Earlier this year, I wrote about Hopesfall, one of the bands that was a primary influence on my early musical tastes. Their first album The Frailty of Words and the No Wings to Speak Of EP are still two of my favorite post-hardcore/emo records.
But as it often does, life intervened, and the group splintered. Over the course of a decade as a band, as many as 12 different members were involved either as touring musicians only, album musicians only, or both.
Notably after the release of their second full length The Satellite Years was the switch in vocalists, from original singer Doug Venable to Jay Forrest, seen here performing my favorite Hopesfall song, “The Bending”, in one of my very favorite Hellfest moments.
This switch marks the end of an era (song pun) and, as you might expect, the start of a new one. In essence, there are 2 Hopesfalls: with periods (.hopesfall.) and without. So I guess the periods are Doug Venable. Maybe I’m the only one to ever make that assertion. Maybe I’ve uncovered a national treasure.
Periods or not, Forrest brought with him a new genre: “spacecore.” Venable’s vocals were largely reminiscent of traditional post-hardcore, with obvious emo influences. With a new singer aboard, the band ventured into the realm of ambient hardcore… but also lost my own personal interest in doing so.
I talked with my friend Jason Ford, aka, the only other person that I know who listens to Hopesfall. He had some nice things to say about the band’s final release, 2007’s Magnetic North. He is my Hopesfall spirit animal.
Jason is a devoted fan of Hopesfall’s later material, in contrast to my appreciation of their earlier works. He has also been one of my closest friends for almost a decade now.
I’m also proud (and still a bit pissed) to say that I was probably the only one who laughed at his first attempt at stand-up comedy a few years ago. Actually, I’m more angry than I am proud, because I’ve been to a bunch of stand-up shows, and it was a tough crowd made up of hicks and not at a comedy club, and in any other setting he would have slayed because I was in stitches, and shut up/don’t worry about it, my memory of that event is quite fond and that’s all that matters to me.
Anyway, here’s my chat with Jason –
A: Identify yourself, human.
J: I’m Jason Ford (editor’s note: He’s being modest here, because it’s actually “Dr. Jason Ford”*), a musician and writer. I’m from Brooksville, where I still unfortunately reside, and where I work at Panera Bread, play music, write, and drink a lot.
A: What are some of your favorite bands at the moment?
J: Right now I can’t stop listening to two bands in particular: Architecture In Helsinki and The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die.
A: Mr. Ford, what qualifies you to speak on behalf of Magnetic North?
J: I’ve been listening (to Hopesfall) for about two years now, which unfortunately isn’t long enough to have had the chance at seeing them live.
A: What are some of your favorite elements of Magnetic North?
J: Well, what I personally like about it is the production. At first it seems unremarkable, but it’s actually very nuanced and dynamic, especially concerning the vocals. The lyrics are scatter-brained but they really grew on me and I really appreciate them in an abstract light. It’s just one of those albums that didn’t make much of an impression at all on me at first, but upon further listening it acquired a very rich flavor that’s one of a kind and unexpected.
A: As their final release, how do you think it compares to their previous work?
J: I think they came into their own sound with Magnetic North, whereas their earlier stuff was still derivative. Again, at first listen you may not get that impression, but it’s the nuances that you don’t really notice until further listening that make it so. A lot of bands try to set themselves apart in a grandiose manner whereas with Magnetic North, Hopesfall really found their own voice.
A: Do you think a change in membership affects the general standing of a group, even if the goal is to stay within the same genre?
J: In my opinion, it does in fact come through in the music, case in point being Magnetic North, which I would say is distinguished from all earlier Hopesfall. In general it can have both positive and negative effects on bands’ material, for obvious reasons.
A: Does it matter though? In building a brand, how important is it to maintain consistency of members for the listener’s sake? e.g. How much Underoath changed over time, and how at the end of that band, there were more former members of Underoath in Maylene & The Sons of Disaster than there were in UO.
J: There’s something to be said about your wordage, “building a brand,” in that I think in that arena, it has a varying degree of effect which is correlated with where the band falls within the spectrum of genres. It matters more to a fan base which is cultivated through commercial means, whereas a band with a perhaps more artistically inclined following wouldn’t notice as much of an effect.
A: Switching gears, if you had to sum up the whole of existence in 10 words or less, what would those words be?
J: Hilarious, indifferent, under-appreciated. This is heaven.
A: Now take out all the vowels. Read it to me. Read it.
J: hlrs ndffrnt ndr-pprctd ths s hvn
A: On a scale of 1 to correct, how accurate do you think Bonnie Raitt’s “Heaven is a Place on Earth” is?
J: I have never read that (editor’s note: What?! How?), but I would disagree with the title in that it’s not a specific place on Earth, it’s being alive. So she can suck it.
A: Back on topic: What is the lasting legacy of Magnetic North for you in terms of the entire Hopesfall discography?
J: Destined to be overlooked, it’s the only album of its kind (a strangely alluring, unassuming race) which will never be propagated by its disbanded creators, making it a buried relic.
A: Favorite song off the album?
J: “Vacation/Add/Vacation!” with “East of 1989” in very, very close second.
A: Back off topic- Liam Neeson calls you. He suspects you have taken his family in Taken 4: Return of the Takenator. Liam Neeson is the Takenator. How do you respond?
J: “Go be typecasted somewhere else, Qui-Gon.”
A: I wrote this list of questions while shirtless and cooking breakfast foods at 7:45 pm on a Monday night. How does that affect your worldview?
J: It propagates it in a fantastic and dangerously majestic fashion.
A: Any final thoughts on Magnetic North?
J: Give it a damn listen.
A: One final final question: Niacin?
There you have it, children. He managed to use the word “propagate” twice in one single interview. You try doing that. You can’t. Try it.
Many thanks to Jason for his insight, and being the saving grace for today’s post. I’ll call him my Hopesfall crutch, too.
From Magnetic North, this is Hopesfall’s “Vacation/Add/Vacation!” –
Standout tracks: “Rx Contender the Pretender” and “Swamps Kittens”
Weakest track: “Devil’s Concubine” is a bit too radio rock for my taste.
RIYL: Poison the Well, Beloved, This Day Forward. Post-hardcore, ambient hardcore, whatever “spacecore” is.
*not technically speaking an actual doctor, per se, but who’s arguing semantics here?