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Saturday, March 2
The Indiana Daily Student

arts

Hop Along harnesses musical storytelling

Philadelphia indie rock band Hop Along plays Wednesday night at the Bishop. It released its second album, "Painted Shut," last year.

Frances Quinlan doesn’t need to know what the characters are thinking.

The vocalist of Philadelphia indie rock band Hop Along, which will play Wednesday night at the Bishop, often writes narrative songs.

Quinlan said her songwriting has been influenced by writers who spent little time vocalizing their characters’ thoughts, who show rather than tell.

That includes authors like Ernest Hemingway, whom she finds alternately problematic and admirable, Flannery O’Connor and 
Cormac McCarthy.

“I wanted to be a short story writer when I was growing up, so that definitely comes through,” 
she said.

Hop Along’s second record, “Painted Shut,” came out in May, but Quinlan has been writing songs for the project since it started as a solo endeavor in 2004.

Some of the songs on “Painted Shut” see Quinlan drawing from history.

On “Buddy in the Parade” and “Horseshoe Crabs,” she chronicles the ill-fated lives of musicians Buddy Bolden and Jackson C. Frank, respectively.

Elsewhere, she’s a passive character in her own stories, as she witnesses child abuse in “Powerful Man” and dodges an unwanted customer in “Waitress.”

“That’s where a lot of personal humiliation comes from — that feeling of being a bystander in your own life,” she said. “I don’t mean to address humiliation so much. It’s just a part of what enriches experience.”

Songs often kick around Quinlan’s head for a while before they’re fully formed, 
she said.

She witnessed the events of “Powerful Man” as a teenager, for example, but didn’t address them until “Painted Shut,” and she first read and wrote about Buddy Bolden in school nine years ago.

Even “Sister Cities,” the “Painted Shut” closing track that first surfaced as a single in 2013 was reformed with additional lyrics and music for the album version.

“Lyrics, for me, kick around for years,” 
Quinlan said. “I keep a lot of journals. I’ve been keeping journals since I was 18. I keep them around and have a look and see if I’ve had any great ideas.”

Hop Along has existed in some form for more than a decade, originally under the name Hop Along, Queen Ansleis. Quinlan released an album, “Freshman Year,” under that name in 2006.

A few years later, she shortened the name and expanded the band, which now includes her brother Mark on drums and former Algernon Cadwallader guitarist Joe Reinhart.

The songwriting process has since become more collaborative, she said, but she still tends to write on her own and bring skeletons of songs to the band.

“I kind of have to come up with stuff on my own,” she said. “I don’t spend a lot of time just playing guitar. I’m generally writing when I’m playing.”

Quinlan said the nine months since the release of “Painted Shut” have seen the band touring more than ever.

And whereas she said the band’s first full length, 2012’s “Get Disowned,” built interest through word-of-mouth, “Painted Shut” received acclaim in places like Rolling Stone and New York 
Magazine.

“It’s kind of steady in terms of building fans,” she said. “It’s the first time I’ve met people who said they just heard our band that day.”

The band plans to write more music this year, Quinlan said, but for now, the focus is on touring. She still has to figure out what to write about.

“I want to write good records,” she said. “I want to make music I can stand behind. I would love to make something and say, ‘That’s exactly what I meant to do,’ but that never happens. But who does that happen for?”

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