Hailing from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the indie quintet East Hundred gained much positive attention after releasing the acclaimed full-length debut Passengers in 2009. Currently working on the follow-up, East Hundred was kind enough to update the band’s progress.
It says on your band website that you’re currently working on your fourth release. Will this be an EP or a full-length, and how has it been going?
Brooke Blair: We have plans to record a full-length and so far the writing process has been great. We’re pushing ourselves into new directions and approaches with all the new material. Everyone is bringing really strong ideas into the mix, and songs are quite different from one another, so it feels like it’s going to be a really diverse record at this point. On the past recordings a few members did a lot of the writing, and this time around it’s truly a five-member effort as far as the music goes, with Beril and Will still handling all the lyrics.
When can we expect it?
Brooke Blair: We are looking at recording in the winter and hopefully that means an early release next year, maybe March or April.
Passenger was recorded with the central theme of a break-up. Some songs were written before the break-up and some songs were written after. Was it a conscious decision to sort of mold the album to that theme or did it just happen that way?
Beril Guceri: I don’t think it was a conscious decision to write a ‘break-up album.’ It’s just what was going on at the time so, of course, there are songs that project failed romance. We don’t see Passenger as just a break-up album. There are other themes and inspired parts by other types of relationships as well. We were, however, open about the break-up that happened in the band. It was written about in our bio. That part was a conscious decision, you could say. We were just looking to be honest when releasing the album.
How did that experience differ from working on new material and the new album? Would it be similarly based on a central theme?
Will Blair: I wouldn’t say there is one central theme influencing our new material, but we are utilizing different approaches to the new songs. Of course, relationships are a huge part of anyone’s’ life; they are the source of our suffering and great joys as well, so they tend to be great songwriting material, but relationships extend so far beyond just romance. So we’re writing about our connection to each other as band members, our larger groups of friends; there are songs about our relationship with the city we live in itself. I think the themes in general are just becoming broadened and less introspective and personal. It seems to be a comfortable, natural direction for our music to be heading in.
How has touring affected your music? What was your favorite venue?
Dave Sunderland: One thing touring does is give you new perspective on your songs. Playing the same songs every night gives you new insight into what works and doesn’t. We always like Johnny Brenda’s in Philly, and we got to play Mercury Lounge in NYC, which is an awesome place.
You tweeted that the new song “White Skies” is “a bit of a departure” for you. I haven’t been able to find it. Can you please describe it and say where we could listen to it?
Will Blair: Sure, “White Skies” literally was just finished, so the best place to listen to it will be at our upcoming shows. We’re always thrilled to debut new material live, and it will be recorded a bit later. (Hopefully this winter.) But for now, come hear it live. Rhythmically it’s a bit left of center, it’s kind of marchy, and it has a nice swing to it. It seems to be maybe influenced by a different era of music, a bit retro, but it’s still very much East Hundred.
How has social networking (Twitter, MySpace, Facebook) impacted the band, especially the relationship between you and your fans? Do you feel making yourselves available is important, especially when it comes to releasing studio footage or home videos on YouTube?
Susan Gager: We absolutely have taken advantage of social networking as much as we can. Indie bands prior to us never had the opportunity to reach out to people globally like we have without touring to those places. And, we’ve been able to keep in touch with fans much better. We always have fun releasing new footage and have met so many talented people through social networking. Photographers, videographers, graphic designers, etc. Being able to work with other talent just spreads the music that much farther and both parties benefit.
You also post lyrics on your website. Do you see value in that?
Beril Guceri: Sure, of course. Sometimes it’s hard to make out what all the lyrics are (especially when listening to rock music), so they are posted for that reason.
I see you have some gigs in November and December. Should fans expect to hear some new songs? “This Year,” perhaps?
Dave Sunderland: Yes… “This Year” has become a permanent fixture in our set. We’ll also be debuting our new song, “White Skies.”
“Slow Burning Crimes”
[photo via Tirzah Fowler]
Note: Article first published as “Interview: East Hundred” on Blogcritics.