Last year HUNDREDTH released their latest full-length, Somewhere Nowhere, once again taking a massive leap with their ever-changing sound. The South Carolina-based band dove headfirst into vibrant synth-pop, further solidifying their reputation for sonic renewal and drawing praise from the likes of Stereogum, BrooklynVegan, FLOOD Magazine, Uproxx, and more. Today the band are back with Welcome To Somewhere Nowhere, a new live album capturing Hundredth performing the entirety of Somewhere Nowhere. In addition to the live album, Welcome To Somewhere Nowhere is accompanied by a pro-shot video of the entire in-studio show, capturing the band in their live element.
For over a decade, Hundredth have pushed themselves out of their songwriting comfort zones, veering from explosive hardcore, to kinetic shoegaze, to atmospheric dreampop, and finally to the groove-laden synth-scapes found on Somewhere Nowhere. With that release vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Chadwick Johnson sought to take full advantage of the endless possibilities in electronic music while still maintaining an essential human element. Welcome To Somewhere Nowhere highlights that dichotomy as roomy live drums and guitars collide with waves of sparkling synths.
It would be something of an understatement to say Hundredth are unafraid of change.
For over a decade, the South Carolina-based band have pushed themselves out of their songwriting comfort zones in a never-ending pursuit of sonic renewal that’s become more drastic with each release. The band have travelled from hardcore, to shoegaze, to dream-pop and beyond; this uncommon course has earned them critical acclaim as well as loyal listeners, who have come to trust that quality is the only predictable element of a new Hundredth song. Now with the release of their fifth full-length Somewhere Nowhere, the group have taken their biggest leap yet in crafting a boundary-defying, synth-pop tour de force that once again redefines the band—and proves Hundredth are anything they want to be.
Trying to achieve unbridled creativity amidst the weight of expectations is a concern that often hounds bands as they grow, but for Hundredth—vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Chadwick Johnson, guitarist Alex Blackwell IV, and bassist Andrew Minervini—it’s been a guiding light. The first half of the band’s career is firmly rooted in pummeling hardcore, and although they’d offered hints of their more melodic preoccupations on those earlier releases, listeners were still unprepared for Hundredth’s 2017 album, RARE. The record’s driving shoegaze and soaring vocals completely shed the ferocity of the band’s past work, but its seemingly risky sound change was embraced by fans and critics alike. RARE marked a clear turning point for Hundredth and also affirmed their longstanding approach. “It’s always been about where we are right now—what we want to hear, what’s inspiring in the moment,” Johnson explains. “It’s not a strategy, it’s just what we do. We’re always growing and changing as people, so it makes sense that the music does too.”
Despite RARE’s success, Johnson wasn’t content to let Hundredth’s sound idle. 2018’s Ultrarare reimagined the album’s highlights with a pulsing coldwave spin, and a series of 2019 singles found the band diving headfirst into sparkling dream-pop. All the while, Johnson continued to go deeper into the digital realm of synths, samples, and sub bass. “The goal is still to make the music that we want to hear, but now we’re just more influenced by things outside of guitar,” he says. “I also couldn’t play a lot of these chords or create the same atmospheres on just a guitar. I can create more emotion or more complex arrangements when I use a digital piano or synth.” Johnson chased this more electronic-based sound as the band amassed over 60 demos, but he still felt unsatisfied with the direction. “We could have made albums out of those songs but they just didn’t feel quite right yet,” he explains. “We knew we were heading far from RARE with the new record, I had a vision of something different.”
Johnson changed gears and decamped to The Panda Studios in San Francisco where he started writing and producing new ideas from scratch, with engineer and longtime collaborator Sam Pura on hand to provide technical know-how, a familiar ear, and to assist with production on songs that required live drums. “I think I needed the isolation to really get immersed,” Johnson explains. “The idea was just to write as many songs as I could. We plugged in the synthesizers and it was off to the races. I’d stay up all night working, just trying to see how deep I could go in a couple weeks.” Somewhere Nowhere began to take shape as he searched for the human element within the unlimited possibilities of electronic music. “It’s super dense production-wise, but the hope is that you can really feel it in your guts,” he says. “We wanted things that groove or swing, to make something more rhythmically complex, but also to make you feel something. It was about finding moods and imperfections in that electronic environment.” Johnson left the studio with instrumentals for most of Somewhere Nowhere and returned to his modest home studio to finish writing and track vocals, before eventually mixing the album with Pura over video chat from opposite sides of the country.
The chiming piano and stuttering break beat of the album’s title track opener makes it clear that Somewhere Nowhere represents another radical evolution for Hundredth. The song instantly transports the listener into the album’s world of widescreen pop, which finds a satisfying balance between the familiar joy of decades of electronic music and a distinctly modern sensibility. “Somewhere Nowhere” encapsulates many of the record’s lyrical themes: a sense of uncertainty and darkness amidst the technicolor sounds, a race to arrive without knowing the destination, and a nagging voice that asks why we do the things we do. “Looking back, I think I’ve felt a little lost,” Johnson says. “Doing music as a career can be really weird, especially right now. You ask yourself where you think this thing you’re working so hard on is going. Everyone is chasing something but this record is about trying to analyze why. We’re all so focused on where we want to go, but we might never get there, so what’s the point if you don’t at least enjoy what you’re doing.”
That existential questioning extends throughout Somewhere Nowhere. On album highlight “Slack”—a deceptively vibrant pop gem with a contorted take on slacker tropes—Johnson wonders if true freedom can be achieved without becoming a complete societal outsider. “Why” features one of the album’s most cathartic moments in its kinetic wash of pulsating synths and distorted vocals, as Johnson laments the challenges of his generation. “I just wonder where all this can go,” he says. “People drowning in student loans, mental health declining, social media attention spans…These are the things that define our generation. I feel like we’re all asking how we got here but it seems hard to get any real answers.”
Throughout the album, Hundredth blend buoyant electronics with the organic energy of their musical roots. The band’s more guitar-driven 2019 singles are seamlessly integrated into Somewhere Nowhere’s sequence, acting as a bridge from their previous work and painting a fuller picture of Hundredth’s try-anything approach. Meanwhile new standouts like “Out Of Sight,” “Burn Slow,” and “Bottle It Up” filter live drums and guitars through the album’s vivid pop prism to create a unique blur of genres where Hundredth flourish. Somewhere Nowhere draws to a close with “Way Out” and “Too Late,” a pair of simmering synth-led tracks that look towards an ambiguous future. The only answer in this neon melancholia is that nothing can stay the same forever, but Hundredth have shown that they can excel at change. “If we’re going to do something, we’re going to go all in,” Johnson says. “Sometimes people are going to like it, sometimes they’re not, but hopefully they respect that we did what we wanted to do. Each album represents where we are, and I don’t plan on stopping.”