Interview: Hop Along discuss Painted Shut and world dominance

Hop AlongPhiladelphia band Hop Along are something of an unknown force to music fans in the UK. Though their history dates back to 2004, and they have no less than three full length albums now under their belt. Their rise to fame has been gradual and for the most part underground. Yet having toured with the likes of The Thermals in the US, and with songs like those documented on new album Painted Shut on their side, you would expect a ravenous fan base of colossal proportion. In 2015, that sizable, but in Hop Along's case realistic ambition could well be realised.

Below front woman Frances Quinlan takes time out to chat to DrunkenWerewolf's Tiffany Daniels about her band's development, the personal nature of Painted Shut and what the future holds for Hop Along.

Hello! How, when and why did you form the band?

Hey! It's a little complicated. Hop Along was originally a solo freak-folk kind of project I started right before I left for college, in 2004. I'd always wanted to be in a band, and when I graduated Mark and I decided to start jamming together, along with our friend Dom (Lithuania, Drgn King). Tyler joined as Dom was leaving to focus on Drgn King, and Joe became our permanent lead guitarist in 2013.

Your new album Painted Shut is due out on 4th May in the UK and it’s a corker! Who did you work with in the studio, and what did they bring to the table?

Thanks! We worked with the incredible John Agnello. Personally I think he adds a great presence to the record - first of all a lot of it was done live (drums, bass, and rhythm guitar), and he was there for pre-production, he sat with us and discussed every song. He had a lot of good ideas, but really respected our instincts. Most importantly he was excited about the songs, seeing where they could go. You can't pin a sound on him, I don't think. That's exciting to me, we could do anything we wanted working with John. With him we were free, but more focused. I think it was a strong formula.

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You formed officially in 2008, and have released a few albums in the past. Have you seen a natural, or sudden progression to your Painted Shut sound?

Honestly, nothing with me is sudden. Our band has certainly learned a lot over the years, and it's been a gradual process. I think when some bands form there is a lot of playing at each other in the beginning, not because people are jerks but because they're still understanding their craft. It's hard to converse when you're still learning the language. And on top of that, each member of some bands speaks a different language. I think that's the case with us, and I don't find it to be a bad thing, it's what makes our sound its own life-form, in a way. I had some catching up to do with my bandmates, they're amazing musicians, and they think in a way that I don't about possibilities within a song. We challenge each other, so nobody gets bored. Get Disowned captured some of that interaction, but we weren't quite a solid form yet. Painted Shut is the first documentation of us all working together, focused as a unit.

The content of Painted Shut seems to be very personal. Do you write together as a band, or does someone in particular take the reins?

I handle the words. I'm a lyrics person, that tends to be what draws me into songs first.

How do you feel about sharing your experiences with others? Is it daunting, or are you happy to elaborate?

It was very daunting for this record. I haven't been afraid of a song before, and I was afraid of a couple songs on Painted Shut. But that also seemed to make it all the more important to say.

You’ve moved over to Saddle Creek for the release of Painted Shut. How did that come about and on a scale of 1 to 10, how psyched are you to be releasing with them?

That came about through our booking agent and friend Merrick. He introduced our music to Robb and the rest is history. I'm god awful with numbers, numbers have always humiliated me. Suffice to say it's a label I've wanted to work with for a long time, I think they stand for something worth believing in, and we're all pretty stoked on them as people, too.

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So far listeners have had the chance to stream “Waitress” and “Powerful Man” from the album. Do they embody the full length for you and why were they chosen as lead tracks?

I don't know that any one song embodies the whole full-length. "Powerful Man" stands on its own a little bit away from the others (especially due to its subject matter). "Waitress" is a song we've lived with for a long time, it was one of the first off the record that we put together and started playing on tours. I think it just seemed like a healthy opener. We're really excited about all the songs, it was pretty hard to choose which should come out first.

In your own words, how would you describe Painted Shut?

I don't really know what an album is about until it's been around for a couple years, to be honest. A lot of ideas were swimming around for the two years that went into writing it and finally recording it. I will say it's a pretty direct record, the most unafraid thing I've ever been a part of, in sound and content. Everything is up in front, even the nuances, nothing is concealed or veiled.

We don’t have much experience of the Philadelphia scene here over in Bristol. What’s it like and who do you consider your peers?

It's great! I love living here. I'd consider anyone between the ages 24-35 to be our peers.

Did you all grow up in the city and how has it helped to define Hop Along?

We all grew up in the suburbs. Joe was the closest to Philly, the rest of us came out of the rural suburbs, about 45 minutes from the closest mall and 15 minutes from a bunch of flea markets. In my experience a suburb is a pretty unnatural thing, I've had to unlearn a lot of what I experienced in the town(s) where I grew up. Lots of homophobia, sexism and racism. Lots of fear. It's in the city too of course but it's way more concentrated in most suburbs. I lived in Baltimore for four years and I loved it, I think it's an amazing place. The influence of that city will be with me always. Our collective experiences in Philly have helped us a great deal to express ourselves in a completely free way. We all grew up coming to shows in this city, of all kinds. It was certainly an escape for me growing up. I can't say how it defines us. I think it's still influencing us, even now. That's what is great about the city, it's always in flux.

Is musical heritage and experience between band mates largely the same, or do you all bring something different to the table?

Definitely different. It clashes occasionally, but for the most part I'd say it's our greatest asset.

What else do you have planned for 2015?

Driving, jamming, meeting people, and a fair amount of fast food, probably.

Painted Shut is due out 4th May 2015 through Saddle Creek. Read our review here.

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