Hopesfall break the reunion curse, come back swinging with “Tunguska”
Hopesfall’s tenure on Trustkill Records throughout the ’00s was synonymous with an evolving sound—one spanning space-obsessed melodic hardcore (The Satellite Years), intense alt-rock exploration (A Types) and their dark post-hardcore demise (Magnetic North).
Today, AP is premiering “Tunguska” from Arbiter, Hopesfall’s first album in over a decade, due July 13 via Equal Vision/Graphic Nature Records. “Yesterday, we actually engaged someone on Twitter about a Ghostbusters reference to the Great Siberian Tunguska of 1908,” vocalist Jay Forrest says. “The song is referencing the real phenomenon.” The phenomenon the singer speaks of was an explosion of a meteroid that levelled a sparsely populated area of Russia nearly 800 miles long, but yielded no fatalities.
Heralding the band’s return to making music, Brian Kraus caught up with guitarist Josh Brigham and frontman Jay Forrest to dig deep into the band’s quiet thump of a breakup, their enthusiastic return 11 years later and everything in the space between.
Let’s start with Magnetic North and talk about how the band left off. Do you look back on that record in a certain way?
JAY FORREST: An honest answer for me, I felt like A Types was not perfect. Not saying that we’ve ever really written a perfect record, but it was a necessary step to open up the palette. Magnetic North, to me, is a more refined blend. A little more Satellite Years. Gets a little darker.
Jay, I remember Hopesfall touring on Magnetic with Junior Varsity and Vanna. You were the only member of the band. What was the deal with that?
FORREST: That was a touring version of Hopesfall. I think right before or just after Magnetic came out, most of us knew we were done. There was just a lot of pressure from management, the album was coming out and I was the only one who went out and did two tours. Basically, they recruited some guys they worked with before, and we went out and gave it our best shot to let Magnetic have a little bit of life, at least promotional wise.
I would almost say the band broke up before that, amongst the members who were in the band or writing it. I had one condition going into touring with all these new members; that would be done with the idea of changing the name and starting a new project if we were gelling.
That had to be strange for the actual members of the band to witness.
FORREST: It was difficult, for sure. It definitely created a rift between the Magnetic guys, you know, the Hopesfall guys and the Hopesfall touring guys. It’s still kind of a debatable issue. [Laughs.] I don’t know. You can ask Josh how he feels about it.
Josh, what was your take on why the band broke up?
JOSH BRIGHAM: Well, I was really happy with all the performances, and I love [Magnetic]. I thought it was an accurate representation of where we were at in our lives. It was a dark record. I still feel that energy when I listen to it sometimes. We were in a black hole back then. The reason I quit was cut and dry: They took my favorite song off the record [“Saskatchewan,” listenable on YouTube, in addition to a B-side sans vocals] without me knowing about it. I was like, “All right, why did I just spend nine years of my life doing this? Fuck you, I’m done. [Laughs]. I’ll go live my life now.” I felt like a burden was lifted off me. I swore that was the end for me. I’ll never play music again. Time for the next chapter.
Yeah, we had rocky relationships and stuff, but what do you expect from a bunch of guys in their mid-20s not making a lot of money? Hoping for something else. It was tough times. I’m glad it happened when it did; looking back on it now is kind of a blessing in disguise. I was able to get on with my life and not drag it out. When we came back around with this [reunion], we weren’t even trying to write [like] Hopesfall. We were just trying to write music.
Did the band and Trustkill come to a head on Magnetic North?
BRIGHAM: It started off good, and slowly went downhill. It’s well over a decade ago, so I’ve made my peace with all that. I don’t want that to be the story that defines us, like you hear, “This band got ripped off by this label.” Big deal, so does fucking everybody! You have to pick yourself up and keep moving forward.
So why come back and work with Graphic Nature/EVR, if you were soured by the label experience previously?
FORREST: They were fair. I think we’re coming into a different age, a little bit. Things are more transparent. We’re on a one-album deal, too.
So you’re not tied down for the next 10 years of your lives. But, what’s the endgame of getting back together?
BRIGHAM: The future is unknowable. It’s been exciting and validating. And fun to put some art back out there. “Hey World, you can listen to this or not.”
FORREST: We’re just kind of putting our foot in the water, seeing how the water feels. We have other careers, families, things like that.
What have you all been up to since the band dissolved?
FORREST: I production manage a 1,500 capacity venue in Chicago called Concord Music Hall. Josh, Dustin [Nadler, guitar] and Chad [Waldrup, bass] work at a brewery in Charlotte. Adam [Morgan, drums] is at a printing company, Contagious Graphics—he’s been there forever. It’s fun for me to see guys we toured with come through Concord, like Every Time I Die and Silverstein. Not just band members, but crew, front of house, tour managers, all that stuff. It’s kind of a cool way to stay involved, and working at a brewery is just cool in general. [Laughs.]
Back in 2011, Hopesfall played a one-off show after the breakup with original vocalist Doug Venable.
BRIGHAM: Our good friends in Codeseven were like, “Hey, this club that we love that closed down is reopening, Ziggy’s in Winston-Salem. We’re gonna do the opening show. Would you guys play?” We said, “We should do this. We grew up in that club.”
Jay, did you feel left out?
FORREST: I didn’t. I didn’t at all. I didn’t make it down for that, but I made sure that I got a poster of it. I don’t know. I feel pretty connected to the Arbiter lineup and the past members. They all kind of feel like family to me. I’ve known Doug for longer than I’ve known anybody else in the band.
So, this is the first time this exact Hopesfall lineup has been together?
BRIGHAM: Right. Everybody was in the band at some point but in different times.
When did the reunion start to take shape?
FORREST: Adam and Josh came up to Chicago for a Shiner reunion show in 2012. That was at the venue I was working at then; they stayed with me, and they had the first four songs that would make it on Arbiter demoed out. They let me listen to that for the first time. I remember we went out to the backyard; it was like 5 a.m. in the morning. Josh and I were having a heart to heart, and he was like, “Dude, do you want to sing on this stuff?” and I was like, ”Yeah. Let's fucking do it.”
Wow, this has been in the works for a long time.
BRIGHAM: That’s really what it was. We would get together and jam around, and then we’d go bowling. Very casual.
Arbiter does not disappoint like so many reunion/hiatus records tend to, where they lose the “magic.” Everything is on point and on another level—catchy, heavy, spacey. It’s all there. Returning to Mike Watts, who worked on both A Types and Magnetic, seems like you treated Arbiter as another Hopesfall record, and not necessarily a “reunion record.”
BRIGHAM: Yeah, Mike was the same with us as he always was. “Hey, I like this, no I don’t like this.” We get in there and figure it out. He’s always been fun to work with; we just get along with him. He knows how to talk to us. He knows when to step up and tell us, “Hey, you fuckin’ idiots. You need to focus over here.” Or when to sit back and just let us do our thing. There’s a trust factor.
FORREST: It’s nice to have someone like Mike; he knows us pretty well. He knows our personalities. I think a good producer is somewhat of a...
BRIGHAM: Psychologist [Laughs.]
FORREST: They actually said we were one of the best bands who communicated to each other in the studio. I never really thought about that before.
BRIGHAM: I think all five people have a different opinion on what the best song on the record is. I was shocked. My favorite song that we wrote on this record, Jay ranked it ninth.
That’s at the bottom of the barrel. [Laughter.] What song was that?
FORREST: “Faint Object Camera.”
BRIGHAM: I didn’t talk to him for a day.
FORREST: Can I also say that I like 10 songs on the album? There’s an 11th by the way, but it didn’t make the record.
BRIGHAM: One of my favorite riffs that we wrote for the whole thing is on the song that didn’t make it. But the record, the way it turned out, felt like a complete piece of music. That’s what we set out to do. The other thing that helped us in making the record [was that] the label was very gracious with saying, “just get it done when it’s done.” As far as being creative, I felt zero pressure. We can take some time and give it some breath. That was helpful.
FORREST: I want to touch on one thing. I have a theory about what you were talking about earlier, about reunion records losing the magic. We weren’t necessarily at the height of our career when the band broke up. I don’t feel so much of a reunion album attempt. This isn’t something we’re trying to catch on. We’re not At The Drive-In, who just put out this amazing record and dropped off for 17 years, you know? We kind of fizzled out, and I think that left a chip on our shoulder. I don’t think there’s necessarily a bar set to try and exceed. We have more of an open playing field.
Arbiter is released July 13 on Equal Vision/Graphic Nature Records. Click here to order.