July 19, 2018
After 11 years of radio silence Hopesfall has returned with Arbiter; a collection of ten tracks packed to the brim with furious riffs, stunning melody, and a tank-busting power that few bands are capable of achieving. Before April of this year, it was difficult to imagine that the tenured post-hardcore group would ever play another set, much less put out an entire new album. But after dropping the record’s first triumphant single “H.A. Wallace Space Academy” the band unequivocally proved that Hopesfall still has more to offer. Hailed as one of Charlotte’s most successful groups, Hopesfall made a name in the local scene during the early 2000s, accompanied in their first trials by other Charlotte legends such as Between the Buried and Me, Codeseven and Prayer For Cleansing.
The group established themselves as a Christian hardcore band on their breakout releases, but quickly disassociated from religious affiliation after a number of lineup changes. Afterwards, Hopesfall continued to rebrand their sound and genre between 2002 and 2007 over the course of three records, garnering a number of fans from different sides of the musical spectrum in Charlotte and nationwide. Now in 2018, Arbiter stands as what some have called the perfect blending of each era of the band’s former styles, from alt-rock to hardcore and beyond. But this record came about under vastly different circumstances than their former material.
“When we were writing [Arbiter], there was no intent. This is just what happens when we get into a room and write… There was no goal with [Arbiter] to make it ‘sound like this’ or ‘tie into this.’ It’s just what everybody agreed upon, and it felt natural,” guitarist and original member Josh Brigham said. He recalled the experience with an excitement and carefree plainness in explaining the origins of the record exactly as they occurred. He spoke from a van in Charlotte, accompanied by vocalist Jay Forrest as the duo completes routine duties before heading out for their first New York gigs since Hopesfall’s return. Detailing how this new record and venture came to be, Brigham continued his account.
“We sent Mike Watts (producer of Arbiter and previous Hopesfall records A Types and Magnetic North) our demos and he said, ‘I’m gonna shop these out and see if we can work something out.’ It took a lot of convincing for us, honestly. We were all apprehensive, we didn’t think [Hopesfall] was relevant anymore; we just wanted to make some music. But people wanted to work with us again, on our terms this time.” Both members spoke about their band coming back in earnest after over a decade with a relative nonchalance; happy to be back, but seemingly relieved of a specific pressure that other bands may face.
“The label was very hands off about it. They said, ‘just get it to us when it’s done,’” Brigham said. Both Brigham and Forrest talked about this renewed relationship with a record label as an enormous relief concerning the creative processes and freedoms of the members during their writing period for Arbiter. This comes with little surprise, given past interviews with former members that detailed Hopesfall’s wholly adversarial partnership with their former label, Trustkill Records. Since finding a new home with Equal Vision Records, they have seemingly experienced a new side of what working with a label can be like, and according to Brigham and Forrest, this newfound liberty is exactly what they needed to bring about their new record.
“We’d get together on a weeknight before bowling league and write riffs for a couple of hours and just play – then go bowling. We wanted to create an outlet, we had a place to practice, and we would have a good time. Over time we’d get together when we had the chance and put some songs together, and it grew that way. We weren’t even trying to write a Hopesfall record,” Forrest added. “The whole mindset of what was Hopesfall got buried. You just have a bond with these guys that’s always there. You can come back together after ten years, and it’s amazing how fast you fall right back into it.”
Both members’ tones reflect the band’s motivation behind their music in its purest, most unadulterated form, recalling a distinct sense of innocence and elation felt only when doing something with your friends just to do it, free of any expectation, standard, or notion. This opportunity led to the songs that have revealed the band at their greatest potential.
Arbiter comes to us with a recharged tenacity and effortless grace indicative of a band that has been able to write without boundary, executing their most experimental ideas and fulfilling their own personal desires regarding their sound. Whether Arbiter can be called a happy accident of sorts or a precisely aimed attempt at conveying what the members always wanted out of Hopesfall, the end result is unaffected. Hopesfall is back and ready for whatever the future holds.
With his closing remarks, perhaps Brigham summarized it best – the very purpose of why artists continue to create even after all is said and done: “More than anything, I’m just glad to be back playing music with my friends. It’s fun.”
Hopesfall make their return Saturday night at Neighborhood Theatre.