RAWK TAWK: Q&A With Philly’s Hop Along

BY MEREDITH KLEIBER It’s hard to pigeonhole the style of Philly trio Hop Along. Their latest release, Get Disowned, brandishes singer-guitarist Frances Quinlan’s emotionally charged lyrics with an acid-laced concoction of gritty punk and folk. Mark Quinlan’s drumbeats, simultaneously frenetic and controlled, drive each song, while Tyler Long’s adroit bass licks tie everything together. Hop Along plays their record-release show at the First Unitarian Church with Band Name, Mary Lattimore, and Little Big League tomorrow night  at the First Unitarian Church. Phawker recently sat down with the band in their Olde Kensington studio, where we talked about death, detachment, and letting go of the past.

PHAWKER: So what’s the story behind the band’s name?

FRANCES QUINLAN: In high school, they’d let the seniors go out to lunch, and I was known to lag behind. I’m just a slow walker. My friend Dan started getting fed up and singling me out, and called me Hop Along. So I applied it to this other character name and went with the stage name Hop Along, Queen Ansleis, but when the band formed, we dropped the Queen Ansleis and just stuck with the nickname.

PHAWKER: The album’s title is pretty loaded. How did you come up with it?

FRANCES QUINLAN: Well, a lot of the songs have to do with the idea of detaching yourself from where you came from to become better somehow, but you can never become someone else. You’re always taking all that baggage with you. I think a lot of the songs deal with not being ready, not being young, not being able to…

MARK QUINLAN: …not being able to have your mistakes written off just because you’re young.

FRANCES QUINLAN: Also, dealing with death for the first time.

PHAWKER: Is it too personal to ask who died? Was it someone really close to you?

FRANCES QUINLAN: There’s a song called Sally that’s based on a real person. After “Sally Two” had been written, he died. My parents knew him really well. Then, my great uncle died, and my stepfather got in a terrible accident. He made it; he’s much better now, but we went to the hospital and there was the reality of death. That’s where “Trouble Found Me” came from. Also, “No Good Al Joad” is about a cousin who died of cancer. The way to live is to be able to live with death because you’re really in touch with now — with the moment — and you have to accept death. We mostly find ways of escaping thinking about it, but I think this album recognizes the impossibility of that. You can’t go back, and you can’t recreate it. It’s a beautiful thing when you get past that. Maybe the next record will be about getting past that, but this record is very much in it and struggling with it. I hope the record addresses living, too; I hope it shows those moments of recognition and clarity.

PHAWKER: Frances, who’s your biggest influence vocally?

FRANCES QUINLAN: I’m a huge fan of Nina Simone, David Bazan and Pedro the Lion, Thom Yorke, Björk, Leonard Cohen. It’s all about applying your character to the song and giving the songs character, and I think one of the best bands that does that is Belle and Sebastian. Everything has an overall character and feels like one big story or one world. Neutral Milk Hotel does that, too. That’s what I’m always striving for — finding that character and creating a world.

PHAWKER: Do you see yourselves playing together and making another album in the future?

MARK QUINLAN: I don’t see any other future than continuing to make albums. We’ll make album after album after album and then maybe die eventually.