Music endlessly enriching for a meditative Hoop
Jesca Hoop doesn't mince words about opening for the Polyphonic Spree at the Commodore this past July. "The city was a highlight," says the singer-songwriter, reached in the checkout line at Whole Foods before a show in Columbus, Ohio. "But the audience was not. The room was largely drunk. There were 2,000 people who just couldn't calm down."
The tour in general was a challenge, says Hoop. For one thing, she often didn't get a sound check. For another, the orchestra-sized Spree's equipment meant she could bring only one other person on-stage. So instead of presenting the songs on her debut, Kismet, in all their psych-folk, hip-hop glory, she had to strip them down. With only a keyboardist, the songs took on a jazz-pop-odyssey feel that didn't always tame unruly crowds.
For those who caught one of Hoop's sets, Kismet's fuller sound might come as a surprise. In their enhanced versions, "Summertime" and "Seed of Wonder" work an otherworldly folk groove, while "Silverscreen" and "Dreams in the Hollow" lean toward baroque, cabaret-style pop.
"Enemy", one of the disc's highlights, relies mainly on Hoop's voice and guitar. Any more instrumentation would probably spoil the tune, which has a meditative melody that calls to mind the haunting, acoustic-oriented work of Robyn Hitchcock.
"Not in my realm of consciousness," Hoop says of his possible influence. It wasn't a British psychedelic rocker who inspired the song, but kids: "It's about forgiveness and compassion, and how children are a good example for us in how they trust quite easily, even people they shouldn't, and they turn back to a place of compassion and love even after they've been hurt."
Hoop knows of what she speaks–she once worked for a mountain-retreat program for troubled youth. That job probably prepared her for her next gigs, as nanny for the offspring of Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan, and now as a major-label recording artist. Battles along the latter career path seem to have inspired the cynical "Money", on which she sings, "Money'll make you change your sound/If the price is right/You forfeit your style without a fight."
"It's about observing how the music business functions," she says, "and hearing the results of commerce and music, how people have determined they're going to make money with music. Oftentimes, that just means a bunch of crap we become accustomed to and end up buying, rather than music that enriches the world around you."
Priorities in order, Hoop is fronting a four-piece band, and promises to deliver "Money" and the rest of Kismet's lush tunes in a fashion that should win over even the drunks in the audience. Prepare to be enriched.
Jesca Hoop opens for Matt Pond PA at the Plaza Club tonight (October 11).