2015 saw Philadelphia’s Hop Along release their second album, and one of our favourites of the year, ‘Painted Shut’. We caught up with them to talk more.
Words: Ali Shutler. Photos: Emma Swann.
“I always want it to be open, I never want to tell people how to feel,” explains Frances Quinlan ahead of Hop Along’s glorious return to London. Last time they made the journey from Philadelphia, it was to the Old Blue Last. Filled to the rafters, drenched in passion and matching skyward expectation blow for blow with dazzling prowess, the band let you in on harrowing, beautiful truths. Two years later, the stage is bigger and their back catalogue has doubled but that charming intensity remains just as powerful.
Hop Along released their glorious second album ‘Painted Shut’ earlier this year. It’s a record shaped by the journey that their hypnotic debut ‘Get Disowned’ sent them on while maintaining a creative distance from the fanbase it garnered. “We appreciate that devotion but we do try and not think about it. I don’t think anyone really wants a replica of the thing that came before. They may think they do, but this is a truer version of the second record.
“We also had the comfort knowing that there was absolutely no way that we could make this record the way we made ‘Get Disowned’. That record took two years. Not straight, obviously but piecemealed over that time. We had the luxury of not having any money, so we had all the time in the world. When there is a finite amount of time and money, you have to be a lot more responsible. Back then we had the joy of mostly irresponsibility and it was great. I love how that album came about but there’s no way we can ever do it again.”
The band knew ‘Get Disowned’ was done when they had to send it off to the factory to get pressed. On ‘Painted Shut’, it was when their producer told them so. “We were out of time,” laughs guitarist Joe Reinhart. “That’s when we’re done. That’s exactly when we’re done,” adds Frances. “We always work right down to the wire. We soak up every last second of time. I’m sure if we had an extra month, there’d be all sorts of extra stuff on there. “
True to their word, they haven’t. While ‘Painted Shut’ still has the vitality that made ‘Get Disowned’ such a captivating listen, it’s by and large a completely different record and a completely different show. “We’ve honed in on what we want, so it’s tighter,” starts drummer Mark Quinlan. “Experience has definitely been evolving us, which is what’s supposed to happen,” continues Frances.
As considered and arching as the album sits, it’s a record that captures the band in real time. “The second you finish something, the next day you’re better at what you do. You think you need to go in and fix it, but you have to let it go. The week after we finished mixing I listened back to the record and I was so miserable,” admits Frances. “I just felt like I’d made so many mistakes. I was telling Joe and John Agnello, who produced the album, I need to use the studio. I have to fix this.
“I let it go for another two weeks and then I was finally able to enjoy it. I need to take a big step back once it’s done but now I feel very at peace with the record. It’s a document of where you are at a certain point and that’s always changing. You need to realise that whatever you make at a certain time isn’t who you are two years or three months from then. Hopefully you’re always changing.”
As the band change, so does the world that surrounds them. “There’s more pressure. There’s more of a schedule,” reasons Mark. “I got married so I have this constant guilt about being away from home and leaving my wife. I have to make sure I’m accomplishing in a way that’ll make her proud. Socially, my life has become a little more complicated, more people depend on you, you have more responsibility and that in turn reflects on my role in the band, which is wonderful. It presents a whole new level of challenges that I can rise to and life’s no fun without challenges.”
“I almost feel like I was a bit spoilt coming up a long time ago in the DIY house show community,” reflects Frances. “People were committed to just coming to shows. I remember seeing ten people at a show in the middle of nowhere years ago and thinking that was incredible. I still try to maintain that attitude but now, we’re opening for bands whose fans have no idea who we are. They have no reason to care; we’re just another band. When people do come up and talk to me about our records, it means the world to me.”
Once this European run is done, Hop Along are returning home. They need to sort out the details of their spring tour and want to start work on the next record. “We want to get better. We want the next record to blow this one out of the water. With any pursuit, everybody wants to do something they can stand behind. As long as we maintain that, we’ll be pretty happy.”