Florida is full of many things, among them armies of retirees, bath-salts-fueled news headlines, and loads of electronic dance music. When it comes to the Floridian music scene, few bands create a defined sound that challenges those sunny vibes and glowstick outfits. Indie rock act Hundred Waters, however, has done exactly that. They occupy a place falling in a quiet nook somewhere between electronic and folk, and much of their uniqueness rides on singer Nicole Miglis’ clean, hushed vocals.
“We had the internet,” drummer Zach Tetreault says over the phone from a rest stop in Idaho, in regards to how they found their niche. “We’re not like much music. Sometimes we feel ostracized. But ultimately we have full creative control.”
The four piece caught a lucky wave right from the start. In 2012, Skrillex’s manager caught their first SXSW show, sent their debut record to Skrillex, and the dubstep giant began posting their music on his pages. Next thing they knew, he invited them to play on tour alongside Diplo and Grimes — and then they were signed to his label. “We were blown away,” says Tetreault. “We had offers from labels you think we would make more sense with, but we were intrigued by the whole situation. Sonny is the sweetest person ever and immediately embraced us with hugs on that tour. We became close friends right off the bat. He’s not our boss. He’s our friend.”
Live, their shows elevate the music to impossible proportions. Stop-motion videos flash underneath the weight of a jaw-dropping minimal light show. If you stare at one spot, it feels like you’re being transported to another world. Over the years, Hundred Waters have added more lighting elements to the set, tweaking the performance until it’s perfect. “We want every show to be as visually impactful as the music,” explains Tetreault. They’ve been working with the same visual collective responsible for Flying Lotus’ multi-layered 3D setup. If it all goes according to plan, their future live shows may be too mindblowing to handle.
The sound drips with some of the most clean production recorded to date. Naturally, it’s hard not to get too obsessed with minute additions. “The way we work on things allows for an infinite amount of possibilities of where it can go and how it can develop,” says Tetreault. “There’s no end to what you can do. The hardest part is finding that time where you have to let go and call it done.”
Last year, they dropped The Moon Rang Like a Bell and saw breakout success all over again. Their hypnotic blend of electronic synth and deep bass contrasts with Miglis’ vocals effortlessly. With a new set of personal lyrics, she creates an intimacy with the listener.
“Because a lot of this was written in cars, on days off, while we were moving, they feature vocals I could remember and record when given the chance. The environment to layer wasn’t there,” says Miglis. Despite that, the songs are sung with undeniable heart—and with that comes the risk of being too personal. “On the first record, I was more self-conscious and shrouded lyrics in floored language and symbols. I wasn’t comfortable being super personal yet because I wasn’t comfortable in a band. It was hard emotionally. Now I’m beginning to feel more comfortable being transparent.”
She sings with a mystical tone which haunts you long after the song has ended. As fate had it, that’s what landed them their first commercial gig: a primetime Superbowl Coca-Cola ad.
Someone on the campaign heard “Show Me Love” and was convinced it would be the perfect fit. They were right. “They asked us to try things, to make it build and swell more, but the vocals are almost exactly the same,” Tetreault says. “It’s our first commercial bit and it was all surprisingly chill.” Unfortunately, a lifetime supply of Coca-Cola wasn’t in their end of the bargain.
“We realized that when at a diner recently,” he laughs. “But next time we know to ask for it.”
HUNDRED WATERS W/ MITSKI. SAT 2.28. THE SINCLAIR, 52 CHURCH ST., CAMBRIDGE. 617.547.5200. 8PM/18+/$15. SINCLAIRCAMBRIDGE.COM.