Hop Along: Honest and Unresolved.
Frances Quinlan remembers a time she had to get in touch with her inner Lois Lane.
Hop Along’s singer-guitarist sits outside Fishtown’s Kraftwork Bar with brother, Hop Along drummer Mark Quinlan and bassist Tyler Long, recounting how her 7-year-old self was made to sing the 1978 Superman love song “Can You Read My Mind” during a short stint in vocal lessons.
“My parents were like, ‘She really likes to sing. Let’s deter her as much as possible by making her sing Tina Turner, Bette Midler and the theme song from Superman,’” says Frances, now 26. “Of course I ended up loving Bette Midler.”
She picked up a guitar years later when her oldest brother Andrew took her to the Quakertown Flea Market – dubbed “Q-Mart” – where she bought a purple guitar for $50. The two would go on to play in a project called Brother and Sister. That lasted until Frances left to study painting at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore. There, she would write material for her first, folksy solo album Freshman Year in 2005.
“When I started solo I always wanted a band,” she says, “but I was just starting out on guitar so it was rough on the people jamming with me. When I recorded my first album, I put a ton of stuff on it, just crammed it literally with bells and whistles. That was the closest I could come to having a band kind of experience.”
After graduating from college, Frances remembers a serendipitous moment. Her brother Mark’s band was folding and she was able to begin recording music with him.
“I really needed to go to another level with what I was trying to do and it eventually all came together,” says Frances, who remembers practicing with Mark in their parent’s driveway. “We couldn’t really find a bass player who could really stick with us until Tyler came around. Finally, I feel like we have a really strong core.”
“Our first practice is funny to think about,” adds Mark. “I was in this band where I hit as hard as I could and played as much as I possible could.”
Mark moved to Hell’s Kitchen to follow his fiancé, who attends medical school in New York, but he commutes to work at WRTI 90.1 FM in North Philly. He dedicates each Tuesday to Hop Along practice.
Being in a band with your sibling means things can get a lot more heated than a normal friendship would, Frances says, but situations also diffuse a lot more quickly.
“Whether or not we agree on our musical interests,” says Frances, “now, I think, we have really begun to communicate well together, especially with this latest record.”
The band’s debut album, Get Disowned, was released in May on Hot Green Records. The label is run by Algernon Cadwallader guitarist Joe Reinhart, who produced and played assorted guest parts on the 10-track album. It was the label’s first non-Algernon release.
“He is completely integral to every single thing we did on this record,” says Mark of Reinhart. “He is an incredible visionary who knows immediately how to play to the strengths of every musician he’s working with. And he’s charming as hell. God, he’s charming.”
The record is the result of a long, two-year recording process in North Philly’s communal workspace, Big Momma’s Warehouse.
“It gave us a lot of time to really think about everything and really give ourselves to every song,” says Frances, who did the album’s cover artwork.
Frances says the album centers around “wanting to go back but being unable to, and the bitterness in that and the bitterness of one’s own helplessness in the world.”
Frances and Mark experienced their stepfather getting in a very serious car accident – a moment that Frances says made her think a lot about the things that she has valued, the regrets around those values and how she treated people because of her own desires.
“I’ve always written dark lyrics,” she says. “But when you have a 19-year-old girl voice and you’re trying to sing about death, I don’t think people quite pick up on it as much as when you’re 26 and screaming it kind of aggressively. It’s not at all about a solution. Every song resolves in, ‘Now what do I do?’”
“Even musically it kind of does that,” adds Mark. “It kind of feels unresolved at the end of the songs. I’d like to act like that was my intention but it kind of just happened that way.”
“It’s where we were,” says Frances. “It’s honest, at least.”
Hop Along begins a 45-day, full U.S. tour in early September with shows nearly every day. They’ll wind up at The Fest in Gainesville, Florida at the end of October.
“Without the supportive people in our lives, there’s no way we’d be able to do this,” Mark says. “It’s really important to have that tight-knit group of people behind you who you can truly say you love and that love you. That’s the key.”