Union Transfer




Hop Along, Glocca Morra

Mon, July 14, 2014

Doors: 7:30 pm / Show: 8:00 pm

Union Transfer

Philadelphia, PA


This event is all ages

Owls have a new record. It didn't come fast and it didn't come easy.

It's been over two decades since Tim Kinsella, Mike Kinsella, Victor Villarreal, and Sam Zurick formed Cap'n Jazz as teenagers, and 13 years since they followed up that band with their debut self-titled album under the name Owls.

In the time that has passed since then, the members have kept active with a string of other endeavors (including Owen, Joan of Arc, Make Believe, and Ghosts and Vodka) that have never failed to showcase their vast, diverse, and ever-evolving musical aptitudes.

And yet, even as the four musicians branched off in separate directions, the thread that connected them still remained intact (even if it did become a bit frayed through two previous break-ups).

Following the 2010 Cap'n Jazz reunion tour, talk soon turned to doing another run of shows -- an idea which eventually morphed into making a second Owls record instead. After Zurick moved back to Chicago in February of 2012, false starts abounded before new material finally began to take shape.

As the band members soon discovered, taking on such a project meant aligning schedules and collaborating civilly, neither of which proved to be especially easy feats.

And yet, slowly, but surely, a songwriting routine fell into place: Villarreal would introduce a guitar riff from which Tim Kinsella would build a simple chord sequence and vocal melody. Then, the entire group would hash out the rest of the song amidst yelling, arguing, and practices that were often cut short or canceled outright.

"The band dynamic was eerily similar to the first record," reveals Mike Kinsella. "In some ways I think we all regressed to whatever roles we filled then, for better and for worse."

With such distinctive musical pedigrees and complex personal relationships to contend with, progress on the album was positively snail-like compared to the five days it took to complete the first record. But nothing good ever comes easily and a listen to Two bears out this adage. It's truly the kind of record that could only have been made by the four unique musicians who all had a hand in crafting it.

While sonically their technique still has the ability to dazzle, age and experience have lent new perspectives to tracks such as "I’m Surprised…” and "Ancient Stars Seed..." -- making them more aggressive and direct, but certainly no less captivating. The drums hit harder, the lyrics are less abstract, but at their core each song captures the essential qualities of its creators.

Says Tim Kinsella, "The line 'We've never had nice stuff' (on "Ancient Stars Seed") feels good to sing because we really are still a grubby foursome with broken equipment and no money and I see these shitty young bands every day with pedal boards and no ideas."

In a world that increasingly favors style over substance, Owls is unwilling to compromise the latter for the former. And that, at least, is something all the members can easily agree on.
Hop Along
Hop Along
Frances Quinlan has been meditating a lot on power. “When I was younger, I kept thinking that one day I would have a partner and that person would give me power,” she says. “That never came to be.” Instead, what Quinlan, the songwriter, lead vocalist, and rhythm guitarist of Hop Along, has found is that “power has an inherent awfulness to it and people who have it tend to be disappointing in how they wield it.” In this particular moment in history, this thought begs a greater question: what do we do with power and the men who so freely brandish it? “I’m angry that I believed in this false idea for so long, that a man would come along and show me what I was worth.”
This theme propels the Philadelphia-based band’s third studio record, Bark Your Head Off, Dog. Written over the course of 2016 and 2017 and recorded in the summer of the latter year by Quinlan, Tyler Long (bass), Joe Reinhart (guitar), and Mark Quinlan (drums), the album imagines what it’s like to cast off longheld perceptions, often without being certain about the new ones that will replace them. Much like on Hop Along’s first and second records, Get Disowned and Painted Shut, Quinlan seeks in real time to work through these emotions. On Bark Your Head Off, Dog, she also grasps at something more complicated. “Growing up I was constantly in my head and not a part of the world,” she says. “Now I’m trying to force myself into the world.” 

Throughout Bark Your Head Off, Dog, one gets the sense that Quinlan is wandering in the thicket of a forest—a state of being that will feel familiar to longtime listeners—and on this outing, she hasn’t left a trail of breadcrumbs behind her. The album’s artwork, which Quinlan painted herself, invites the listener into that forest, as well. “There is a terror in getting lost,” she says, “the woods are at the same time beautiful and horrifying.” This curious wandering gives the album, both lyrically and musically, a heightened dimensionality. On “Somewhere a Judge,” Hop Along explores a dancier side to their sound, while “What the Writer Meant” showcases a string section and enormous, full harmonies. “One That Suits Me” welcomes and embraces the sound of a Rhodes and tambourine, but with a syncopated vocal rhythm on top, almost building to a call-and-response. Throughout, the music is full of gratifying, new deviations.
Bark Your Head Off, Dog is, without question, Hop Along’s most dynamic and textured record yet. Self-produced and recorded at The Headroom in Philadelphia by Reinhart and Kyle Pulley, Bark Your Head Off, Dog features the familiar sounds that have always made the band allergic to genre: grunge, folk, punk, and power pop all appear, with inspiration from ELO to Elvis Costello to ‘70s girl group vocal arrangements. This time around, they’ve added strings, more intricate rhythms, lush harmonies (featuring Thin Lips’ Chrissy Tashjian), along with a momentary visit with a vocoder. In more than one place, Mark Quinlan drums like he’s at a disco with Built to Spill.
“We wanted to get back to using the studio as a writing tool and bring elements of that in,” Reinhart says of the production process. “When you’re sitting there and you force yourself to figure something out, in the studio, there are unlimited possibilities.” This visit to the studio often required a lot of throwing things at Quinlan’s new demos, then scaling them back after the fact. “Why are we doing mandolin? It’s 5am. We have to get on a plane tomorrow,” Reinhart says of the thirty-five day recording process. “But then we ended up keeping it.”
On the album’s opening track, “How Simple,” Quinlan wrangles with what it’s like to learn about yourself—which can get ugly. “People romanticize the idea of finding themselves, but when they do, at least in my experience, it can be really difficult. You see how you fail others and how others fail you.” The theme carries through to “How You Got Your Limp” and “Not Abel,” where Quinlan sings about the ways other people can be disappointing, relative strangers and biblical figures. The record also calls upon references that Quinlan has woven throughout all of the band’s albums: the wild presence of animals (rabbits, foxes, dogs, and blue jays all appear on this record) and historical touchstones (from a podcast on World War I to books by Karl Ove Knausgaard). Hop Along’s songs continue to reveal the curiosities nesting in Quinlan’s mind.
Most significantly, Bark Your Head Off, Dog shows the band at its strongest and most cohesive. Hop Along (which originally began as Quinlan’s solo project under the moniker Hop Along, Queen Ansleis) has never sounded so deliberate, so balanced. “Really, there are four producers in the band,” Reinhart says. “Everybody has ideas. Maybe somebody riffs on this thing, while somebody else says, ‘Let’s do it like that, but backwards.’ The last record was a snapshot of a band becoming a band.” On this record, they are truly that: a band. “Our confidence grew in our ability to express what we mean,” Quinlan says. 
“So strange to be shaped by such strange men” is a line that repeats on more than one song on the album. “I’ve been thinking about that a lot. That I just deferred to men throughout my life,” Quinlan says. “But by thinking you’re powerless, you’re really robbing yourself. I’m at a point in my life where I’m saying instead, ‘Well, what can I do?’”
Glocca Morra
Glocca Morra
Quiet and loud, screamy and melodic, Glocca Morra pummel you with a skillful abandon. Much akin to a band like Bear Vs. Shark who could so perfectly walk those opposing tightropes, Glocca Morra are blurring the lines of post-hardcore note by note and scream by scream. You can get the band's Museum Mouth EP for just $2 and it is packaged inside of a brown paper bag with hand drawn art. Can anybody say hell yeah!?
Venue Information:
Union Transfer
1026 Spring Garden St.
Philadelphia, PA, 19123