The artwork for Hop Along’s third album, Bark Your Head Off, Dog, released last Friday, is an original painting by the band’s frontwoman, Frances Quinlan. Like the artwork for the Philadelphia quartet’s 2012 debut, Get Disowned, it imagines a thicket of forest. On a couch in a Manhattan office earlier this year, I tell Quinlan I was reminded of Joni Mitchell calling herself “a painter who writes songs” while admiring the cover. She remembers the quote, too, qualifying her own job description as “both a painter and a songwriter,” adding, “At this point, I've been more intensely writing than I have been painting.” As a writer, Quinlan frequently is intense.
Often concerned with power, Hop Along’s latest album showcases lyrics as barbed and inventive as ever. "That’s how you got your limp / All your strength came from her humiliation," Quinlan sings on “How You Got Your Limp," the song she says she wrote most quickly of the album's nine tracks. While I often fear that being a woman means never being out of the woods, listening to Bark Your Head Off, Dog, I hear a case for making oneself into a credible threat to the predators lying in wait, making a home in the thicket and howling out.
For Lenny Letter, we discussed the band’s latest record, going to your limits, and what a woman called the “best voice in rock music today” thinks about legacy.
Thora Siemsen: I’ve read that the band uses studio time to coerce parts of the writing process. Can you talk a bit about your relationship with recording and the beginnings of creating a song?
Frances Quinlan: There's such an urgency to recording in that there's a finality to it. When you make a record, you're hoping people will be interested, and you have to operate under the delusion that it will be great and you'll get there. There's all this struggle and pain to make it great, and then maybe you fail. It's almost always a failure as far as making the thing you saw in your head. I give all that I'm aware of of myself to the thing that I am making, which makes it very upsetting and devastating sometimes, to go to your limits and see exactly where they are. It's very humbling and sometimes embarrassing and difficult to see the beginning and end of your ability and knowledge. Of course, at the end of the day, you think about time you've wasted and how you could've gotten better.