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Hopetoun Brown Unveil Album 'Don't Let Them Lock You Up' + Interview

Hopetoun Brown Unveil Album 'Don't Let Them Lock You Up' + Interview

Friday 16th March, 2018 10:28AM

Horn-loving Auckland duo Hopetoun Brown (Nick Atkinson and Tim Stewart) have dropped their third studio album Don't Let Them Lock You Up, ahead of what's sure to be a foot-stomping knees-up at WOMAD Festival 2018 this weekend. The new record follows a gripping run of singles and live shows from the hard-blowing duo, and features special guest appearances from Sophie Burbery (aka Little Bark), Finn Scholes (of Carnivorous Plant Society) and Steve Abel. We chatted with Hopetoun Brown co-songwriter and great conversationalist Nick Atkinson about the band's latest creation, you can read his words and stream the new album below...

Congratulations on the new record! How did 'Don't Let Them Lock You Up' come together?

After those first two records we felt somewhat like "man we're a bit puffed out," as horn players tend to get. We'd been doing a lot of touring and heaps of writing and recording and we thought, let's not have a plan for a couple of months and see how that goes. And it went very badly and we didn't achieve a single thing. So then we thought "that doesn't work does it, we need a deadline, we need to book a tour, we need to say we're going to get an album out, and then we'll get going and we will do something." That seems to be how this band works. We kind of book a tour and plan the release date before we even start recording the album. Then once we've got that we're like "okay, now we can start rolling." That just works for us, we're deadline-oriented, which doesn't sound that romantic.

For this one, Tim and I, we collaborated all the way through obviously, but the two tracks that really showcase our collaboration are probably the title track 'Don't Let Them Look You Up' and the single 'Put It Down'. For the rest of the songs, we actually wrote separately. There's a track with Steve Abel on it, I wrote that track completely, Tim didn't really have anything to do with that track, until we came into the studio and he helped with the production. And then there's the opening track 'Let's Not Be Friends', that's Tim's track. He wrote and recorded pretty much all of that track, I added a little bit of saxophone and added a few bits one we got in the studio. I guess I'm doing a bit more of the songwriting than in the previous two records, that in many ways is thanks to Tim's encouragement. Tim is very much like "Come on mate, need more lyrics from you. Come on, need more songs from you." Because Tim has probably been doing the heavy lifting with the songwriting up until now, I'd like to think I've been pulling my weight as well but, I think time with his band Svelte really developed his songwriting. Whereas in the inter-Supergroove years I was more playing jazz and soul and funk and instrumental music.

The key component for this record has been Jol Mulholland. Recording with Jol at his studio The Oven he has been unbelievably cool. We have similar temperaments and ages, and we get hungry and tired at the same time, which I think should not be underestimated. Jol has just been incredible and he is a bit of a genius. He is such an incredible musician and such a fine recording engineer and has such an imaginative way with production. I dunno man, he just got us and we totally clicked. He's hilarious too, he's a comedy show, I feel totally blessed to be in his company.

I'm always interested in the dynamics of musical duos, but there's quite a cast of characters on your album. You touched on this a little bit, but how did you get everyone involved in the record? Were you guys 'ringmasters' in some ways?

Yeah definitely, by far the majority of the record is recorded in Tim's guest room at his house and then we've taken those recordings into The Oven with Jol, and we've done overdubs and Joel has mixed them and made them sound good basically. The exceptions to that would be 'You Or I Know' and 'Ashes In The Street' which were totally recorded at Joel's place. As far as the guests go, Sophie Burbery who is on three of the tracks, doing lead vocals on 'You Or I Know' and backing vocals on a couple of the tracks, [Sophie and her partner Matthew] were our neighbours for three years. We got to know them really well and they got to be some of our closest friends, by virtue of their proximity really as much as anything. Sophie is such a choice person, she is so vivacious and has these beautiful bright eyes, and very absolute opinions, and is a wonderful conversationalist, and loves a glass of wine, and is just a great girl to hang out with. But they moved out last year, and I just missed her. I just wanted some of Sophie in our music somehow, because she just been such a cool person in our lives. She just bring the girl power she's got this attitude. She's not like a massive singer like Tami Neilson, she's not a huge belter, but she's just got this thing going on. I can't really describe it. She understands beats and loops and synths and she digs our music.

Finn [Scholes] has just become our main buddy, he's become a really close friend of mine over the last year and a half. We've even been tramping together for nine days. He insisted that we take our instruments tramping through the Southern Alps, he took his pocket trumpet and I took my little clarinet.

That's a good idea.

We've got Steve Abel singing lead vocals on one song. That is a bit of an outlier on the record I suppose, but I felt that Steve's voice really suited that tune. I go to a lot of gigs and Steve goes to a lot of gigs and we're often propping up the bar at the end of the night nattering away. So I just wanted to hang out with Steve a bit more. To be honest, we make a bit of a meal of the guests, y'know we say "We've got guests, look at all our guests." But it's really to disguise the fact it's mainly Tim and I.

What can punters expect from your upcoming WOMAD performance?

We do have Finn Scholes along for that, so we're billing it as 'Hopetoun Brown and the Genius of Finn Scholes'. We will have two trumpets, a tenor saxophone, a bass clarinet, a set of vibes, a Rhodes electric piano, two tambourines, a cabasa, and a caxixi, which is really hard to spell. We will be playing songs off all three records, and we will be playing some songs that aren't on the records, and there will be a lot of stomping, and clapping, and whooping. Tim has worn out the soles of his one thousand dollar pair of Westco boots that he bought in America a few years backhand he's actually had to send them back to America to get resoled at great expense. So we are hoping and praying that the Westco boots get back in time for WOMAD because they are a very important part of the sound [UPDATE: the boots have arrived in New Zealand safe and sound].

You can catch Hopetoun Brown and the Genius of Finn Scholes this weekend at WOMAD Festival 2018, and at Palmerston North's Globe Theatre on Wednesday 30th May.


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