Bloomington, Indiana’s own Hoops are about to head out to one of their first extensive tours in a matter of days, running through the US and United Kingdom. Before they embark on their voyage across the United States in support of their latest Routines (via Fat Possum Records), I was curious on how morale was with the troupe. Hoops member Keagan Beresford informed during our phone conversation that everyone is taking everything in stride. “It’s pretty relaxed,” he reveals. “We’re playing a lot of songs from the album, but we have learned a few ones we haven’t got the chance to get tour tight. We got some new equipment that we feel pretty good about and all of us are excited.”
Being a band that’s been loosely defined since its inception a few years ago, Hoops consist of Beresford, Drew Auscherman, and Kevin Krauter. Friends for a period of time, Hoops have released cassettes and a self-titled EP, which has earned them praise and accolades from several outlets. Hyper-melodic songs that are constructed around powerful pop chords, complex drum patterns, Hoops painfully work to make each song sound unique and distinctive. For the band’s full-length debut Routines, Hoops stayed true to themselves while growing as a stronger unit. “We have gotten used to the unpredictability of this lifestyle,” Beresford says. “I feel like that’s a lot of the dramatic material within (Routines). We have been playing in this band for a couple of years now. Now it’s whole different animal. It’s daunting, but we also take everything with a grain of salt. We are taking care of good care of ourselves and each other. There’s an element of pressure for sure, but we are doing it one day at a time; keeping our heads on straight.”
The band has definitely had some excitement building around it as of late, especially with all of the press.
Yeah…all that was pretty alien for us, because we have never done anything like that before. We have been playing together forever, so that’s been the easy part.
I saw that you were trying to keep a low profile for a while. What made the band change that approach?
We did at first just because we didn’t want to be that kind of group that tried to sell themselves super hard. We actually got on (Fat Possum) and if they were going to help support us by promoting us, there was going to be a little give and take to it. We became less sheepish about publicity and social media stuff. We are getting more used to it.
Exactly how long has everyone been together?
Drew, Kevin, and I have known each other since high school; I’ve known Kevin since sixth grade. Drew and I used to be an improv doom metal band together, which is kinda of an odd way to start our musical relationship (laughs). Kevin and I met at church and we were in a Christian rock band for a while together. The way the Hoops thing started was Drew started ambient music on his own and released a few recordings. It became a surf pop thing after that; Kevin, Drew, and our friend James that used to play drums with us. Then we started college and there was a break for a year. Drew write an album’s worth of full band-type songs and recruited us to play it; all of us started writing, releasing recordings. That’s how it’s got to where it is today.
Was everyone close to proximity with one another during college?
Kinda. Kevin and I both went to Ball State University; Drew was there for a year and went to Indiana. Kevin and I would spend most of our weekends there (in Bloomington). We would finish our classes on Friday, pack up, drive all the way to Bloomington, record all day and night or play a show in there somewhere, and drive back to school on Sunday night. It wasn’t good for my grades (laughs). It became how we spent most of our spare time. It was fun. House shows have their own special kind of energy then. It’s all we cut our teeth, playing a lot.
I read somewhere that they weren’t the best shows.
Yeah-depends on the show. There are all kinds of stories that come out of those. One time we were playing in a place and something got messed up. I think we were playing with Deeper, which is a Chicago band. The cops showed up at this house part and all of the underage kids scrammed so there was, like, ten people left. We played at two in the morning and I honestly don’t remember playing (laughs). The ten remaining people all just got really high and said that it was the best set that they have ever seen (laughs).
How big is the DIY scene around Bloomington?
It’s pretty strong. There’s a lot of house shows going on every weekend and everyone is pretty interconnected. Everybody is pretty supportive of each other’s bands and always is a good turnout. A really diverse spread of music happening. Not too many bands that sound like each other, but they are pretty much buds. Nobody is trying to do the same thing.
Speaking more about DIY, did Hoops wanted to continue to record Routines the same way as previous efforts?
All of the early recordings we did were done a four-track tape machine. When we did our EP, we did it all ourselves still. We didn’t enlist any outside help, but we did digitally on a computer. The trick with that was using the right tools at your disposal; we wanted to retain that lo-fi tape sound, but use the capabilities that computers have. We just are trying the find balance, I guess, because we aren’t interested in doing super high-fi albums. Our former drummer James Harrison – who is big on recording engineering – refers to it as “medium-fi”, which I think is a good label.
ong>Hoops recorded Routines at Rear House Recording in Brooklyn. You mentioned that ended up doing everything yourselves. What was the reasoning behind that?
It was an insane recording studio with every bit of analog equipment that you could want in one place. The thing that made it not so good for us was that we didn’t know what we wanted to sound like. All we had to go off with was the demo that we made that were done on four tracks. We shoot for something vaguely close to that and we wind up with a high quality, stripped down song. It wasn’t really happening. We got back from that and we were like, ‘Let’s fine tune this thing’. We mixed the whole thing ourselves, which was the hardest part.
It wasn’t a bad experience. We were just unexperienced. Jarvis (Taveniere) was really good with that. He would hear something and say, ‘Alright, this is the kind of direction that you want to take recording at. I’m going to mic the drums this way, use this amplifier, etc. He was definitely our guide in that sense.
Does that mean that the band is totally turned off with recording in a studio going forward?
Not really. I wouldn’t have anything against it. We did it all in really compressed time; a week here and a week there. A lot of time we wound up recording and mixing up literally up until the day we left for tour. We finished mixing our EP in the back of the van (laughs). We are trying to avoid that, just for the sake of professionalism and keeping our heads on straight. It will make the workflow a lot easier, because we are going to be working on the next album gradually during our time off.
The band worked hard to figure out where collectively you wanted to go. Did you feel that you find with Routines?
The term that we tend to use is “vibe finding”. There’s a lot of vibe finding to be done. As for our future sound goes, we all are listening to different stuff all the time. Usually we try to find common ground that we are all into. Lately, we are going through 80s FM radio hits, top forty hits/songs that we really love. For example, we like the way drums sound on a certain Tear for Fears song so we are going to employ that somehow.
Routines sounds as if the band already starting incorporating a 80s-influenced feel to it.
Yeah, I say so. We got really into synthesizers, which is such a big 80s signature thing. Prefab Sprout is probably our collective our favorite band that is a big influence on how we record and write. Also the tape machines that we were using to originally make the songs; they had a 80s sound to them. There are a lot of contemporary bands that we love and they play into what comes out. We are huge Radio Department fans. Making Routines, that was our standard of operation. We would mix something and say, ‘Oh that sounds like Radio Department-that’s good’ (laughs).
Hoops latest Routines is available now via Fat Possum Records.