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."
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.
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.
Led by guitarist/vocalist Jessica Boudreaux, the Summer Cannibals initially cut their teeth on the local Portland circuit, sharing the stage and receiving encouragement from peers including The Thermals. Along the way, they released a pair of fantastic full-lengths -- 2013’s No Makeup and 2015’s Show Us Your Mind — on their own label, New Moss Records. Show Us Your Mind appeared on NPR’s Sound Opinions Best of list in 2015. The band has since spent an unhealthy amount of time on the road, earning accolades and adding plenty of fresh converts to their highly-charged, no frills attack.
It seemed only logical that when the band decided to sign to a label, they chose Kill Rock Stars, which has a long history of putting out fearless, female-led bands like Bikini Kill and Sleater-Kinney. Their most recent release, Full Of It, is the band’s defining statement to date. Recorded with producer Chris Woodhouse (Thee Oh Sees, Wild Flag), the LP is one of those massive leaps forward that every band hopes to achieve at least once in their career. Aided by rhythm guitarist Marc Swart, drummer Devon Shirley and bassist Jenny Logan, the 11 songs spark that perfect mix of snotty attitude, unbounded energy, and window rattling volume.
Since the band's formation they've had the opportunity to play with some their musical heroes, including: Guided By Voices, Mudhoney, Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks, and The War on Drugs. They've toured the country with The Thermals and CHVRCHES as well as played some major festivals including Sasquatch, Project Pabst and Riot Fest.