Charleston tunesmith Matt Hamrick has dabbled in two hobbies since his teens: rock music and surfing. These days, he's officially an attorney and a certified mediator by trade, but his responsibilities haven't distracted him from riding waves on the Isle of Palms and writing and performing music with friends. In particular, with his band Hundred Hands Down, music provides a balance between work and family. "It keeps life interesting," Hamrick says. "I think I'd get bored if I didn't deviate from just working and going home."
Hundred Hands Down first took shape under Hamrick's guidance in 2008. Kenny Meyer (of Soul Fish) signed on as the guitarist and Henry Blair (known by childhood buddies as Hank Doolittle) snagged the drummer slot.
Hamrick spent years working in the Charleston law office of Richardson, Patrick, Westbrook & Brickman before setting up an independent office to handle general law and mediation. While Hamrick stays busy with his new practice, Blair and Meyer run full-time landscaping businesses during the day and play with several side bands on nights and weekends.
"It's amazing how hard everyone works," says Hamrick. "Everyone's busy, but we make time to rehearse and write together. Henry has a great band room and recording room set up at his place on Wadmalaw Island, so it's always fun."
Blair and Meyer also grew up in the Charleston area. Both played in various garage, alternative, and groove-rock bands during their high school and college years. Their experience with handling different styles of rock music enhanced their technique. The versatility they bring to Hundred Hands Down is valuable.
Bassist Stu Osborne is the new guy in the lineup. Hamrick met Osborne, a native of North Carolina, through mutual pal Robert Thorne, formerly of Uncle Mingo.
"One night, we all jammed at Robert's practice room, and it really clicked," says Hamrick. "We did it again a couple of months later when we were in need of a bassist. He's phenomenal — a great guy and a great player. He's a perfect fit for the band, and he's helped take us to a new level."
In early 2010, the band released a three-song collection featuring the originals "Suppose," "Never Should Have Married," and "You'll Like It Too." They recorded the online EP with engineer Mitch Webb at Mantis Records. Clean, concise, and melodic, the songs rocked with elements of classic guitar-pop and modern Americana. Hamrick's emotive singing put a little bit of soul into the mix, too. New self-produced recordings are already in the works.
"Our music is still evolving, but it'll always be a variety style-wise because we all love straight-ahead rock, new and old," says Hamrick. "I listen to a healthy dose of Americana, funk blues, and soul too, so that makes its way in there. The latest stuff can be funky and danceable, but they're mostly melodic, short songs with not much jamminess. It's pretty tight with traditional structure. Some has a twanginess to it — it's almost Southern rock, in a way."
Over the last year, Hundred Hands Down headlined and opened for colleagues at various venues. Although several plugged-in gigs at the weekly Barn Jam events at Awendaw Green gave them the opportunity to stretch out and collaborate with guests, the quartet consistently delivers tight sets at formal club shows.
"We enjoy playing out, but we're all really into the craft of songwriting," says Hamrick. "They say you don't start writing decent songs until you've written more then a hundred. I kind of believe that. We're working on it. We're all very good self editors, and we're pretty democratic about arrangements and ideas. We get along when it comes to songwriting. There's no stress or tension in developing our songs. I have a lot of faith and trust in everyone."