Hope & Social will be leading the Lantern Parade and headlining Just So Festival on Saturday 20 August. They tell Big Issue North they have a modest rider, but would be grateful if the catering doesn’t poison them.
Tell us a bit about your sound and your influences.
We’re a big ol’ band, us lot. Drums, bass, organs, pianos, guitars, brass, ukes, banjos, harmoniums, glockenspiels, a wine bottle orchestra, 200 tuned bells… You name it, we’ve probably strummed, blown or hit it in the making one of our records. We often talk about being like a Yorkshire E-Street Band, but that’s more in attitude than sound, I think. We’re big admirers of people who really put on a show and we try and bring that sense of performance to our records. We all adore Paul Simon’s Graceland, the many eras of Bowie, the excitement of those early Arcade Fire records. But we’ve a new album out in October, and that’s something a little bit different to our previous wares.
How have you evolved as a band over the years?
We formed in 2008, in a pub. We had a two-point manifesto – whatever we do must be loads of fun to do and no more love songs. We’ve reneged on the latter of those points in recent years, but point one remains firm. As a band, we’ve always worked really fast when making records, like a calendar month from “not a note written” to “send to the CD manufacturer”. The new record though, that’s been a couple of years in gestation. It’s made in a different way and as such, has a different flavour. God knows how we’ll play it live, like.
Were there any alternative band names before you arrived at this one?
Well, some of us used to be in a band called four Day Hombre. Terrible name. Promoters don’t know whether it’s a number 4, or the word. Non-standard capitalisation. Nightmare. But when we became Hope and Social, we loved the sound of something that sounds like a pub, and a call to arms, and stands for something.
What are you up to at the moment artistically?
We’re doing all the things normal bands do – festivals, touring, recording, collaborations with other bands and artists. As well as that though, we’re doing plenty of the stuff we’re probably best known for – involving people in making art and having fun. We’ve commissioned nine video artists to make nine videos for the nine songs on our [coughs] “forthcoming album” (did I mention we have a new record coming out in October? I did? Oh, good). We have a project called “A Band Anyone Can Join”, where we teach people to play/sing our music with us and do a show with a couple of hundred people on stage with us. This year alone we’ve worked with brass bands, ukulele players, singers, schools, choirs. That’s happening at Greenbelt this year. We’re leading a lantern parade at the beautiful Just So festival (once we’ve built the portable, band-mounted PA system we need to make it nice and loud), making a thousands-strong visual and aural spectacle as we traverse the site. In short, we’re nice’n’busy!
How do you stand out from the crowd in a saturated industry?
It’s not an industry that’s saturated. It’s an industry that’s rich. Who wants less choice and a bottle-fed route to just big-indie/major label artists? Diversity is a good thing for culture. Artists, in the main, aren’t competing with each other. They want to support each other – to share and multiply the love. Anyway, music is much more than an industry. It’s the coming together of people to make art. Honestly, the best business decision we ever made was to not worry about radio/press/TV pluggers, and to just do the things that made us happy. That, and be dead good, work hard, and be nice to people.
What’s on your rider?
A lot of politeness. It begins “Ooooh, a rider. You must think we’re dead important!” Water, fruit, two crates of good beer (not Stella), hot food for nine, a bottle of rum if you’re feeling flush, nine pairs of white socks – and a request for one of the festival team to do us a little boogie. One festival summer, Gary, our drummer, put a different Lord of The Rings trilogy DVD on three festival riders over a weekend – and got them!
Tell us about your worst live show.
As Hope and Social I’m struggling to remember one, to be honest. We’ve played to less people than are in the band once, but we still had a lovely time. There’s two worsts that stick in my mind from previous times though: the acoustic gig situated next to the dub soundclash tent – that was tricky – and the one where the whole band had explosive food poisoning from the catering and gradually seeing band members in turn disappearing, and reappearing, sometimes with toilet paper sticking out of the back of their trousers. Too much info?