Hundredth started out a decade ago as a crushing post-hardcore/metalcore band, and by 2017's RARE they started transitioning into a more atmospheric sound that fell somewhere between the shoegaze/punk crossover movement and early Circa Survive, and the just-released Somewhere Nowhere finds them branching even further away from their roots and into indie-synthpop territory. They covered songs from The Postal Service and Kid A in the leadup to the album, which should give you a pretty good idea of what to expect, and with the airy, boyish vocal style they've adopted, the new stuff also reminds me a little of Mew. Hundredth do this kind of thing as well as they did metalcore a decade ago, and to celebrate the new album's release, vocalist Chadwick Johnson has spoken to us about the background behind every song on the album.

Take it away, Chadwick...

"Somewhere Nowhere"

The opener on the album was one of the last songs we made. I really wanted to have an opener that set the tone both sonically and lyrically. We already had a couple tracks on the album with breakbeats but they were leaning more into the ‘UK Garage’ side of things. With this track I intentionally wanted to dive into our version of a skittery, drum and bass track. The instrumental started from an old funk beat I found on Youtube. I sped it up and chopped it, and created the main breakbeat of the song. I really wanted the album to have a defined opening, something almost cinematic, so I added those deep piano chords and a lot of reverby, ambient textures. The instrumental and chorus of the song came together in a day but I spent quite a while filling in the verses. I felt like the lyrics needed to almost be a “thesis” of the album. After a week or two of tinkering it finally clicked and became one of my personal favorites on the record.

What’s funny about the chorus is that I didn’t even have a name for the album at the time of writing it. I was just jamming over the track with vocals and ended up saying ‘Go Somewhere, It’s Nowhere’. That was definitely a eureka moment for me and the song ended up gelling the entire album thematically. It’s uplifting, but dark. It’s modern, but feels nostalgic. I feel like it’s a glance backwards while moving forward.

"Out of Sight"

About half of the songs on the album were written during a solo trip in January of 2020 to Panda Studios in the Bay Area. I isolated myself to the east wing of the studio for 3 weeks and tried to write a new song every day. Up to that point we had about 45 instrumentals but we didn’t feel they were really moving the needle for us. We really wanted this album to be something new and something to really push the boundaries again. ‘Out Of Sight’ came together towards the beginning of that trip. I started out with the intention of wanting to have a song with acoustic guitar, as we have never really had any up to that point. It ended up much different than I anticipated when I added in all of the other production. The instrumental came together super quickly and then we added real drums with co-producer Sam Pura at his studio, Panda. Lyrically, the song is about being indecisive to the point where you’d rather not even have to decide anymore. It’s something I used to deal with quite a bit. I think everyone’s been there.

"Bottle It Up"

This is another song that was written at Panda in January. It started with just a bass line and drums. It felt a little stale for a while so I added some modulating synths to bring in a “psychedelic” kind of feel and it took it to another place. A big breakthrough on this one was when I wrote the bridge. I felt like there weren’t enough guitars in the song and I kept saying I wanted the bridge to feel guitars in a stadium. I had most of the drums programmed for the bridge, but once I dialed in the exact drums with Sam it went to a whole different level. I’m super proud of this one. It’s definitely the song I’d show strangers if I was forced to at a party.

"Leave Yourself"

This song is about getting out of your own way. This is the only song on the album that was produced by someone outside of the band, which is a first for us. Alex (our guitar player) and I worked with Courtney Ballard on this song back in Fall of 2018. We all wrote the instrumental one day at his studio and then I took it home and wrote the lyrics & melodies. The goal with this song was to write our version of ‘Just Like Heaven’ by The Cure. It came out super different, but I always find it interesting where a song starts.

"Silver"

I spent a solid 7 hours at Panda one day making the main synth loop for this song. I was messing around on my Moog Sub 37, creating these random arpeggio loops that never repeat. I was sending them into Ableton, adding delay and reverb, and recording them for hours until it finally moved the exact way I wanted it and perfectly matched the tempo. It was tedious but it was honestly such a good break for me at the time. The days prior, I had been constantly getting bogged down and trying to grab new instruments off the wall to bail myself out of a lackluster idea. I was thinking maybe if I find a new part, the song could actually be something. After a night of frustration I decided I was going to go into a synth wormhole the next day and (maybe) build a new song around that. After hours of toying around I finally got a solid 10 minute loop that matched perfectly to tempo and chopped it up from there to make specific parts for a song. I added the pumping kick and thought it would be cool if there wasn’t a snare in the entire song. You don’t really notice it until it’s pointed out. The song reminds me of The Postal Service or Dntel, especially in the outro with the vocal chops. The other day my brother pointed out to me that it reminds him of Donna Lewis’ “I Love You Always Forever”, which I think is badass because literally everyone I know loves that song.

"Whatever"

This is the first song we wrote for this album, in Fall of 2018. We knew we wanted to do something different on this album and this song was definitely the catalyst. We knew we wanted to incorporate more synths and slow it down just a bit from our last album RARE. Alex and I wrote this song at my apartment one day when I was living in LA. It definitely felt like a new wave for us immediately. We went and tracked the drums up at Panda and it became the first single for this album. The main riff goes over a count of 3 in the verses and choruses but in the bridge it waits and goes over a count of 4. I think it really makes the bridge settle in and become its own world. It’s the first time we’ve ever just looped the entire song for a transition, like the end of the bridge. Lyrically, the song is pretty self-explanatory. It’s about escapism and just saying “fuck it” for a day. Without this song, I think this album would be much different. It was definitely a confidence builder for us and helped us go deeper into the new sound.

"Iridescent"

I wrote this one in April of 2018. I remember listening to the singles we had so far and felt like we didn’t yet have a song that just felt like a ‘dreamy dopamine’ track. Something that felt like a warm blanket. So I dove down that for a couple of hours and what I ended up with felt like a weird hybrid mix of yacht rock and upbeat britpop.
I didn’t touch the song lyrically until a month later. I probably tried about 20 choruses over this song until I finally landed what you hear now. Lyrically, I feel like it’s about taking meticulous care of something, whether it be a relationship or project, for a long time and then one day you realize that even though you cared so much for it it’s not ultimately up to you whether it thrives or not. And even trying to make it thrive almost adds a pressure that could potentially ruin it. It’s about letting things happen and just trying to get through. The lyric ‘Free falling now cause we’re hooked on synthetic light. An iridescent lie’ is the realization that we are never really in control and the beauty is actually in the experience. And even if it’s just an illusion, everything looks different from a different angle. The goal is experience instead of expectation.

"Slack"

This is the second to last song I wrote for the album. The instrumental came together easily but I seriously looped the instrumental at an excruciating volume for about 5 straight days finding the right melodies/lyrics for this one, mainly on the verses. Shoutout to my wife Taryn for making it through this one and not absolutely hating it at the end. The chorus came together around day two, but it just took a long time for the verses to click with me. Mainly because we’ve never done anything like this song for Hundredth before. In hindsight, I was totally overthinking it. I actually ended up using one of my very first ideas. I also sent it out to my friend Fil Thorpe for additional production during that time and it definitely helped me see it from another side. Lyrically this song is about uncertainty and trying to find a balance between working towards something and just letting things happen. I took the struggle of the writer’s block and tried to use it as motivation and subject matter. ‘Slack’ doesn’t figure itself out, but I think it makes that shitty feeling better and is a reminder to not be so serious all the time.

"Why"

A big goal on this album was making it enjoyable when ‘passively listening’, but have enough sonic depth and emotion to have another experience while ‘actively listening’, in headphones or whatever. If any track on the album captures that, I think it’s this one. Instrumentally, this song was born out of frustration. I struggled for a couple days at Panda, feeling like I was writing the same song over and over again. I set out one evening to just make whatever I wanted and stop thinking about “the album”. I went out and got dinner and came back and started a new idea around 8PM. I was chopping up weird noises and doing the tedious work that I normally hate doing in a song, but for some reason I was enjoying it. Next thing I knew it was 4AM. I had been in an 8 hour wormhole and I was absolutely peaking, listening to this instrumental at max volume and I was the happiest I had been in weeks. I was walking around the room super hyped and then I look over and my dog is completely passed out on the couch. I laughed, did some vocal ideas for the next hour or so, then closed everything down and went to bed (after listening in headphones 20 more times on repeat). Lyrically, I was a little intimidated by the instrumental. It felt so epic and I wanted the lyrics to match in a deep, but not corny way. It took me a while to find the right lyrics for this one. I sat on the instrumental for a couple of months before I got it all figured out. Without getting too heady and ~acid guy~, the song is basically an expose (of sorts) of my generation. It’s a question of why things are the way they are. Mental health is rapidly declining, debt is rapidly climbing and our attention spans are rapidly shrinking. I don’t think the answer is simple but I think all of us are trying to figure it out in our own way. Whether we are embracing it or fighting against it. With this track, I really just wanted to make something people could really relate to. Or at least throw it on in the background at a party.

"End Up Alone"

This was the last track I made for the album. I wanted to make a deep house influenced song that would bring all of the more electronic songs together. Basically the end of the electronic spectrum on the album. This song actually started out as a remix of another song but once I got into it I realized it could be a cool vibe to put on the Hundredth album. Lyrically it’s very simple, but touches on mental health and pushing people away.

"Cauterize"

The goal with this track was to make a post-punky song that felt like it could be played in an empty arena. I wrote this song in early May 2019, basically starting with that main guitar lead and building from there. The song is about walking away from organized religion, or anything that puts a limit on an open mind. It’s not an easy thing to do, especially if you’ve been a victim to indoctrination, whether subtle or direct. I’ve seen friends go into a dark, confusing spiral after walking away from religion. It’s a hard framework to break but I really think there’s a light on the other side.

"Burn Slow"

This was the first song I wrote when I walked into Panda. It was day one and Sam and his team were helping me get all my gear setup with their gear in the east wing of the studio. I had just bought this little Juno synthesizer Roland came out with and turned it on for the first time to check it out and ended up looping some chords. I threw some drum loops over that and then Sam walked over to the MG-1 and played a bass line over it. I added the main arp with another synth and parted the song out. This was all within the first 10 minutes of turning everything on. I thought that was super cool and it felt like a cool moment, so I kept all of those original takes and didn’t even change them. We added real drums over the song a couple weeks later. I wrote the vocals for this one back at my house in Charleston, as I was finishing the album. It’s actually the first song I’ve written where my wife Taryn actually wrote some of the melodies, which was super cool. She wrote half of the chorus, which was giving me trouble for quite a while. I called her in one day and said “What should this chorus be?” and 5 minutes later she spits out the melody for the first two lines. It was a sick moment. Overall this song is a disco-influenced, feel good track about slowing down and enjoying things. I have a tendency to rush through things so this one’s a good reminder for me.

"Way Out"

Alex pretty much made the entire instrumental of this track on his own and sent it over for me to add vocals and any extra stuff. We felt like we needed some UK Garage-leaning stuff towards the end of the album, to kinda mellow things out and make the album spiral into a corner, so Alex ran with that for the last two tracks. On the first layer, ‘Way Out’ is about a divide between two people (or two parts of yourself), wondering if it will ever be the same again. On a deeper level, I think it applies to a lot of stuff happening around us right now, especially in 2020.

"Too Late"

Alex made the majority of this track too. I remember we threw this one back and forth a couple times for structure, but he nailed the vision with this one. Lyrically, it’s picking up where ‘Way Out’ left off and applying it more generally. I feel like we are all slowly becoming more and more divided, both emotionally and physically. It feels like we are headed somewhere we’ve never been before, and this song feels like the perfect closer to the album for me. It takes the entire album and it’s concepts and spirals it into this dark, uncertain corner. But you’re still bobbing your head.

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Vinyl copies of Somewhere Nowhere can be ordered now from Diggers Factory. Stream the full album here:

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28 Essential Songs from the Shoegaze / Heavy Crossover

Listen and/or subscribe to our playlist of all 28 songs (with MBV's "Feed Me With Your Kiss" replacing "You Made Me Realise" because the latter isn't on Spotify):