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HOPE CONSPIRACY


THE HOPE CONSPIRACY "To Tell the Truth..."

INTERVIEW by Dr. Abner Mality


The Hope Conspiracy don't let you catch your breath. These four young men from Boston get right to the point with their latest album, "Endnote", delivering a hardcore assault full of anger and ideas. "Endnote" spans a brief 26 minutes but not one of those minutes is wasted. Whether it's pit-inducing breakdowns, blazing speed or catchy melody, the Hope Conspiracy delivers the goods.

So let me be equally concise and get straight to the action. I recently spoke to H.C.'s bassist Jonas, just as he was getting ready to hit the stage in Pittsburgh, PA. Let's see if Jonas can let us in on the secrets behind The Hope Conspiracy...

WORMWOOD CHRONICLES: Jonas, The Hope Conspiracy is gonna be a new name to many of our readers. Can you give us a brief rundown of the band history?

JONAS: We played our first show at the end of 1999. We did our first full length record "Cold Blue" on Equal Vision Records in October of 2000 so things happened pretty quickly for us. Right about the time that came out, though, we started having some member problems. One of our guitar players then was in the band, out of the band, in the band, out of the band and so on. Since then, he's definitely out of the band. Both he and our original guitar player were doing this "in the band, out of the band" thing...

WC: Have things stabilized now?

J: Yeah, yeah! Myself, Kevin the singer and Aaron the guitar player have been in the band for over a year and a half. We had some drummer issues the whole time we were writing and recording "Endnote". We didn't have a permanent drummer. The drums on the record were actually played by a friend of ours but he couldn't go full time with us. At the same time he was recording with us, Ben, the drummer from Converge, was playing live with us at all our shows. It's like we had two drummers at that point. But since May, we've had Jared as our drummer and he's in the band for good. We've been on tour with each other a bunch since then and everything's great.

WC: The name of your band is one of those classic rock names that contrasted something light with something dark, like Led Zeppelin or Judas Priest. What the deeper meaning behind the name, if there is any?

J: It's something we saw that sounded cool and like you said, it grabbed our attention because of a contrast. "Hope" is a pretty strong word. Honestly, a lot of bands these days have words like "conspiracy" or "theory" in their name. The way I feel is that a band pretty much makes a name. I look at some of the bands I like, like the Foo Fighters. That's an awesome band but what the hell is the name about?

WC: It's obvious that lyrics are pretty important for the band. Would you characterize yourselves as more of a personal band or a political band?

J: Definitely a personal band. As a band, we're not terribly involved in anything political, we don't have any particular viewpoint we want to push on anyone. As big a cliché as it is, the band and its music is just an outlet for our personal feelings. Most of the lyrics are written by Kevin our singer and you can read them and get an insight into what's going on in his life.

WC: There was one song on "Endnote" called "Holocaust" and that had lyrics that seemed to be knocking religion or questioning God. ("Your savior is a thieving bringer of war", being one line from the track--Dr. Mality) What's your take on it, what's it really about?

J: Honestly, I'd say you're right on the money with that. You know, we played with the band Stretch Armstrong last summer and they're on Solid State Records who handle a lot of Christian music, even though Stretch Armstrong is not a Christian band. We'd have fans at those shows come up to us and say "you guys are awesome, are you a Christian band?". We'd say no and they'd say "OK, goodbye" and walk away. Sort of a close-minded view. I think the song is questioning that whole situation, not necessarily knocking the people that believe it. It's just questioning what people do believe.

WC: It seemed to me that it was knocking people who are fanatics about religion...

J: Oh yeah, absolutely! Really, when you think about it, how ridiculous is it that it's 2002 and we still have situations like the Middle East going on? It's all because of religion. Religion can be beautiful, if somebody takes it that way but if somebody takes it as a call to kill somebody because they don't believe the same thing, then it's a holocaust!

WC: It's religion as something exclusionary...

J: Right! And that's the way it's always been. It creates havoc and war.

WC: One song that I wasn't able to fathom as easily was "Three Day Suicide". What was that about? Does it come from Kevin's personal experience?

J: I haven't talked to him about that song specifically but I can pretty safely say that it's based on a relationship that he had that ended while we were recording. It's kind of a touchy subject but you hit the nail on the head saying it was a personal experience.

WC: As a band, do you plan things out meticulously or do you come up with things on the spur of the moment?

J: We don't really plan things out that much. On the first record "Cold Blue", we were a tiny bit like that but with "Endnote", we were like "let's write the rawest, most honest record we can". It came out, for the most part, the way we wanted it to come out. We'd write stuff that was different and say "wow, that's weird, that's crazy, maybe the kids who like us will be bummed out by that part". But then we said, "well, we like it, so let's just do it".

WC: "Endnote" is a pretty short record but it's dense, it packs a lot into it's running time. Did anybody say at any point, "we've got a 27 minute CD, should we go back and do some more or should we just let it be"?

J:No, we had no qualms about doing a short record. Our first record was 23 minutes long so "Endnote" was actually four minutes longer. Granted, I definitely would like to have added one more song to the record, now that I've heard it, but at the same time, we had some songs we wound up not using because we don't want a record with filler on it. We'd much rather have quality than quantity.

WC: You mentioned that Ben, the drummer from Converge, sat in with Hope Conspiracy for a while and actually, Converge was one of the bands I thought of while listening to your new record. Would you agree with that comparison?

J: I could see it if you are talking about the latest Converge record, "Jane Doe". Before that, they were pretty much blazing, chaotic metal. If I didn't know anything about "Endnote" and I heard it, I wouldn't think it sounds like Converge, but being who I am, I can definitely take a comparison to Converge as a big compliment. We're big fans of theirs, we're friends with them and they're definitely a band that's got their shit together.

WC: They're one of the forefathers of this kind of music, which you could call "intelligent hardcore" or even "braincore". Would you say "intelligent hardcore" is a good description of The Hope Conspiracy's sound?

J: Yeah. We don't have any weird fantasies about who we are, we know our place. We're a hardcore band. We all like hardcore music. We're not hardcore in the sense of "Hey, let's play heavy music and be like Korn". We grew up on Bad Brains, Minor Threat, Black Flag and all those bands. That's what we're about. If someone can say we're a hardcore band and we're doing it intelligently, then that's a great compliment.

WC: The old hardcore was powerful music but it was pretty simple stuff. What you're doing is a little bit busier, without going way over the top. There are some bands now who are trying to see how many notes and time changes and off-beats they can throw in a song. It may be impressive technically but it loses you as far as a catchy song goes.

J: We've never set out to be a band with a hit single or a hit video or any of that stuff. But on the other hand, we don't wanna be one of these bands that cram all this stuff in, change time signatures, this and that. Honestly, we like our songs to be simple but intelligent, which sounds funny, but it's true. We're a little bit busier than straight up hardcore. When we write our songs, we definitely want some kind of catchiness to the song.

WC: How do you see The Hope Conspiracy evolving? Do you see yourself adding more melody or coming up with longer songs?

J: Well, we've actually been talking to a friend of ours who may wind up playing second guitar for us. We've only had one guitar for the last year or so. For the most part, "Endnote" was written not with one guitar track but with one guitar part. There's not many parts that we would need two guitars to do. If we do add this guy, that will change our next record for sure. It may be a little more complex but still easy to get into..

WC: Not a radical change from "Endnote"...

J: Right. Since the beginning, we've always been a band that's just..."tell us to stop if we write the same record twice". At this point, I can't honestly say if the next record will be more punk, more metal, more melodic. But no matter what we write in the future, it will be honest, I know that. If we're not writing honest music, we don't want to do it. We don't want to do anything that seems too calculated.

WC: What was the last CD that you picked up for your own enjoyment?

J: The last CD I picked up at the store was the new Sparta CD. I really enjoyed that. I also got this band Kent from Sweden who are kind of similar to Radiohead, they are really good. When we were in New York a couple of weeks ago, I picked up a Nick Cave bootleg record. Nick Cave and Morrissey, those are some of our favorite people.

WC: What was the last show you checked out?

J: Actually, I saw the Sparta and Cave In show in Boston just before we left to go on tour. My roommate actually plays drums for Cave In so I try to catch them whenever I can.

WC: What was your Spinal Tap moment?

J: Things pretty much always wind up humorous and crazy on the road. I think a pretty Spinal Tap moment for us came last December when we were on tour with Converge and American Nightmare. We lost our drummer prior to that tour and we wound up with this kid who we thought was going to be our permanent drummer. He was from Texas. He went home after the tour and he was supposed to come back later, we had some shows booked and we were already writing songs for the new record. Well, we didn't hear from him until March or April. I had to call him and call him and say "bring your shit".

There was a point where I was leaving messages on his answering machine and he lives with his parents. I'd say, "here's my cellphone number, SOMEBODY call me and tell me if this guy is still alive". Two months later, he finally calls and says "dude, I need my drum set back". I was like, you know what, come and get it, see you later. It was a bad scene but it was pretty Spinal Tap, I guess you could say!

To contact the writer of this article, send your email to: drmality@wormwoodchronciles.com