“I’ve been in Hop Along for half my life now. The band started when I was 18 and now I’m 36, so it’s pretty wild.”
In music, every decade has at least one major city or region making its mark. Fans know about San Francisco in the ’60s, New York City in the ’70s, LA in the ’80s, Seattle in the ’90s, and so on.
These days, a good amount of cities have had their own reputable music scenes going on, like Boston and Providence around these parts, and Philadelphia’s indie rock community can’t be overlooked.
One of the many talents coming out of the Pennsylvania stronghold has been Hop Along consisting of Frances Quinlan on rhythm guitar and vocals, brother Mark on drums, Tyler Long on bass, and Joe Reinhardt on lead guitar. This talented act are going back-to-back at the Sinclair on July 30 and 31 with fellow Philadelphians Sadurn opening up both nights at 8pm.
Quinlan and I spoke ahead of this weekend’s festivities about a solo album they released right before COVID-19 changed everything, painting album covers, being part of an insane looking festival next month, and being careful to not assume anything about the future.
A little over a month before the pandemic hit back in 2020, you released a solo album titled Likewise. When it comes to songwriting and crafting music, what in your opinion is the biggest difference between what you do as a solo artist versus what you do as part of Hop Along?
I think it’s the absence of my bandmates, they add so much to Hop Along. Each of them did play a bit on the solo record, everybody from the band appears on the song “Rare Thing”, but they are major creative contributing factors to what comes out through Hop Along. With the solo record, I wanted to stay closer to my initial ideas for songs because with the band we spend a lot of time editing. If I understand arrangement correctly, I think a lot of arrangement can be editing. Sometimes songs stay pretty close to what I came up with initially, I will say with a band what I write to begin with for me to play stays pretty much the same unless the beat changes a little.
When everyone plays, bass, drums and guitar each add so much while building upon rhythms to create new ones. Like I said before, with my solo album I wanted to stay close to the origin of the song and it was the fastest between writing songs and recording them that I had done in a long time. Problem since freshman year of college when I was 19.
Yeah, I’ve been in Hop Along for half my life now. The band started when I was 18 and now I’m 36, so it’s pretty wild.
That is pretty wild. You created the cover art for the album as well. like you’ve done with all of Hop Along’s albums. Do you do a lot of painting and visual art when you’re not working on music and do you view your cover art as your own personal stamp on a finished product?
Yes to both. I’ve been doing more visual art since the pandemic hit because there was just more time for it. I went to college for painting and once the band got busier and began touring a lot, I found that it helped me to paint with watercolors in the van. Some of the drives would be seven hours plus and the drag of being in the van for that long would get to me so painting has helped me a lot in my life and as a personal stamp, sure. I probably take things too seriously but I love creating album art, it’s a labor of love.
A year later after your solo album came out, you released a couple remixes off of it with indie pop artist Nnamdï putting his own spin on “Now That I’m Back” and Ryan Hemsworth doing his own version of “Lean.” What made you want to do these remixes and how did you get connected with Nnamdï and Ryan to make these happen?
I don’t think it was super innovative on my part, I think the idea was proposed by my manager and it was exciting for me, especially considering that I’m a big fan of Nnamdï’s work. I love Brat, have you heard that album?
Oh, yeah. It’s fantastic. He’s great, I’ve seen him live with his band and it’s awesome.
Right? He’s so good. He’s just a brilliant writer, producer and musician. I love his drumming too along with everything else so I was really excited to be working with him. I actually met Nnamdï back in 2012, we played this festival with him during the summer at this warehouse in Chicago and it was the hottest place I had been in a long time. We’ve known each other for a while and when I heard what he did with that song it was so cool, he really captured the anxiety of the music in my view.
Ryan is another brilliant talent. We had already collaborated on a song called “Postcard From Spain” and he was the first person outside of Hop Along that I really collaborated with in making a song in a very long time. He did a very beautiful job with “Lean”.
After this run of shows that has Hop Along playing back-to-back nights at The Sinclair, you’re going to be part of the Adult Swim Festival Block Party happening in Philly from August 5th – 7th. It’s pretty crazy with Run The Jewels, Dethklok, RJD2 and Hannibal Buress performing along with some show panels, outdoor screenings and other aspects. How did you get involved in this and do you have a favorite Adult Swim show?
People keep talking about Joe Pera Talks With You and I really need to dig into that, I’ve been out of the loop for quite a while. There are shows that are no longer on it that I used to watch so I honestly feel out of the loop when it comes to a current favorite show. As far as how we got connected, we’ve been very fortunate to be involved with it before and I’m really excited to see Tierra Whack again. She’s phenomenal and there’s so many amazing bands and musicians on this bill. We got on the bill because of our excellent booking agent Merrick Jarmulowicz who we started working with in 2012.
People like him are a big help to bands and artists who are looking for new fans to pick up on them and people who are receptive. Merrick was the first person in the music business we hired and he’s been creatively minded as to where we might fit, he’s a tremendous asset and he’s really good at what he does so we’re fortunate.
It’s great that you have a guy like that you can work with and who can help you get gigs like these and other ones to help grow your band. It must seem like a blur due to how crazy the past few years have been, but it’s been four years since Hop Along released their last album, Bark Your Head Off, Dog, in 2018. Can we expect a new record either later this year or next year?
Definitely not later this year, but who knows? I want to be careful not to assume anything about the future, really. It’ll be cool to have something out next year, it’ll be great to start working on new ideas once we get together again after this tour.
Rob Duguay is an arts & entertainment journalist based in Providence, RI who is originally from Shelton, CT. Outside of DigBoston, he also writes for The Providence Journal, The Connecticut Examiner, The Newport Daily News, Worcester Magazine, New Noise Magazine, Northern Transmissions and numerous other publications. While covering mostly music, he has also written about film, TV, comedy, theatre, visual art, food, drink, sports and cannabis.