Interview with Jason Sebastian Russo of Hopewell

Let’s talk about ‘Hopewell Live Volume 1.’

It comes out on November 2nd. A few days after that we’re going out on tour with The Dandy Warhols — not a full national tour, but about half of it.

That’s exciting. Have you played with them before?

I’ve never played with them — no! My friend Peter [Holmström] is in that band, and I became friends with him when we played with [another] band he had called Rebel Drones.

Oh, out of Portland.

Correct. Hopewell was touring through the area, we ended up doing a show with Rebel Drones, and that’s kind of how our friendship was struck up.

Doesn’t Rebel Drones also feature Plucky of Spindrift and ex-Warlocks?

Yes, Jason. And Matt Hollywood was also in that band. Kind of an all-star cast.

I was hoping Rebel Drones would come out to the East Coast at some point.

Actually, I spent a fair amount of time trying to convince Tee Pee Records to put their record out, but I guess I only have so much sway — which is none.

I’d like to see that too.

Yeah, that’s that whole crew. There’s a Portland contingent of the crew that you are, obviously, a part of in New York, [the neo-psych scene].

Yeah, it’s funny, I was just having that same conversation with Tommy Dietrick from Sky Parade about how whatever city you go to, your circle is still there, as long as you can find them.

Hopewell’s tours have been a process of figuring that out — [in each city], what bands you play with when you’re there, and what venues. Once you tap in, you’re tapped in. It’s great. Hopewell’s always managed to be in that crew, and happy about it, because we’re a hard band to put anywhere. We enjoy a good camaraderie with that crew, but not exclusively that crew, and I would say they’re not exclusively into us either. We’re a little different than your normal sound from that contingent.

I see what you’re saying. Hopewell is definitely not your “cookie-cutter” neo-psych band.

For sure. And we’ve been a band for so long that depending on what album you happen to buy, you could be picking up a very different Hopewell.

To get back to ‘Hopewell Live Volume 1,’ the tracks were recorded at both The Truck Festival America and ATP, right?

Right.

Are you happy with how they all came out?

It’s funny, I remember when I was a kid, we used to watch “The Song Remains The Same,” Led Zeppelin’s live [film]. I remember reading that they actually thought that was a bad Led Zeppelin show, and I was like, “What are they talking about?” Years later I re-listened to some of it and went, “Actually, yeah, everyone’s kind of out of tune…” Led Zeppelin is famous for being kind of loose-tight, and there’s quite a bit of looseness in that live album of theirs. So I would say the shows at Truck and ATP were fun, but they weren’t the shows that I remember as being those magical Hopewell shows that will occur a few times a year. But, the tapes are never rolling during those. Sometimes it almost doesn’t matter how I feel anyway, because what I might think is a magical show — the vibe might be killer, but the performance might be shitty. And I personally prefer the vibe, but when you’re making a live document you kinda want it somewhere in the middle.

Yeah, you want both. I know what you mean, it seems like sometimes with those magic moments you just have to sacrifice them to the universe. Some things aren’t meant or allowed to be captured, it seems.

And maybe it would be impossible to capture.

That was the first time the Truck Festival had happened in America, but you guys had played Truck in England before, correct?

Yeah, and I should note that 90% of the tracks came from Truck America. It’s a two-part live album, [actually]. This first one [that comes out on November 2nd] is a snapshot of how the band is now. It’s gotten heavier and weirder as we get older, which I think is a little different than the usual, but we’ve always been a little different than the usual. If you investigate earlier Hopewell, [you’ll find that] it’s a lot more indie-psychedelia, but more on the pop side. We had a girl drummer for six years, and she sang a bunch of the songs, so we were more on the ramshackle, lo-fi shoegaze tip, for lack of better terms. But as we approach Hopewell now, it’s a bunch of angry dudes doing abstract shit. So, anyway, the second part, which is going to come out around the time we go to SXSW next year, will be more like looking back at the past, even though it’s with the current lineup.

Was The Jane’s Addiction cover recorded at ATP?

Yes.

It sounds fantastic.

Man, that song — you know, we’ve never been too concerned with marketing ourselves, and I think releasing a 9-minute version of a really slow, obscure cover isn’t probably the smartest move, but we just love the vibe of that!

I bet Perry Farrell will love it too!

[laughs] I’ve had friends who’ve threatened to give him Hopewell records just because we like to cite them a lot, and play up our teenage influence by them, but I’ve not heard anything from him. We’ll see. I’d honestly like to get him on a covers record. We’ve been working on this covers project for a little over a year now, and probably by the end of next year we hope to release a record of covers that’s basically… all the people that influenced us when we were first starting, I’ve somehow become friends with via the Internet, or a lot of them are my neighbors in Williamsburg. We have members of Rollerskate Skinny singing on a song, I’ve got Mark Gardener from Ride singing a Brian Eno cover that we’re covering… so my long-term goal is to get Perry Farrell on something. I don’t know if it’ll ever happen, but we can dream.

That sounds like it’ll be a really cool record.

Yeah, I’m excited about that one. That’s more of a studio project, it’ll be really tripped-out.

It’s interesting, I’ve seen Hopewell several times, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen you with two drummers.

For us to go to that extreme [of two full kits], it has to be a large stage with a lot of time to prep. So when we’re playing the clubs in New York we just bring a stripped-down version of it. Same goes for backing singers. I would love to have the time and the budget to bring a five-part female choir [to every show], but the most we’ve managed to get is three. So, it’s scalable depending on the budget.

That’s kind of cool to be able to do that.

I think for the Dandy’s tour we’ll probably only have two girls. One of them is also playing violin, and we’re gonna use the half drumkit. So, one and a half drums.

Well, you should be able to do just about whatever you want.

Yeah, at this juncture, Hopewell is not going to be the next U2, and we don’t want to be anyway. We can kind of do whatever the fuck we want, and we’re psyched about that. It doesn’t matter anymore. It’s nice.

That’s great.

I really appreciate you taking the time to ask about our music. Smart listeners make me want to keep making music, so thanks for being one of those. Keep fighting the good fight.

Pick up Hopewell’s new record Hopewell Live Volume 1 and check out their upcoming tour dates:

11/06 Webster Hall – NY, NY
11/07 Electric Factory – Philadelphia, PA
11/09 Rams Head Live – Baltimore, MD
11/10 The Orange Peel – Asheville, NC
11/11 Center Stage – Atlanta, GA
11/13 Granada Theatre – Dallas, TX
11/14 End Of An Ear Records – Austin, TX
11/14 La Zona Rosa – Austin, TX