The Sessions Series continues at South On Main. Year Of The Hare is the first band set to play this August (along with Sammy Williams of Midwest Caravan) and their brand of contemplative frontier folk will not disappoint. I was lucky enough to speak with songwriter and guitarist Ryan Hopper about songwriting and what inspires him ahead of tonight’s show.
What’s the first thing you do after you lose your keys?
Retrace my steps because, honestly, there are only five or six places I ever leave my keys. I can be meticulous. I guess [touring] would be the exception to that rule. But I will not lose my keys on tour. I repeat: I will not lose my keys on tour.
Chocolate or peanut butter?
Peanut butter but only when it’s crunchy or chunky style.
Beatles or the Stones?
Good man. Little Richard or Chuck Berry?
My cat’s name is Little Richard III—so that’s a thing—but in terms of style, I prefer Chuck Berry.
Wilco or Son Volt?
No one ever picks Son Volt…Do you remember when you found your first artistic inspiration? Who or what was/is it?
I don’t. But if I had to venture a guess, it was probably strumming and hitting my dad’s guitar as a really little kid. I vividly remember listening to Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer” and being obsessed with that song. Also, The Wall.
How did you learn to play?
I learned to play guitar when I was around 13 years-old; so, just about the time that I needed some edgy skill to impress the ladies. I never learned to sing.
Yeah, me neither. Who’s your biggest source of encouragement?
If I’m being completely honest, it tends to vary. Big shouts out to my roommates. Of course, I do have a couple friends that can really lift my spirits when it comes to the music. Shouts out Nixon and Andy.
So, why are you a musician?
Because I figured out quite early on in my life that I wasn’t very good at expressing my artistic ideas through other channels. Oh, and I’ve tried…
Who is your biggest influence currently?
Tough one. Let’s go with David Foster Wallace.
Your lyrics are very interesting; the wordplay and the internal rhyme schemes, etc., are very unique. How did you cultivate that style, or did it come naturally? Who are some of your other literary/poetic heroes?
It’s always interesting to me to see how these are perceived. To tell you the truth, I’ve tried on a few writing styles across various projects before landing here, where I feel very comfortable. I used to try and write in story form, but never quite felt satisfied. Mostly, I often trapped myself by trying to force my perspective into a form and found it hard to fully express the nuances of what I was writing about in the first place.
Now, I typically try to write impressions of places, both physical and emotional. I’m worried a whole lot less about trying to craft a narrative that someone can pick up and follow, instead trying to offer up the semi-coherent musings of a guy in the midst of something and processing that thing.
I’m hugely inspired by Bukowski’s poetry and prose, Kerouac, and Leonard Cohen’s songwriting.
What’s the story behind the formation of Year Of The Hare?
I finished up grad school in the spring of 2014 and moved back home [to] Logansport, Indiana, to live with my parents and save money before heading out to New York City. I realized that I suddenly had a massive amount of free time to commit some musical ideas I had floating around to bytes. Stylistically, I wasn’t quite sure what this was going to be but I did know that I didn’t want to pin myself down to writing songs in a specific genre. That’s really boring to me. The guiding principle was to write music without thought of having to perform it live and to use the digital recording process as an instrument in itself, taking inspiration from the sound manipulations of Four Tet among others. Sort of let the emotional content of the song determine [what] the piece would sound like. When I moved, I brought some friends together to start playing these songs live and they really gained their legs and grew into really special pieces that they never could have been in isolation. The sound of the band now is a product of my friends Andy, Grennan, Ian, Leon, Xandra, Sydney, Meera, Matt, and Donald.
Have you been to Little Rock or Arkansas before? What do you think of it? Do you have any preconceived notions that turned out to be untrue? True?
I have. I spent the last two summers working as the sound engineer and designer for The Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre based in Conway. I really like it here. It’s hot and you have good barbecue. It’s really hard to not have preconceived notions of a place and, to be completely vague, some notions definitely turned out to be true while others were shattered as is often the case. There is a pace to the people here that reminds me a bit of Indiana.
From what I can tell, traveling the American landscape is a big inspiration for you. Do you need to be moving to write?
I hope I don’t need to be moving because I’m definitely not doing a whole lot of that lately, with the exception of this tour. I will say that I find travel in general to be hugely inspirational in ways beyond just my songwriting. I like how being new in a place often encourages a sort of vulnerability and self-awareness and self-examination as you are forced to process who you are in the context of a place that may or may not have any conceived notions to define you. I feel wide eyed when I’m on the road. I love meeting people from different parts of the country and sort of feeling out the speed of different places. I like referencing these people and places in my music.
Any plans for a full length release in the near future?
When I started recording, I told myself that I was only going to release singles and do that at a pace that now feels impossible. Now that we are playing as a band more often, we are collecting too many new songs to release one at a time. So, yes, a full length release is in the future. I might not say near, however, but it’s there for sure.
The show starts at 8:30pm and you can call ahead to 501-244-9660 to reserve your table.