There’s a reason local bands like Sierra and Vices take so much influence from Hundredth – they’re easily one of the best melodic hardcore/metalcore bands going. While the band has released two solid EPs over the past couple of years, they’re now set to drop their new full-length, ‘Free’, this June. Recorded with Sam Pura (the very same Sam Pura behind the new album from The Story So Far) at the Panda Studios in California, ‘Free’ could very well be the group’s strongest and most diverse album to date. We put our questions to vocalist Chadwick Johnson about his thoughts on their new record and on the idea of truly being free.
Hey Chad, how are you doing?
Hey man, I’m doing good, how are you?
Yeah, same here brother. Before we get into it, with The Panda Studios, do you know what the obsession with the panda’s stems from?
Oh, that’s just Sam [Pura], he has a very big attachment to panda. He considers himself a panda, and yeah…it’s just what it is. He’s just made himself out to be the panda of audio engineering.
(Laughs) so did you guys actually track some of the recording wearing the giant pandas heads?
Yeah (laughs), I think we just got super studio drunk, we were in the studio for way too long. I think some riffs were tracked with the panda heads on.
Now, with the album, am I right in saying that ‘Free’ refers to both a state of mind and to being literally free from the restrictions of others and the more toxic norms of society?
Yeah man, absolutely, I would you say you’re correct on that.
Well, do you think not enough people take the time to really think about how our cultures affect us on a very subconscious level?
I would agree with that. It’s free on a couple different levels, as there are layers to what the album is about. I think it’s where I was and where the band was mentally. The past two EPs have been very left and right field, trying to figure out what to make of life, and of the Earth, and all of the social shit that’s happening. So I decided to write about what’s personal to me and these songs do mean a lot to me, and I did what I ever thought worked and whatever we liked, and I felt like in that, we should just call it Free.
It just fits alongside where we have been going musically and aesthetically, it really encapsulates the mindset and the story of our band. So it felt right to call it Free, even not for a particular reason. It’s hard to explain what it is. I do think that the things you brought up are subconsciously why we called it Free, as we never really had to explain it to each other.
Right on, man. As you mentioned, you’re writing a lot more personally, so with the lyrics in ‘Unravel’, are you talking about any person in particular or is it more of a generalised comment on the world?
I think the song is vague enough so that it can be applied to many different situations, and that was the goal for a lot of the songs on the record; to not spell everything out but leave some sort of experience to who’s listening to it to see if it applies to them. But I think for me, like I was mentioning before, it has a lot of layers. It can be about a relationship, or like many relationships where people just weren’t really invested and they just wanted you to reach out for them, and they would never grab on, you know?
Yeah, definitely man.
So those are the top layers, but it can also be applied to politics and religion on some sub-levels too. The song is not simple, and while it may seem simple, when I was writing it, it just felt so much more.
That double layering of meanings can create some really cool discussions, that’s awesome. The band mentioned that this album is going to be different vocally, and with ‘Unravel’, there’s already a higher range in your voice, is that the direction a lot of the other songs take, or are there more spoken word or clean vocals to be found?
Yeah, there are a couple clean vocals on it. I recorded all of the vocals at my house, and while I don’t actually fully sing, there are some layered parts I did, and it just felt natural to branch out vocally. I was fucking around one day, and I found that that sound was where the record should go. I wasn’t forcing it, but I did think it would be fun to write some melodies over it instead of straight screaming.
For me at least, after a while, the screaming all blurs out and it just becomes monotone to me. So on this record there’s a fair bit of that tonal scream melody going on. When I listen back to the old songs, I just think, “Wow, we could have done so much over them”, but I was never confident enough to branch out and try new things [vocally], and just stay in our safe little world. I feel that with this record, we reached out a lot more, and I do believe that has elevated the record to something really different for our band.
Sweet! I really do appreciate when metal or hardcore vocalists can push their vocals out to an area that requires some real talent, and I hear that already with ‘Unravel’ man.
Thank you man, thank you very much.
I have always gotten a very spiritual vibe from your music, I know you are a spiritual person, but I’m wondering where you are with your faith in 2015 and as the band has developed?
I do believe in the spiritual realm of the Earth and I do believe in the aurora’s, I think it’s real. I think it’s reciprocated through certain people in certain ways. Growing up, I tried to attach that to a single God, like a monistic religion. I tried and forced that and I felt like I was pretending to believe in something. Right now, I think there’s no way that we can fathom what’s beyond us, as there are so many unknown things, and that for us to put it into our human mind is arrogant. I think that believing in one God in an afterlife is archaic.
For me, I don’t take it crazy seriously, but I try to put something good into the world and into the universe, and I fail at it so much. But at the end of the day, trying to get better and put out good energy is better than trying to figure everything out and pretend we know everything and make all these laws. I think that’s horseshit.
Yeah man, I agree, there are some things we’ll just never really understand or work out. With all of that being said, I don’t really see artists in hip-hop, in pop or other mainstream styles of music talking about those themes, so do you think that hardcore is the more appropriate genre to discuss topics such as this?
I agree, think it is. I think it births from the punk rock mindset of you can write a song about something you hate. The freedom of punk rock, not about making it angry, but about figuring out life with an introspective vibe does only exist in hardcore. I feel as though a lot of things start in the hardcore/punk scenes and they branch out, and now my parents are questing the government, but back then they thought I was crazy. Now in America, these right-wing people are beginning to question everything and it’s crazy. I think that most big things start in an underground, and I think hardcore scene is where the catalyst for new thoughts and ideas spread to the mainstream.
Yeah exactly man, and that’s when some real change can happen.
Absolutely dude, absolutely.
Well we’re out of time dude, so thank you for doing this Chad, it’s been a blast man.
No problem man. And hey, sorry about the rain, later.
‘Free’ is out June 12th via Hopeless Records/Unified, so get ready.