By Brent Thompson
Photo Credit: Tonje Thilesen
“The Philadelphia Sound” was once synonymous with ’70s Soul hits produced by Gamble & Huff. But a new “Philadelphia Sound” has emerged and it’s rife with raw guitars. Alongside The War On Drugs, Waxahatchee, Dr. Dog and Beach Slang, the quartet Hop Along – Frances Quinlan, Mark Quinlan (Frances’s brother), Tyler Long and Joe Reinhart – is turning The City of Brotherly Love into a bona fide Rock hub. Earlier this year, the quartet released Bark Your Head Off, Dog [Saddle Creek Records], a nine-song collection of anxious, restless songs led by Frances’s vocals and guitar. On Friday, May 11, Hop Along will perform at Saturn with Saintseneca opening the 9 p.m. show. Recently, Frances spoke with us by phone from her Philadelphia home on a rare day off between stops in Boston and Baltimore.
Birmingham Stages: Frances, thanks for your time. If you will, talk about the evolution of Bark Your Head Off, Dog. Were these mostly newer songs or had they been around for a while in bits and pieces?
Frances Quinlan: Oh, both – it’s a little on the messy side, the way that songs come to be. On some of them, the concepts were older with ideas we’d been working on since March 2016. “How You Got Your Limp” was written just a couple of months before we started recording. A lot of songs are formed by pieces of other bits of writing where put two ideas together.
Birmingham Stages: Do songs still evolve after you take them into the studio?
FQ: Absolutely and we try to allow for that to happen. That is the blessing and curse of recording – you have all of these opportunities to make it better but you’ll always be wondering, “Have we done everything? and “Is it really done?” So if someone has an idea to switch parts or bring in an instrument that no one has thought of, that’s exactly what the studio is for in my opinion.
Birmingham Stages: Philadelphia is making a great name for itself in the music world these days.
FQ: It’s a city with so much character. This is my tenth year living in Philly and I’m starting to feel like a part of the community in a deeper way. It’s financially still a viable place for artists which a lot of cities are not becoming anymore. I think we’ve had a lot of people move here for that reason.
Birmingham Stages: How would you describe your writing process?
FQ: Personally, it’s messy and all over the map. I write pretty much everyday and there are always pieces lying around that could be good.
Birmingham Stages: Your recording career has spanned 13 years to this point. How do songs stay fresh and relevant to you even after you’ve played them literally hundreds of times by now?
FQ: We’ve brought out a couple of old songs that we haven’t played in a while and there are a couple of songs we put to bed on this tour because we’ve played them so much. Whenever we take a break and come back to something, we realize we’re playing a little differently and performing together a little differently so I think that in itself refreshes it. We’ve added a fifth member for this tour and that’s refreshed all of our material.
Hop Along will perform at Saturn on Friday, May 11. Saintseneca will open the 9 p.m. show. Advance tickets to the 18+ show are $15 and can be purchased at www.saturnbirmingham.com.