"I had a weird dream last night," Frances Quinlan says. Performing a rare solo show, she stands in the center of the small PhilaMOCA stage to headline the first night of OK Fest, a Philadelphia DIY music festival. The lead singer and songwriter of Hop Along, Quinlan divulges her dream in which she drank a beer with her idol Neil Young, only to realize that the beer bottle was filled with soy sauce. "He said it very matter-of-fact - 'This is soy sauce,'" Quinlan explains, laughing.

When Frances Quinlan was a child, she wanted to be a short story writer. But instead of penning fiction, she crafts music and lyrics with just as much vibrancy, intrigue, and mystique as a novel. At OK Fest, after a fan yells, "We're happy to see you!", Quinlan performs the only song of her solo set from Hop Along's May release Painted Shut, 'Happy To See Me', which shows off her eccentric, clever songwriting: "Father gets up at 4 A.M./to post a motivational video on YouTube again/"'People of the world, nobody loves you/half as much as I'm trying to.'"

Frances Quinlan's solo set at OK Fest ends past midnight. Less than twelve hours later, she arrives in Wiggins Park in Camden, New Jersey to play on a festival stage that overlooks the Delaware River and Philadelphia skyline. This time, at XPoNential Music Festival, she shares the stage with her three bandmates and performs as Hop Along. The freak folk-inspired indie rock band wins their hometown fans' affection all over again, with a large crowd arriving early to see the local superstars. Though their set is abbreviated for the festival setting, they still manage to balance old favorites like 'Tibetan Pop Stars' with new tunes like 'Powerful Man'.

After signing to Saddle Creek Records in October and releasing Painted Shut in May, Hop Along rapidly emerged as one of the most talked about up-and-coming bands. With a quirk-filled rock album jam-packed with stories about Jehovah's Witnesses, washed up artists, and insane relatives, it's no surprise that Frances Quinlan has surreal dreams of Neil Young and soy sauce. After their stand-out set at XPN Fest, Hop Along talked to The 405 about returning home to Philadelphia, literary influences, signing with Saddle Creek records, and more.


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What's it like to come back and play in Philly?
Mark Quinlan: We always love being involved in things culturally around Philadelphia. We've been listening to XPN for a really long time, so doing this has been a total pleasure.

Do you see the Philly scene evolving when you come and go on tour?
Joe Reinhart: I think the scene has always been evolving. It's at its peak right now, and hopefully it will stay that way. But I think we're all stoked to be a part of that or have some little page in the history.


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Some of you have backgrounds in other art forms - how does that play into the music?
Frances Quinlan: I went to art school, but I actually went to school for painting. I've been painting for longer than I've been playing music. I minored in creative writing. When I was little I wanted to be a short story writer, I think. I found that songwriting just came a lot more quickly - I think college was the last time I wrote a short story. But I love that aspect of taking someone into a space during a song, and not just in sound, but in content - taking a person outside of themselves.

Have you ever been into poetry?
Frances: Yeah, I love poetry. I love Louise Gluck, Robert Bly... I think Louise Bogan as well. I have this book of women poets - I'm trying to get better versed. I like Elizabeth Bishop. I'm more into poetry now that I'm not having to analyze it. I really hated that in school.

Do you see the poetry you read or the artwork you paint influence your songs?
Frances: Painting is kind of its own thing. But poetry, absolutely. In writing the lyrics, being telling and succinct at the same time is a huge challenge, and I love poets that can do that. But I also love 'Desolation Row' [by Bob Dylan] and that song's loaded... That's in one of my poetry books, and I was like, "Wow, this is long."

Are there any stories you haven't told yet that you want to tell through song?
Frances: I think there are stories that aren't able to be told. There's stories that I've come back to again and again and just never feel right. Maybe they will when I'm fifty and write a song, but it's gotta come across for you, first.


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What's the biggest challenge in writing songs for Hop Along?
Frances: Agreeing to get rid of words is the hardest thing for me.

Joe: Personal standards - being like, does this move me? Are we doing the best we can here? Just always pushing yourself and each other.

Mark: Just knowing that I'm playing the best possible thing I can be playing on something that someone shows me. Someone will show me something, and I'll be like, "Wow, that's so good!" Figuring out the best thing I can do to enhance that part is challenging?


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Ever since you signed with Saddle Creek, you guys have had a lot of attention, and so many people have been calling Painted Shut the album of the year -
Joe: Crazy...

How do you react to that?
Frances: The one thing I'm starting to feel really weird about is people talking about my voice, with like... impossible praises? It's only happened twice, but that's been unsettling. because it's not. My voice is like, ugly. I'm into that. And I think people are into that. I get nervous when people talk about that, because there's going to be a lot of people who are like, "No, that's not great."

Have you always had that sort of distinctive tone in your voice?
Frances: I think it's just been changing as my voice changes.

With signing to Saddle Creek, how did you choose to sign with that label at that time?
Mark: We've always respected Saddle Creek - I don't think there's ever been a time where I've stopped respecting them. When they were at the pinnacle of their releases that were getting noticed, I respected them just as much as I do now. So when they were interested in Hop Along, I was really excited.

Frances: It also just fell into place so naturally. That was the main thing - Rob came out to see us play in Philly, and that meant a lot to me. Right away, what I liked about them was that there was no schmooze to them at all. They were just like, "I like this record, let's put it out." And I was like, "I like you."

Mark: We can definitely be put off by the whole salesman thing, but they seemed genuine the whole time.


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Do you feel a connection at all with the Philly DIY scene?
Tyler: It's somewhere where we came from, so sure, yeah.

Frances: It was definitely there long before we came, too. I read some article with mentions of house shows I had never even heard of, that were active before I even knew what a house show was. So it's a really rich history here.

Joe: It's really opening too, so it was really incubating for us. They did that one project where they put people together who never played in bands before and had a show for them. A lot of those bands are still bands.

Frances: And then there's Rock To The Future, which brings in kids who play music for the first time. Our friends run that, and actually, their kids were on our last record, Get Disowned. They sing on that. And then there's Girls Rock Philly. There's just a really good community. It's not just a clique.


You can visit the band by heading here. Watch their performance of 'Waitress' for World Cafe, below.