Wailing City Spotlight: Interview With Hopeville General Store

Published March 14, 2024
Interview By Meghan Killimade

Tell us the history of the band – who are the members & instrumentation and how did you all come together?
Hopeville General Store is named after a small community store that was once at the corner of Stone Hill Rd and Rt. 201 in Griswold, CT. We had over 40 names in a hat and put it to a vote amongst friends while we were forming and that's what really stuck. It represents a time in our age that we can represent musically. The Band started as Ron and Roy. We met at a local open mic a couple years before when Roy was starting a group and I was performing solo. He became available at the same time I was looking to form one and he was my first phone call. We share musical roots and mindset and definitely see eye-to-eye both on stage and in the studio. We met Jake and Bobby through jams and friends also. Our original lineup had another drummer and an organist. As with most local bands we have evolved through lineup changes but still work with as many players as we can. We are both monogamous and poly-jamerous.

You describe your music as “rock & soul with rockabilly roots” - talk about the kind of music you guys are creating and how you got into this style.
Ron was doing a lot of solo shows heavily focused on country and rockabilly era rock and roll when we got together. We embraced that feel and tone in our songwriting. I, (Roy), am heavily influenced in my bass playing by Motown and classic R&B which shows up in the backbeat of a lot of the songs. Simple rhythms keep a focus on the song and the message of what they are about. These eras of our American songbook are really easy to draw from when looking for inspiration. It has grown since the start, and we try new things all the time. Bossa Nova and clave rhythms are also heavily present in the backbeat. We both grew up at the tail end of generation x, latchkey kids with access to the internet and MTV as teenagers. Our forefathers were listening to r&b, Soul, blues, classic country, and instilling in us the passion for musicianship at a young age. We continue to listen to bands like Otis Redding, Booker T and The MGs, The Meters, Cannonball Adderley, Master of Jazz, Funk, Soul, and real Rock & Roll.

What are some bands/musicians you guys listen to for inspiration/motivation?
I, (Roy), am heavily influenced by the Clash (Paul Simonne), Iron Maiden (Steve Harris), The talking heads (Tina Weymouth), Rancid (Matt Freeman*), NOFX (Fat Mike), (all monster bass players) James Jamerson, Elvis, Hank Williams, Booker T and The MGs (Duck Dunn), The meters (George Porter Jr.) Willy Dixon. Joao Gilberto and Stan Getz. Too many current artists to start here. The Meters are a big one, I have a lot of Otis Redding on my playlists, Sam and Dave, Sam Cook, I like energetic singers with a tight band like James Brown. Grew up with a lot of Aerosmith and Blues based Rock. Singers like Chris Carabba, Brad Nowell, Gavin Rossdale, and Claudio Sanchez got me in front of a microphone. I learned to play guitar to Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, and Eric Clapton Albums.

What is your songwriting process like – do you all bring ideas to the table or are there certain songwriters within the group?
The first crop of songs was a bunch of ideas that we had kicking around which we helped each other finish our sentences. Our organ player for the first year, Jeff May, was a big part of arranging those first 6 or 7 songs we wrote. Now with the established 4-piece lineup we really work most things as a group effort that springs from one person's idea. Roy helps focus polishing. He's good at making boring parts more interesting. These songs all grow over time especially in the live show. Jake is great at finding the melody and adorning the song rather than playing over it. I've seen Roy work with a few drummers and Bobby is the best at meeting him in the middle. They find the groove together, and Bobby has a lot of club band experience and gives us our big finishes and killer drum solos!

What are some of your favorite places to play (local or out of town) and where are you hoping to play in the future?

Were super excited to have our first headlining show at Strange Brew Pub in Norwich Thursday March 21st, that's been a hub of local music, culture, and where Ron & Roy met originally. I, (Ron), miss the Pogo Club and have fond memories of High Noon Saloon and the original Strange Brew at their previous location. Downtown Norwich is lucky to have Jason Wallace and his family. We look forward to the Brooklyn Fair every year, Trout Stock, Cottontail Farm Music Festival and once we win this battle of the bands... Strange Creek! We played Bishops Lounge in Northampton in January which was great. Ralph's Rock & Roll Diner in Worcester was a great show last month. Packed house, great atmosphere for a rock show. We have some providence dates and some other bigger news to be announced once other lineups for shows are announced by promoters, stay tuned.

You have a couple new music videos out for “Love Is Whatever” and “Mountain Bird” – tell us more about the two songs and how the videos came together.
We just finished those videos with our good pal Nick Balkun of the Balkun Brothers at his Nük Lab Recording Studio. He did all the video and sound editing mixing for us. These last few videos were shot with no click tracks, and minimal overdubs to catch a representation of our live sound. We wanted to get some current content out the with the band as it looks and feels currently for booking and promo purposes. I, (Ron), wrote "Love Is Whatever" in a small house in Knoxville, Tennessee, while on a solo tour. It was Roy's in-laws' property. My gig was cancelled due to a broken air conditioning unit, so I sat there and just wrote it out until it was finished. The words just fell out of my pen onto the paper, the cord structure came together like I had been humming it my whole life. It was the first song I’ve ever finished in one sitting. Mountain Bird came together almost as fast with Jake at his first practice.

Tell us about the new album you’re working on! 
Were still polishing up the last few songs to have enough material for a full-length LP. Our EP work was done with Jon Quinn in Griswold, CT and once again Nick Balkun in Vouluntown. Later this year a combination of their recording spaces is our destination. We are interested in getting a multimedia product out of our recording sessions to document the process. That way we can splice into future projects which sets a bar of being able to coordinate and afford all that. The album title is currently in discussion, but the overall theme and message is about capturing that special time of our youth. When we were just old enough to ride our bikes down to the General Store to get some Penny candy and go fishing with our friends, but not quite old enough to get into any real trouble. From the first crush, the first time you do something you're not supposed to and get away with it, and the first time you got caught. It's all in there.

Any favorite local bands/musicians, venues or businesses you want to shout out?
Yes, we are blessed with our music community which has made this all possible for us. I, (Roy), would like to shout out to my teachers Jon Quinn of Griswold CT, and also Marty Balou from Scituate RI. Thanks to Greg Sherrod for being an influence on both Ron and I (Roy) over the years. A huge shoutout to Eric Tootell who has hosted local jams for years at multiple venues. We are super excited to see our Pals from Massachusetts Leon Trout blow up on the east coast, they deserve national attention let's get it boys, The Balkun Brothers Steve and Nick super blessed to be in your circle of peers thank you for all your help with getting our business in order. Nick Balkun is my go-to music business question guy - he knows his Stuff and is a straight A student as far as preparation. We have done a few shows with Whalom Park also a kick ass up and coming band out of Mass. Can't wait to do more shows with The Humans Being from New Hampshire another great up and comer in the East Coast music scene. It's great to see your friends go places I think that's what I,(Roy), am really in it for. Jay Wallace at Strange Brew, my brother Rod Cornish formerly of Hot Rod Cafe, Greg Sherrod, our friends in Whalom Park, Leon Trout, and the Humans Being, Jeff May, who I am convinced is an angel, and Rob Brannon of Red Light always helping with his experience and insight. None of this would be possible though, without Tim Allain Sr. (RIP), Eric Tootell, Bill Thibeault, Danny Fleet, Greg Arpin, Dwayne Eldridge and the whole team from CGOM. Without Jams and Open mic nights, and experienced musicians reaching down to teach newer ones, this whole thing comes crashing down. It's the bones of the scene, the most important thing to our culture and should be treated as such. If I had to put a finger on one person though, one man to thank for inspiring me to take the steps I did to lead me here, New London native Bobby T. Lane currently of Morgantown WV. No explanation, look him up.

You’ve got a show coming up at Strange Brew in Norwich on Thu March 21 – what can folks expect from your set?
We're coming in to lay down some solid grooves, some hot dancin’, knee slappin’, bounce around the room type of tunes for y’all. We plan on going all in that night. You'll hear our originals, new ones included, and we're working out a really hip jam section that I think is going to impress even our longest running fans.

Anything else you’d like to include or that you wish we’d asked?
Thank you for including us in the music scene. We all get big together. Thanks to our friends and family who have come to shows, bought hats and shirts, and made the ride out of state to see us. Thanks to all the musicians who have sat in with us over the past few years, our beautiful, understanding, and loving better halves who put up with the sacrifice needed to support our music and make this band happen. Thanks to venue owners and promoters who have faith in local music, so that everyday people can chase their dreams, most especially thank you music fans for coming out to festivals and bars and dancing to something real, raw, and live. We love you!



FOLLOW
https://www.facebook.com/hopevillegeneralstore

 
CATCH THE SHOW

Thu 3/21 @ Strange Brew Pub - Norwich
w/ The Hard Feelings / Brian Gore & Tender Fritters
8:30pm / $10 / 21+
Facebook Event Page



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