Hop Along Make Contact with the Outside World
Frances Quinlan’s decreasingly solo project shifts toward total collaboration on their third album, Bark Your Head Off, Dog.
MEMBERS: Frances Quinlan (vocals, guitar), Mark Quinlan (drums), Tyler Long (bass), and Joe Reinhart (guitar)
FOUNDED: 2004 as a solo project; 2009 as a full band
FROM: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
YOU MIGHT KNOW THEM FROM: Their first two albums as Hop Along, Get Disowned and Painted Shut
NOW: Releasing their biting third album, Bark Your Head Off, Dog, via Saddle Creek
Frances Quinlan is an introvert, and she’ll be the first to admit it. Growing up, the songwriter, vocalist, and rhythm guitarist of Hop Along spent a lot of time in her own head. For the band’s third full-length album, Bark Your Head Off, Dog, she challenged herself by going into the unknown.
“I have such a hard time being in the world, so it was a struggle writing these songs with that desire,” she explains. “It’s so much easier for me to retreat into myself than to really try to make contact with the outside, but I wrote the lyrics with the sincere hope to get out and see other things happening.”
While exploring the world around her, Quinlan also looked inside herself, identifying the unique struggles of being female—and as a result, themes of getting down on yourself and the societal power men have over women became prevalent in the record’s nine songs.
“It’s so much easier for me to retreat into myself than to really try to make contact with the outside, but I wrote the lyrics with the sincere hope to get out and see other things happening.” — Frances Quinlan
Album opener “How Simple” finds Quinlan exploring the notion of finding yourself and how ugly that process can sometimes be. “I’ve dealt with self-loathing for a long time now,” she admits. “Living on my own, unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, added some light to that.” During the chorus of “What the Writer Meant,” she repeats the phrase “So strange to be shaped by such strange men,” dissecting her own upbringing and ingrained deference to the male disposition.
Writing deeply personal lyrics is nothing new for the songwriter; however, this album may be the most special to the indie folk-rock quartet. With two albums already under their belt, the group felt more cohesive than ever when they stepped into the recording studio this time.
“I’ve never been a great collaborator,” Quinlan divulges. “But just from knowing and working with each other for as long as we have, we became so much better at understanding and communicating in our work. We had a greater power of expression in us and a greater understanding of the tools given to us; we could use them and make them work.”
With this heightened sense of communication there also came an opportunity to evolve the sound. Songs like the forlorn “How You Got Your Limp” and twangy album closer “Prior Things” feature lush string sections, while the buoyant “One That Suits Me” showcases a Rhodes piano.
Aside from being the band’s primary songwriter, Quinlan also painted the album art. She first took interest in the craft when her mom took her to oil painting classes in third grade, where she was deeply impacted. “I paint even more selfishly than I write,” she says candidly. “I really don’t think of other people at all when I paint. I was just having a nice moment to myself on a deck in the woods.”
Quinlan’s mother was the first adult to ever tell her she was good at something, and that memory has stuck with her. “I think a lot of adults need to learn how critical that is, encouraging a child,” she says.
For someone who admittedly struggles with self-loathing and feeling powerless, Quinlan exudes confidence. And even if she can’t always see it, she’s a bold artist, particularly inspiring the women who listen to her music—just like her mother inspired her. FL