Hopewell “Preamble (Part II)” (Influenza)
Published in Blog Archive, Culture Bully. Tags: Influenza, Music.
As the depth of their touring resume might suggest—having supported names ranging from My Bloody Valentine to British Sea Power to the Posies—Brooklyn’s Hopewell creates music that satisfies any number of line-blurring genres that fall under the larger rock umbrella. Just as this focus on drawing from a wide spectrum of sounds has given the band ample opportunity to take its songs on the road, it’s also helped create an environment for ongoing musical experimentation. Not surprisingly, Drowned in Sound reflected on the band’s 2009 studio release Good Good Desperation, identifying the album as a “highly accomplished collection of loosely constructed individual pieces.” Interestingly though, that album began as a single ongoing piece before the band reshaped it into a more traditional format. In this edition of Influenza, Hopewell vocalist and guitarist (and one time touring bassist for Mercury Rev) Jason Russo explains the process behind recording their latest studio album, in particular focusing on the “choral piece” constructed by bassist Rich Meyer. The group recently completed a tour performing alongside the Dandy Warhols in support of a recently released live album, Hopewell Live Volume 1.
“Preamble (Part 2)” is an example of true collaboration within our band. Rich Meyer is, besides being one of the best bass players I know, an incredibly talented singer. So it was a no-brainer to ask him to compose a choral piece for the record. According to him I had coincidentally asked him to write “some sort of Bach choral thing” the day after he had downloaded the Brandenburg Concertos. I have no idea what that means, but Rich definitely does, and he says he wrote the whole thing in 20 minutes—with harmonies happening later. This serendipity continued in rehearsal when we realized that it was in the key of one of Lyndon’s new riffs.
The album Good Good Desperation began as one long song that we had dubbed “The Opus,” and “Preamble” was actually the second part of it. We eventually wrote some slightly more conventional songs (sorta) and wound up just using parts of our opus interspersed throughout the LP. We like to record a lot then assemble parts later. I think Pink Floyd’s “Atom Heart Mother” was on heavy rotation around our house at that time. Anyway, Lyndon writes excellent riffs so it was no huge leap in logic to attach a drone in the key of Lyndon’s latest, and get Rich to sing over it. Many many times. There are at least 24 vocal tracks on there; predominantly Rich’s but also layers of us all shouting in the background as well. After 12 or 15 vocal takes, recordings kind of collapse into themselves and become this shimmering mass of sound. Our buddy Damon mixed the record and he sure had his hands full trying to pan all of those so they didn’t become a sonic mess—we were so pleased the results we started the record with it.