THE INTERVIEW: Hopewell
Hopewell is embarking on its tour for their new album Good Good Desperation. Although it has been touted as space rock or psychedelic, it beautifully encompasses both of those genres as well as a sound tapestry that is lusciously rich and dipped to the core of what really good music is, a hard to categorize escape that just feels right.
I had the pleasure of speaking with lead singer Jason Russo who prefers the term narrator instead. We spoke about Hopewell, their creative process and the white jeans he’s worn for every Hopewell show for the last 5 years.
When was Hopewell formed?
We formed in 1995. We’re from Hopewell Junction, New York. We watched Hopewell turn from a town to a strip. Hopewell consists of Jason Green on drums, Tyson Lewis on keyboard and drums, Lyndon Roeller on guitar and Rich Meyer on bass. All of us sing except the drummer. I am the lead singer or better, the narrator.
Your music is heavily expansive. I’ve heard it categorized as psychedelic or space rock.
Marketing teams make it a business to sale. We definitely did not set out to sell a particular sound. We set out to do what we liked. We did not set out to be any of those labels. We are labeled a lot of things and it doesn’t really matter. It is funny to watch people try. I just know we don’t sound like other bands but we understand that doing so makes it easier for people to sell you. We don’t make music for labels. Our last album was called space rock. We tried to get away from that on this album.
What do you want people to take away from your album?
I want people to feel taken out of themselves. That’s why we do it. To get something bigger than our personalities. We want people to step out of life. To forget their work week or to forget the fight they had with their boyfriend or girlfriend. We want people to transcend what’s going on. We’re not separate from that. We’re doing the same thing. We are doing it to serve. To transcend.
One of my favorite songs on Good Good Desperation is “Realms of Gold.” What does that song mean?
It is our take on the travel song. We have done a lot of tours and we’ve traveled all over the place. We know how it feels to be many days travel from home. A lot of ideas and stories born out of the tour are on this album. We’re from New York, the east coast, and ended up in the desert with space and decided to put that into the music.
Do you prefer being in the studio or playing live?
At first I only wanted to do studio work like Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Pink Floyd type compositions. I was not comfortable with the moniker of being a lead singer because of the amount of posturing that comes with it. We can all agree that live shows are fun. We were studio rats. I was uncomfortable playing live until I put the white pants on. But as for our shows, after the first one or two songs we remember why we are there.
What’s it like performing “Oh Yoko” on a bus while there’s a yapping dog wailing in the background?
We did a spot for La Blogotheque; they put musicians in interesting places and then film them. We were heading to the East River to play at a pay toilet. To get to the bathroom we had to take the bus. “Oh Yoko” is a love song written to Yoko by John Lennon. I am a fan of her fluxus artwork. She was into this when she first met John. It is conceptual and beautiful to me. He was a working class bloke and she gave him an avant-garde edge. She was a big influence, definitely.
What was it like to record at Abbey Road?
We did our master single at Abbey Road. We were like kids in a candy store.
In my opinion Hopewell is a very sexy band, sound and looks. Is that something you are aware of? Is that okay? Do you have to work at it or does it just come naturally?
We don’t work at it. I feel if you try to do that it doesn’t work. I am Italian and maybe it just comes through. We are cerebral but when we play we try not to be analytical.
What is the overall creative process?
For this album, a lot of the songs were born live. In the past everyone would contribute parts and riffs. Last year we went to Woodstock. A friend said not to play rock songs for an hour and came up with a forty five minute piece. We then took what sounded good and made this album. Instead of voice, chorus, voice on our new record, we took it apart. We took what we came up with together and then deconstructed it.
Any good luck charms, things you have to take with you on tour?
Lyndon has to take his netty pot for his sinuses, which is kinda gross. I’ll take good books, lots of underwear, socks and one pair of jeans. I’ll take “The Loved One” by Evelyn Waugh, “As I lay Dying” by William Faulkner, and “the Crying of Lot 49,” by Thomas Pynchon.
What are you listening to now?
The Akron Family, Brian Eno, Roxy Music, Can, Magma and Dr Dog.
Are you excited to start your tour?
Very excited. Apprehensive. What makes it manageable to living in New York is that you get to leave. It will be fun to see all of our friends in different cities.