Hope & Social’s newly released fifth studio album, Feel, is a cheery affair.
“It’s really hard to play ukulele and it not sound happy,” concedes Rich Huxley, one of the Leeds band’s mainstays through a 17-year career. (Before becoming Hope & Social in 2008 they were known as Four Day Hombre.)
Feel was “made in a very different way” to how the six-piece have worked previously.
“The last album [All Our Dancing Days] was 35 days of work from not having a note to sending it to be pressed. This has been more the gestation period of an elephant.”
When Hope & Social started work on the record bass player Simon Goff was still in the band. By the time they finished he’d been replaced by Simon Fletcher.
And rather than just going into a studio and “rattling out songs together as a band”, they decided to take their time, says Huxley. “We might start with a loop or a drum pattern or something and Simon [Wainwright, the band’s singer, guitarist and sometime pianist] would bring in something he’d done on GarageBand or on his phone.
“I think we all got to play stuff that we’ve not played before,” he adds. “There’s some xylophone in there and we bought some plastic brass instruments and learned to play those for Sunrise Laughing. James [Hamilton] bought a new synth.
“Now we’ve got to learn to perform the songs [live], which is quite exciting.”
Sunrise Laughing, the lead single from the album, was debuted at a gig at Hull Truck Theatre. “It was good – we got to the end,” jokes Huxley. “It was carnage but it sounded like a song.”
In song writing terms the band operate democratically. “I find it hard to disassociate bits that are song writing and arranging and producing,” says Huxley. “We are all responsible for those bits. Sometimes there will be four chords and we will start building something out of that. For South Facing when Simon came in with that it was very much an acoustic guitar song, really simple with descending bassline chords, but we wanted to not just do another of these songs so we got a table set up in the studio and got four different home keyboards and an analogue synth and we all played parts. You can hear the key presses. If we could do that live it would be a really pretty thing.
“Every song has been through various iterations. Everyone will pitch in their ideas and we will try it and whatever is the best idea wins.”
To coincide with the album’s release, Hope & Social also commissioned videos for each of the nine songs. They put out an open call, with a budget of £500 for each video, and received more than 80 applications.
The promo clip for Sunrise Laughing was made by Virpi Kettu, lead animator on Radiohead’s highly regarded Burn The Witch video. “Virpi put her name down,” says Huxley. “I had met her once before because she’s based in Skipton. I knew she did lots of stuff for Aardman. Her video does not have a narrative with loads of people. It’s an Afghan hound in a blue jacket. I really liked him, he’s friendly.”
Regular collaborators Shot By Sodium also made a video and one was filmed by Richard Shaw, a videographer who wrote to tell the band how a stop-motion project for young people that he had been running had had its funding pulled. “He put all the money from us into getting the club back up and running, that felt like a lovely thing to be able to do.”
Hope & Social launch the album with a gig at Brudenell Social Club in Leeds on October 20. On October 22 all the videos for Feel will be screened at Hyde Park Picture House.
The band also play at The Lion Inn at Blakely Ridge, York on November 10 and Bilton Working Men’s Club, Harrogate on November 11. For further details visit www.hopeandsocial.com