Hoop, a four-piece lo-fi rock band hailing from Seattle, recently announced their debut album Super Genuine is due out May 19 on Decency Dan. Led by Caitlin Payne Roberts, the group offers earnest lyrics dissecting the dynamics of relationships, for better or worse. Their songs are about finding a place for yourself, in friendships, romantic relationships, family and the world. Hoop are one of the busiest bands, with every member also involved in other creative projects, but they come together to make perfect jangly, light rock music that should be the soundtrack to your summer. Caitlin answered questions for us while out on tour, giving us insight into her songwriting, just how little free time she has, and what she’s been listening to in the van between cities.
Your debut album Super Genuine is due out May 19! Tell us a little bit about your songwriting process and how the album came together.
“Good Dregs” was the first song I wrote in this vein. One day in Olympia I wrote that simple riff, and thought, huh, I haven’t written anything like that before. Most of the songwriting I’d done before that, under the name Autococoon, was more complex. When I wrote that riff it was a notable difference, like, oh, a song doesn’t have to be a challenge, it can be something that you can relax into. I wrote “Marlin Spike” and “Skiptracer” over a year later at my mom’s house in Pennsylvania, and then moved to Anacortes in March of 2014. I had been working on an Autococoon album with Nich Wilbur at the Unknown. I brought these new songs to the studio and they were very different than what I had been working on before. They had more of a pop feel than the experimental proggy feel of Autococoon, so we decided to turn it into a new studio project.
The rest of the album was pretty collaborative between myself and Nich, who played the role of engineer, producer, band, and songwriter. I would bring a melody, a chord progression, or a complete song to the studio and he would suggest arrangements and add drums, bass, and additional instrumentation. For some songs, like “Folded Impulse” and “To Know Your Tone,” we would decide on a melody and syllabic structure in the studio and then I would go home and journal and then condense my feelings into that melody. “Send Purpose Down” was written by Nich—he brought the chord progression and melody, and I added lyrics and sang it. There were certain parts that made sense for other vocalists to sing…Briana Marela came in and sang a lot on the record, including a vocal loop outro I’d written for “Baseboards” and about half of the vocal melody on “Skiptracer.” Allyson Foster who lives in Anacortes came in to sing on a lot of tracks as well. When we were finishing up tracking “To Know Your Tone,” my voice was giving out, and Allyson, fortunately, was available to come into the studio to sing the whole song in my stead.
You've mentioned relationships played a big part in the inspiration of the album. Why did you feel you needed to write what you wrote?
A lot of what I sing about on Super Genuine deals with the feeling of being strung along. I was feeling a lot of inner confusion about having feelings for someone I was physically involved with who was constantly pushing me away romantically but drawing me in physically, and who relied on me for emotional support and didn’t give much back in return. I was also dealing with a lot of emotional and verbal abuse by this person. As an empathetic femme it was easy for me to become swept up in giving my emotional reserves to this person, which fed an imbalanced power dynamic, as someone who was socialized to want to please. The more it wasn’t working, the more I wanted to make it work. It took getting these feelings out in song to recognize that my energy was being sapped. Since the society I was raised in undervalues emotional well-being and encourages rugged individualism, I wasn’t taught to recognize and name feelings like insecurity and anxiety. The songwriting process allowed me to access and understand those feelings so that I could grow.
In a couple songs I also drew in lingering feelings from a past relationship in which I pushed my partner away. So the content of the record explores two sides of attachment in relationships and power dynamics.
All of the band plays in other projects as well. How do you balance all of your creative outlets?
Yeah, our second guitarist Inge’s main project is called Ings, and she is very active with that project. I feel really grateful that she and Pamela and Leena put so much time into this project. Leena is principally a video artist and poet, and Pamela is a multimedia visual artist and performance artist, and they both get asked all the time to do art shows and readings. We all have pretty full calendars and somehow make time for the band.
To me it makes sense to say yes to the things that feel deeply good and find ways to make it work. I play in too many bands, but still work my day job. The way I do it is essentially that instead of other kinds of socializing, I make music time my social time. I co-songwrite in a band called Tool with Gretchen and Lydia from Chastity Belt, and they tour a lot, and our other member Michael has a full-time job and works out a lot, but we don’t let that stop us. I play guitar in an oldies-inspired group called The Chelles and we all play in other bands too — we’ve got Cory from Mommy Long Legs on drums, so she’s really busy with that project, but we’re all pretty good at communication and logistics so we figure it out. I’m also doing lyrical work for a project with Graham from Big Bite and Versing and we’re both really busy but we make it work because we find joy in song. What can I say, we all just love music and nothing will get in the way of that. The downside is that my relationships outside of the bands tend to not get as much attention, which is a small part of why I am so single.
What do you want people to take away from the album?
I want people to allow the lyrics on the record to help them process their own feelings about uncomfortable relationships or toxic sexual friendships. My hope is that this record can inspire others, especially femmes, to identify their emotions and work through relationships that are sapping their energy. From the live performances, I also want people who have dealt with these kinds of issues to remember that there is love in friendship and that you don’t have to do everything alone.
What bands and artists are you listening to now?
Lately I have been obsessed with Teenage Fanclub, which my friend Casey introduced me to. I got to see them when they came to Seattle recently and they completely consumed me for the days leading up to and following the concert. I really couldn’t do anything else besides think about them and research them. It has been a very long time since I felt this way about a band. There are three songwriters in that band — I especially adore Gerry Love’s songs, and his solo project Lightships — his melodies and lyrics inspire me a lot. It makes me feel grounded and kicks anxiety for me. I’ve also been listening to new records by Julie Byrne and Ever Ending Kicks.
What did you grow up listening to? Can you explain your musical history (any education, parental influence, etc)?
My dad was a big influence on my music taste as a young kid — he was into adult contemporary and alternative rock in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. I started going to Semisonic concerts when I was 8. I also saw Third Eye Blind, Fastball, and Sugar Ray several times. I remember memorizing all of the liner notes of 3EB’s self-titled album and singing along to it over and over again during long car rides with my dad. I picked up my mom’s taste in Carole King, Jackson Browne, and Neil Young. I loved Savage Garden.
I started taking guitar lessons from an incredible teacher named Jim Rowland when I was about 13. He got me into bands like The Cure and Portishead. Bands I became deeply obsessed with in middle and high school were Sum 41, Avril Lavigne, Anti-Flag, AFI, Mars Volta, Bob Dylan, and TV on the Radio, in chronological order.
You can preorder the Super Genuine here!
Kat Harding is a music publicist and writer who lives in Chapel Hill, NC, with her loud kitty cat Goose. She often cries when excited at shows and can be found on twitter at @iwearaviators.