introduction by tom johnson
words by frances quinlan
photograph by tonje thilesen
There’s nothing more engrossing than a band shifting their sound in new and interesting ways – and “Not Abel”, the second track to be shared from Hop Along’s forthcoming new record, is one such occasion, a riveting cinematic drama played out with all the gusto that its reference points deserve. Set against a musical-backing of plucked strings and swelling orchestration, the track takes in varying religious imagery, white horses, blood-stained shirts and all kinds of impassioned proclamations: “Voice on the radio again; so strange to be shaped by such strange men.”
A wild four-and-a-half minutes, dragged from some scorched landscape in to the haywire reality of 2018, “Not Abel” is an inspired curveball, a marked leap in to new territory that feels mightily adventurous throughout. You can stream it right here – and be sure to scroll a little further down for a quick-fire Q&A with Hop Along’s Frances Quinlan.
What was the last record you bought and did you enjoy it?
There’s a record shop right around the corner from me, called the Philadelphia Record Exchange. It’s a place I frequent, especially when I’m looking for vinyl to play on the DJ nights I do sometimes with my friend Nicky. I bought these records last month, but had already heard and liked them so this is cheating a bit on my end: Sandy by Sandy Denny (holy cow what an album. Highly, highly recommend), Spirit of the Golden Juice by F.J. McMahon
What was the last live show you saw that blew you away?
Two weeks ago I went to see WHY? with my buddy/housemate Dom. Funnily enough, Dom and I went on a tour together 10 years ago in order to play a college show that I had been asked to perform (this was back when I was solo, under Hop Along, Queen Ansleis), all the way out in Ann Arbor, MI. It was the biggest show I’d ever played, I think a 500-capacity room or something like that, to open for WHY? and Crystal Castles I think. Anyway we had to book a tour in order to get there from Baltimore and have it make any sense (in retrospect none of it makes sense but that’s one of the benefits of being young and stupid). We toured out there during my spring break. WHY? has always been incredible to watch live. Very sophisticated arrangements and great sound, every time. This last set was no exception, I am endlessly inspired by them and Yoni.
Favourite album of the last year?
I liked Rocket a lot, But I just love Alex’s (Sandy Alex G) work in general. I think DSU is still my favorite. Rocket rips though. The SZA album is great, Marky (my brother, our drummer) got me into that one, he’s always updating me on the best new jams. Of course also the War on Drugs record, it’s a beautiful work. Those guys are a lovely bunch.
Oh! Actually on New Year’s Eve I was sitting on my friend’s couch in Brooklyn, she’d broken her foot and I’d decided to take the bus and stay in with her watching movies – she put on the latest WHY? record, which I’d never heard before, called Moh Lhean, and I was way into it.
Favourite album of the last decade?
Dang!! What a question! So much to consider. I tend to overthink everything. Ten years ago I was just graduating from college. That’s pretty trippy. I am very late to the game on this album, but recently been jamming Joanna Newsom’s Have One on Me – I am a huge fan of hers, but this album was especially intimidating to dig into as it’s 3 LPs. I always need time with her. Ys is my favorite, but that’s 12 years old. Dang.
Favourite closing track on any record?
I’m going to say “Desolation Row” from Highway 61 Revisited, but I don’t know that I really mean that. I just love that album from beginning to end and it makes me think of a road trip my mom and I took to Pittsburgh. “Judy and the Dream of Horses” from If You’re Feeling Sinister. Great closer.
Favourite show you’ve ever played?
Can’t answer this one. There have been too many great tours, met too many lovely people to be able to choose a favorite.
I can tell you one of the strangest ones. In 2012 we played in a schoolhouse basement in Fairfield, Iowa, right after a zombie-themed musical. Afterwards we slept upstairs in one of the classrooms, and got out of there just before a bunch of little kids swarmed in. Mark forgot his jacket and had to interrupt a class to fetch it. Then the three of us (this is when it was just Mark, Tyler, and myself) went to my friend’s house and he made eggs Benedict for us. It’s a fond memory.
Favourite weekend record?
I haven’t had a normal 5-day week job in a long time, and for the past few years I usually work weekends. I’ll say a morning record instead, and for that I’d choose Paul Simon’s self-titled album. Excellent start to the day. Favorite late night record I think is Moon Pix or the Covers Record by Cat Power. But these things change, also.
What’s the one thing you’d change about the music world if you could?
Whatever I’d change about the music world would be what I’d change about everything else, it’s part of it, it’s not above anything. But to be honest I’m still learning about it, I only just started participating in music in a manner that’s outside of myself and a small-ish circle of interested people. Until a few years ago I don’t think I felt included in the world I believe you are referring to. In general I’m becoming more aware of myself as a participant, both good and bad. I guess it’s good at least to take some responsibility. Also, a lot of the things I’m thinking of changing about the music world are things I really want to change about myself. So I think I have to wait a while before I can properly answer this question.
‘Bark Your Head Off, Dog’ is out April 6th via Saddle Creek