Hope Of The States
Taking their name from a paper of recommendations for the psychiatric care professionals recommending improvements in Mental Asylums and wearing coats of armour you could say that The Hope Of The States are not your usual band of indie losers. Fusing the sound of the post-rock scene into a pop aesthetic the band sound like Radiohead and the Levellers jamming at 3 in the morning after more than a few jars of ale. Designer Magazine caught up with frontman Sam Herlihy prior to the bands somewhat strange appearance on TOTP's.
Q: After the Polyphonic Spree tour and a number of shows before hand this is your first major headline tour. How does it feel?
A: We've done a couple of shows before in smaller venues, so in a corporate rock whore way this is a step up. It's kind of nice for us to play some bigger venues as well. Generally for us the bigger venues are better for us because there's so many of us in the band and all the projections and stuff. If you have a little rock band playing a pub it probably comes across really well because it totally suits it, but for us it's been a bit difficult I think.
Q: Hope Of The States are a band who take influences from a wide variety of different spheres. Films, art, literature along with musical influences make up the band as it is now. Where did the specific idea for the projections come from?
A: The thing with the visuals is that they are in a weird way influenced by what's coming from the songs. They come from very much what Matt and Ed are thinking about at the time. They often don't take cinematic ideas and they just take more image based things from the songs. A lot of songs take influence from films and it's kind of weird the way it works because there projections are less cinematic than the music which is really backward.
To me there are some bands that do it quite well and other bands so it as an affectation. They just have some random images in the background whereas for us the visuals are such an integral part of the songs, they drop the i's and cross the t's on the emotional ideas that were trying to get across with the songs. As much as the visuals completely get across what were about and what were trying to say it's kind of nice that people like that abstract nature of it.
Q: The ideas behind the name are similarly well though out as well. Tell us about how you came by the Hope Of The States?
A: The name is from an academic paper. This guy did a book of photos called "The Shame Of The States" which was photo's of mental asylums in the 40s and it's basically what all films that have mental asylums have based their imagery on. Then he wrote a paper for psychiatric care professional called "Hope Of The States". We've never actually seen a copy of the paper though, so you never know, somebody could have written about it on the net and lied. We kind of picked it because it didn't really sound like a band name, it sounded like a sunken ship that somebody had been dredged up 100 years after it had sunk.
Q: Where did the ideas come for the military look. Is it you guys against the world?
A: We had this idea that because there were so many of us on the first couple of gigs we did. We didn't' want to just go on stage and look like a bunch of students and have people looking at that guys got a cool pair of jeans or a cool T-shirt on. To me it just detracts from it and I'm the same with any band I watch, but with us and the visuals with the projections it just takes away from it. It ties in with he imagery that's in the songs and which is in the films, it's not a re-anaction society. When we put the jackets on it's like putting the armour on.
Q: You do take a lot of the sound and structures of the post-rock genre and fuse them into 4 minutes. Is that what you try to achieve?
A: The idea when we first started was to take these big songs and condense them down into little pop songs. We all listen to completely stuff and there's probably on 2 or 3 bands that everyone in the band thinks are great. The fact that basically the way the songs are written is i'll write a sketch of the song on guitar or piano and everybody does their thing without a lot of control from me so we all write the song. Everybody is coming at it from a completely different angle and all we have in common musically is the fact that we all know how the song should sound at the end and what were trying to get across.
The reason we've struggled to find someone to make records with is that what we love about what we do is every instrument seems to be playing a melody, even the drum parts in a rhythmical way are playing a melody, and on record sometimes it can be better to tone that down a bit. But if you tone it down too much it won't seem anything like us.
Q: "Black Dollar Bills" is changing hands on Ebay for serious money and the new single "Enemies Friends" if not collectable has turned into bona fide TOTP's stars. Tell us about the concept for the single?
A: "Enemies Friends" is one of the oldest songs that we still do. It's kind of nice for us thinking about it now, and it wasn't really thought out, the first record "Black Dollar Bills" was 8 minutes long and kind of miserable...it's nice for the first proper record to be something a bit more positive. I think it's got all the sonics of all the odder stuff that we do, but condensed in. How the f**k we ended up on Top Of The Pops is just unbelievable - it's the same recording of the song we did a year before we got signed. The fact that people are buying it with virtually no radio play is amazing - it's like when I was a kid and this really odd record just made it into the charts. With TOTP's being the usual tripe were going to put our own mark on it rather than being another commercial band on TOTP's and being TOTPs-ified by the BBC.
"Enemies / Friends" is out now on Seeker / Sony
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