Armed with cell phones and attaché cases, they wander a bleak grey landscape shaded by ominous, nondescript buildings. Their soundtrack echoes the frenetic pace of their day to day lives—a relentless helicopter beat punctuated by strings of octave-hopping bass. Back and forth, up and down, to and from. Until a faint signal cuts through the static.
“Let’s go north until all we see is open air. Leave them be, those rats who race…”
Then the bubble breaks.
“This record definitely is very much about facing the pressures of a grind,” says Ian LeFeuvre, singer and guitarist for The Hundreds and Thousands. “You get in this big city and start to work your ass off, and you start feeling like other parts of your life are slipping away. Sometimes it’s fun to be caught up in the whole game, but sometimes you wonder how much you’re losing touch with things you wish you hadn’t.”
As The Hundreds and Thousands, Ian LeFeuvre, Peter von Althen (drums), and Maury LaFoy (bass) paint a beautifully unapologetic picture of life interrupted and rediscovered. Driven by brick wall bass and drums, the album documents the emotional and physical confines of day-to-day drudgery—crowded trains, unfocused thoughts, the brash white noise of passing conversations—but the payoff for survival is immeasurable. Through all the bare-knuckle angst, LeFeuvre’s resplendent melodies and powerful voice shine through with an unmistakable message of hope.
All former members of power-pop outfit Starling, each musician brings a wealth of recording experience to The Hundreds and Thousands. Von Althen’s resume reads like a who’s who of the Canadian scene (Kathleen Edwards, Jim Bryson, Skydiggers), while LaFoy’s bass history cross-references the folk reverie of Sarah Harmer with k-os’ next level hip-hop. As a producer and songwriter, LeFeuvre’s recording credits are nothing short of exemplary. In addition to providing music for films and TV shows like "The Girl Next Door," “The Shield,” and “Queer As Folk,” the Toronto-based musician produced Lynn Miles’ Juno Award-winning Unravel, and is currently writing and producing with Barenaked Ladies singer Ed Robertson. Like LaFoy, he appeared on K-OS’ 2007 release, Atlantis: Hymns For Disco, and will be featured on the forthcoming Yes! As chief songwriter and producer for The Hundreds and Thousands, LeFeuvre has combined his pop ingenuity with jagged sonics to create a deeply personal album that resonates with strength and vulnerability.
Careful to not dilute the raw power of the three-piece, the vast majority of the record (vocals included) was recorded live in only a few short sessions; a testament to each musician’s technical aptitude. As a result, each of the 11 songs, including quieter ballads like “Fall,” swell with a larger than life sound.
“There are just so many records these days that have been edited to death,” says LeFeuvre, who enlisted Eric Ratz (Billy Talent, Big Sugar) to mix down the record. “The records that we grew up listening to, people couldn’t do that. You had to land the song together and play it as a band. No matter how good you are at editing, there’s something to be said for that energy. It’s not nipped and tucked in every little place, and there’s a very human thing to that.”
The all-too-human air of LeFeuvre’s lyrics goes hand in hand with this straight forward production aesthetic. You can hear the crackling hum of LaFevure’s guitar cabinet peek into the mix between the stops and starts of “When You Want Yours,” an ideal dedication to an estranged lover or a devious boss. On “Don’t Talk To Me,” LaFoy’s massive monophonic Roland bass slides up and down against a crystalline guitar solo drenched in trailing reverb. By embracing the imperfections and adding touches of electronic color, LeFeuvre and Ratz have created a sonic depth of field that places the album comfortably between the glossy space-prog of Muse and the blue collar rebellion rock of The Clash. Racked with heavy cymbal crashes and punchy guitar, “All Alone” builds like a pressure cooker until it explodes into an ephemeral wash of vocal harmonies and Colin Moulding-style melodic bass. When the protagonist on “Bullet Train Wreck” wonders, “Will I forget my name when the part of me that’s still sane goes off the rails?,” the band supports the sentiment with chugging drums and disjointed guitars. And when “the bubble breaks” on “Rat Race,” a sliding, distorted solo blasts a makeshift escape hatch through the emotional and physical walls of the outside world.
“We’re approaching this as a young, energetic and inspired band with nothing to lose and everything to prove,” says LeFeuvre. And he’s got the goods to back it up. The Hundreds and Thousands is a call to arms; an introspective yet urgent masterstroke of songwriting that broadcasts the message of the masses loud and clear.