Like a school of starved sharks circling a water-treading man stranded in the middle of the Pacific, the major-label powers that be began besieging Charlotte, North Carolina’s melodic-hardcore quintet Hopesfall soon after the release of their 2002
breakthrough offering, The Satellite Years. At the time, of course, it seemed every underground band with even a slight hint of profit-making potential was wined, dined, wooed and eventually chewed up and spit out by the music-industry machine.
Hopesfall were most certainly courted by the majors but never actually ended up inking a deal, deciding instead to stick with longtime label home, New Jersey indie Trustkill Records.
That doesn’t mean that the band didn’t play ball. Following more than a year of touring on The Satellite Years, Hopesfall returned to the studio and raced through the writing and recording of 2004’s A Types, because, as frontman Jay Forrest explained, pressure had been placed on the band to “try and get another record out as soon as possible.”
Two months later, A Types was in the bag, and once again the majors came calling on Hopesfall. But, again, no deal was signed; however, the band did eat a lot of free dinners.
On May 15, Magnetic North, the group’s fourth and final release for Trustkill, will hit record stores, no doubt starting the cycle all over again. Whether the third time’s the charm is anyone’s guess, Forrest says.
“It will be interesting to see what comes of it,” he said. “We want to be supported as a band. We want to have strong backing from anyone who will put out our records and we all want as many opportunities to do what we love to do. If we can make a career out of this and pay our bills doing what we love to do, more power to us. It’s a business as well, so you definitely look for opportunities. I wouldn’t be opposed to [signing with] a major, but I’m not opposed to an indie, either.”
Only time will tell just what’s in store for Hopesfall, but Forrest said there’s no disputing what the band has done on Magnetic North, an eclectic outing that’s a sonic journey through angst-riddled lyricism and imposing riffage.
“There’s a lot more conviction on this record, and that’s probably the biggest accomplishment I can think of,” he explained. “We took way more time to write this record; it reminded me of the Satellite sessions. With A Types, there wasn’t as much attention to detail. We went in with eight songs and wrote two more in the studio. For Magnetic North, we took 10 months to write it, and we actually scratched two songs from the record – we’ve never done that, ever.
“If this is the last thing we ever do, at least we can say we made something we’re completely proud of,” he continued. “I think we’ve written something that is ours – a sound that we have – and I think it’s original in its own right and I want it to be able to stand on its own.”
Magnetic North was produced by Mike Watts (As Cities Burn, As Tall as Lions) and boasts 14 tracks, including “Swamp Kittens,” “Secondhand Surgery,” “Head General Hospital” and “Paisley,” the latter featuring guest vocals from As Tall as Lions frontman Daniel Nigro.
In general, Forrest believes Hopesfall’s forthcoming album exhibits a serious progression in the band’s sound. While the LP contains some of the group’s heaviest material to date, Magnetic North isn’t a heavy record. “We tried to explore as many avenues as we could, as a five-headed collaborative band, without killing each other,” he joked. “I think every song’s kind of standing on its own on this one.”
Forrest’s lyrical musings were inspired, in large part, by events and moments that touched the singer’s life, he said.
“At the risk of sounding unoriginal, the last two years of my life contributed a lot to this record,” he said, without getting too specific. “I’ve been through a lot of challenging situations, relationships and happenings, so this record’s a much more personal one for me, and more personal in a more blatant manner, I suppose. It’s not as metaphorical this time around, and deals with situations that include people who are and were close to me – you know, all of the highs, the lows, the strikes, the gutters.”