that mixes reality and fantasy.
Their second album, The Moon Rang Like a Bell, released in 2014, escalated the emotion and power of their first while managing to feel more palatable. By that time, Hundred Waters was the first indie band to sign to Skrillex's label, OSWLA, where they began to interact more with bands like Grimes and Diplo.
Onstage, these influences are evident. Lead singer Nicole Miglis capitalizes on her stage presence much like singer-songwriter Grimes does, and the technical production, from choreographed lights to careful synth introduction, far surpasses that of many bands who've been working for longer. Their sound, though obviously heavily influenced by preeminent electronic artist Björk, morphs in front of the audience from pure electronic to folk and back again.
I sat down with the members of Hundred Waters — Miglis, guitarist Paul Giese, drummer Zach Tetreault, and multi-instrumentalist Trayer Tryon — to chat about the state of the music industry and the tour for their second album.
Kelsey McKinney: You guys have a lot going on. You're on a nationwide tour, I presume you're working on new stuff, and you have to manage interacting with your fans. How do you swing it all?
Nicole Miglis: It doesn't seem too crazy. We're having fun with it. The social media stuff can be a lot of pressure because you need to be posting stuff, but it can also be a lot of fun. It's fun to interact with creative people we know, and I think it's a good tool for us. There are four of us, so we have four different sides of the square.
We all tackle everything separately, just like how right now someone can talk to you and Zach can put on deodorant at the same time. If I were a single person trying to do all of this, I think it would be kind of crazy.
Zach Tetreault: We all come from Florida and we've been doing this for three years. We've played in DC a dozen times in different iterations of supporting people and then doing our own shows. It's been pretty much a nonstop series of bands. But we love it.
Kelsey McKinney: Have you started work on the next album?
Nicole Miglis: It's hard to think conceptually on tour. We work on little things in little pieces, and then when we have the night off we can work on bigger things. We're always working on new songs. We haven't compiled an idea of how they're going to be grouped together yet.
Trayer Tryon: I really want our sound to change a lot more before this next album, but I don't wanna say how before we actually do it. At this point, we're just making a ton of new songs. We don't have much choice in what music sounds right to us. To a certain extent, you don't have a say in it.
Paul Giese: We don't really view what we're working on right now as a cohesive body of work. I think we're just — it's an innate gut reaction to wanting to make stuff, and when we aren't doing that we feel uneasy or uninspired. We're always creating stuff. Sometimes you don't know where it's going to fit, but you just have to get it out.
The music will inherently be different because we've grown a lot more, we've learned a lot more, we've had new life experiences. That's our job as artists.
Kelsey McKinney: How do you get your music to your fans? Do you have feelings about the debate around streaming right now?
Nicole Miglis: I fully support free music. I think people call it stealing right now, but I think that's going to change in the future. I can't imagine purchasing all of the albums I have in my collection and the things that have inspired me. Maybe we're just privileged and don't realize how lucky we are, but in my experience, I get everything that I listen to for free. I'm no saint, so I can't condemn anybody else.
I think they grew up buying albums, and we grew up downloading them. I don't think any of us have a problem with it.
Trayer Tryon: We put up our first music on SoundCloud before we had a name or a record deal, and people listened to it. That's how we started playing shows, just by putting two songs on SoundCloud.
I don't really stream. I like to download things, so I just torrent albums I want to hear. I like to have them on my computer so I can listen to them without being on the internet, so I don't really stream that much. With our album, you can buy it or you can play it for free.
Kelsey McKinney: Do you worry about making money, though? If people are just downloading your work, how will you have money to keep touring?
Trayer Tryon: I'm just happy anyone is into the music at all. It's amazing anyone wants to listen to it to begin with, and if they want to pay for it, that's even better. I have no qualms with anyone thinking people should pay for their work, but I don't really consider money. With touring it's different, because you have to get money to go to the next stop, but with making music it's not directly necessary.
Kelsey McKinney: What have you learned about yourselves as artists while on this tour?
Zach Tetreault: Right after we put our album out, we went on a nationwide tour, and there was a lot of good energy and good people. On this tour, we feel a lot more confident, and like we know what we're all about.
Paul Giese: We primarily express ourselves through technological means. Most people who work in our world stare at a computer all day, and then for leisure scroll through Instagram and watch a movie. All of that can be really inspiring, but the fact that that's happening means I think people are responding to real-life experiences. And it's more important than ever that we provide experiences as modern artists.
Nicole Miglis: I've become more comfortable with it, and less guarded. I've been doing this for a few years, and I just care a lot less and am able to enjoy it more. I think working on music is always better than performing, but I'm learning to enjoy performing more, bringing the songs to life physically and having the resources and knowing the people to create an experience and a world for people.