Hop Along's 'Painted Shut' Invokes Two Mysterious Musicians Frances Quinlan, singer and guitarist for Hop Along, says that writing a song is an experience that's almost painful. "When you record something," she says, "it's forever."

Hop Along's 'Painted Shut' Invokes Two Mysterious Musicians

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Next, we hear two siblings in song. Their group is Hop Along. The album is called "Painted Shut." The lyrics touch on greed, poverty, even mental illness. And they are the work of a group including the brother and sister who spoke with NPR's Leah Scarpelli.

LEAH SCARPELLI, BYLINE: When Frances and Mark Quinlan started playing music, they kind of did their own things.

MARK QUINLAN: Mom and Dad were always like, hey, you guys should play together. Ah, that's stupid. I think they enjoy it now.


FRANCES QUINLAN: (Singing) Realized I knew you from his photo when you walked into the restaurant.

SCARPELLI: Now they are two of four members in Hop Along. Mark Quinlan is on drums. His little sister, Frances, plays guitar and sings. She's also the band's lead songwriter, influenced by her painting and creative writing background as well as the very visual songwriting of Bob Dylan and others. Two songs on Hop Along's new album focus on legendary musicians who suffered from schizophrenia.

F. QUINLAN: One of them is Buddy Bolden. There's no documents of his music. He was a renowned jazz player in his time.


F. QUINLAN: (Singing) Why did I look into...

SCARPELLI: Quinlan found out about Buddy Bolden, an African-American cornet player, in a memento mori class in college in which students reflect on mortality.

F. QUINLAN: You know, it was a pretty morbid class obviously (laughter).

SCARPELLI: Frances Quinlan learned that after Bolden died in 1931, he was buried in a paupers' graveyard in New Orleans, but no one knows exactly where.

F. QUINLAN: They would dig him up and then they would dig the hole deeper and put him back, and then bury somebody on top of him.


F. QUINLAN: (Singing) They buried you so many times, can't find your body. Get out of here. Go home.

SCARPELLI: The other musician Quinlan writes about is a folk singer from the 1960s.

F. QUINLAN: I heard a Jackson C. Frank song when I was painting a friend's house one day - just came up on Pandora. It was a song called "Tumble In The Wind."


JACKSON C. FRANK: (Singing) I bring trouble on my lonesome self. I see danger in each offered help.

SCARPELLI: Jackson C. Frank had only one album - "Blues Run The Game," produced by Paul Simon. His songs were covered by Nick Drake and Simon & Garfunkel.

F. QUINLAN: But for some reason, Jackson C. Frank's career never took off and he ended up, at one point, homeless.


F. QUINLAN: (Singing) Walked these streets up and down, looking for Paul Simon.

SCARPELLI: But Frances Quinlan's songs aren't finished until her fellow band members add their parts. Her brother, Mark, is influenced by a lot of grunge music.

M. QUINLAN: I've heard Franc (ph) by herself, and I've tried my best to, like, complement that. But I love Dave Grohl and all those bands from that era and all the drumming and - that's what I try to do. And just everyone kind of brings their own thing.

F. QUINLAN: Everyone was able to add themselves.

SCARPELLI: For Frances Quinlan, writing her musical stories is a process that's almost painful.

F. QUINLAN: Not almost (laughter), it is.

M. QUINLAN: It's pretty on point.

F. QUINLAN: Well, when you record something, it's - you know, it's forever. As long as, you know, the planet lasts, I guess, records are around. And so you want it to be - I want it to be the best version of myself.


F. QUINLAN: (Singing) Can I take your picture?

SCARPELLI: Leah Scarpelli, NPR News.


F. QUINLAN: (Singing) This is how it's done. You take the money.

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