Frances Quinlan: “All my Friends are Here. It’s Just a Blast to See Everyone, Hang Out at the End and Then Just Walk Home.”
For a long time, Hop Along was one of Philly’s best kept secrets. The band centers around Frances Quinlan, whose scruffy and powerful – yet delicate – voice will give you the chills. The witty lyrics in the band’s emotional narratives are eminently singable, with diehard fans crooning along with every word that comes out of the petite singer’s mouth.
She started the captivating journey as a freak-folk solo project in high school before she looped in her brother Mark to play the drums, Tyler Long on the bass and Joe Reinhart, of Algernon Cadwallader fame, on guitar.
Following Painted Shut, their sophomore album and first collective studio release, the gig was up. It’s not hard to be captivated by the raw vocals and intricate stories they tell on stage.
You started Hop Along years ago as a solo freak-folk project. Painted Shut was like a new era with the full band dynamic. How has this whole thing progressed?
It started out strictly out of necessity. I didn’t have a band. I didn’t really gravitate to the electric guitar when I first started playing. It was much easier to write songs on the acoustic – the songs just kind of came together without a vision. Learning how to collaborate has been the hugest teacher for me. Collaboration and compromise. But I think that’s a part of growing up for everybody. We’re supposed to learn how to work together.
Speaking of growing up, your brother Mark plays the drums. Any sibling rivalry ever come up?
Ha ha! That never goes away. Any family stuff is always there.
What’s it like playing with family anyway?
It’s the best. I play music with a person I love with all of my heart. Tyler and Joe have gotten to be like brothers also. We’re very close. On the other hand when you are very close you argue a lot because you know how to get to each other. But I think that’s just what happens when you care about people. You have to take both elements.
And how about being the only chick in the band?
It can be a little lonely being the only one that has to deal with being on your period on tour.
It’s funny that you bring that up. I was scrolling through your Twitter feed and found this gem: “#TFW you sing so hard your tampon comes out”
Oh, yeah. Everyone was so stoked in the band when I put that up. They were like, ‘That’s by far your best tweet.’
Do you guys get into any weird stuff on stage?
Lately I’ve been switching instruments for this one Nirvana cover (“Sappy”). It’s always funny turning around and seeing Joe playing drums and Mark rocking out on guitar. We’ve had the power go out. Nothing too crazy. I, for one, am kind of boring when it comes to shenanigans. People tell me their tour stories and it blows my mind.
Even if they’re rare, do you have any shenanigans to share?
Mark and I went on tour with PS Eliot in 2011. We blew three tires on that tour and the van caught on fire on the last day driving home from Birmingham, Alabama. It was some time in August and we just didn’t know that it’s very important that you buy nice tires. So, we got cheap ones and they all blew. The last one hit something that made the power steering fluid tumble out and that caught fire. Mike managed to put it out with Powerade.
Yeah. The water wasn’t working but the Powerade put it out. Who knows what’s in that?
That sounds like a weird experience with electrolytes.
Made me reconsider drinking it.
You guys are on the bill for the Pabst Citywide Festival. Do you have a soft spot for PBR?
It’s fine… in the summer when it’s really, really hot, I don’t mind a cold beer of any kind. But we’re stoked to be on this show.
Do you have a go-to drunk recipe after a night out?
I eat the same things no matter what. Ramen is tight all the time with veggies and an egg on top.
There you go, jazzing it up a little more than your standard chalky seasoning pack.
Well, I am an adult.
Philly is your home base. What do you like about playing here?
All my friends are here. It’s just a blast to see everyone, hang out at the end and then just walk home. That’s pretty great.
How do you view the city scene?
It’s just constantly refreshing and replenishing itself. There are new bands every week that I’ve never heard of. There are younger people and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down.
What’s it like to try to keep up with that?
Oh, you can’t think that way. Any time I try to keep up with anything, I notice how behind I am. So, I try not to think that way and try to be happy for people who are putting new records out. I’ve never done anything quickly, so trying to keep up is a little too much torture for somebody like me.
I identify with that. I can’t seem to do anything quickly either.
Someone younger is going to do something a lot earlier than you did, and that’s just the way it is. Why not be happy about it? That’s what I tell myself.
How do you spend your free time?
I try to work on songs. I might try to go dancing with one of my friends. I haven’t done that in years. Other than that, writing and painting.
Any good at dancing?
No. Not at all. You just have to go for it. That’s what it’s all about.