MusicMusic Features

Hope for Agoldensummer

Like a tree that owns itself, the folk trio Hope for Agoldensummer has grown into a Southern institution with roots firmly underfoot in our small town. The creative partnership of the beyond-sonorous sisters Campbell, Claire and Page, has charmed us with sounds that are at once familiar and unique. Case in point: on “Cold, Cold Bed,†the leadoff track on their long-awaited new full-length album, Life Inside the Body, once the mystical cloud of bells and chimes parted, the listener is treated to the sisters striking a stark harmony. While no doubt beautifully rendered, the voices settle on notes that don’t seem chosen so much as automatically, naturally selected by two singers who have vocalized alongside one another for decades. The twin melodies are homegrown, arranged according to rules developed on secret terms, with notes tucked into spaces that have become true and honest and right for them. It’s just one small example of how unique Hope for Agoldensummer has grown to become.

And so, when Page made the decision to leave Athens for Madison, WI this past year, the band didn’t blink; the bonds they’ve developed as a creative unit were too strong to be concerned with mere distance.

“As far as the band is concerned, we didn’t really have a long conversation,†says Claire, speaking to Flagpole via telephone mid-tour (at this particular moment: from a Cracker Barrel in Virginia). “We knew that we both wanted to keep Hope for Agoldensummer going, and the only change would be that we wouldn’t be able to do weekend tours. We’d always have to have big tours planned in advance from now on, which is fine.

“We definitely cried a lot the day she left,†Claire confirms. “It’s taken a lot of getting used to, but as far as the band is concerned, it hasn’t really changed that much. We were never really a band that wrote songs together: she would write her songs on her own, and I would write my songs on my own and bring them to rehearsal. So, it hasn’t really changed songwriting or anything, really.â€

Page’s move came on the heels of the completion of Life Inside the Body, an epic undertaking that has spanned the years since the Campbells recruited into their band’s ranks the talents of multi-instrumentalist and producer Suny Lyons in 2008.

The first matter of making Life happen began with budgetary concerns. As Page explains while her sister places her lunch order (catfish, if you’re curious): “What happened was, we didn’t think we would have enough money to finish it, so in the middle of recording Life Inside the Body we started recording Hours in the Attic as a live album that would be an easy thing to record and put out.â€

That live album established legs for itself in its own right, serving as a showcase for Hope’s frequent and often stunning renditions of standards such as Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Only Living Boy in New York†and (this writer’s personal favorite) Aaliyah’s “Are You That Somebody?â€

“In our usual fashion, we got carried away with Hours, and it became more than just a live album, and it took the focus for a while; it was kind of like putting out another album, which is great in hindsight… more to sell, more to show… but it took a while,†says Page. When the bandmembers finally returned their attention to Life, their ear for nuance got the best of them. Lyons’ studio, Popheart Productions, provided an aural playground that the band was content to mess around in to their collective hearts’ content.

“We were sort of limitless in our time that we could take, and anything we wanted to do we could do, and having no boundaries definitely made the process a lot longer,†Page says, laughing. “But it was really fun. We’re very revisionist. We always want to go back and fix things—make sure it’s the best possible mix and master and everything. Some of the songs on the new album were written eight years ago—they’re not new to us, it just took us a while to get them on tape.â€

Four years and three studio locations later, Life Inside the Body is finally being released on Mazarine Records, a label founded by Lyons, pacificUV’s Clay Jordan, and Kai Riedl (who, along with Lyons, is responsible for Javasounds, the sweeping collection of gamelan music available on their label’s site). While Lyons is busy running his studio and label, the Campbells enlisted The Viking Progress’ Patrick Morales as a touring partner, and the three of them have been reacquainting themselves with America as this very article goes to print. The band started its tour playing a successful string of packed shows in New York, very possibly bolstered by the appealing illustration of the band that accompanied an illustrated blurb in the venerable New Yorker magazine, which Claire wryly says was brought about “like all good things, from sexual favors and bribery and nepotism.â€

Thusly, the roots of Hope for Agoldensummer continue to spread beneath our feet, from Athens to New York to Madison and all points in between and beyond.


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