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Exclusive Interview [Grapes of Wrath]

Who’s counting down the days to the 2018 Roundup Music Fest happening THIS Wednesday, July 11 at Shaw Millennium Park? We sure are. With Train headlining the event and Goo Goo Dolls, The Wallflowers, and Grapes of Wrath also performing, the music lineup couldn’t get better. Stmpdr had the opportunity this past week to chat with Tom Hooper, 1/3 of Grapes of Wrath. Here’s what he had to say…

(Special thanks to Marc Baskin for interviewing, Grapes of Wrath Tom Hooper for taking the time to speak with us, and Press + Post).

Question #1

Marc: The three of you met and formed as a band in Kelowna, and have toured all over the country during the past few years. Where do you call home now?

Tom: My wife and I have lived on Salt Spring Island for 26 years. Our boys, now 21 and 23, are both musicians and have moved to Toronto and Montreal. As such, we spent 1 year living in Montreal. However, we ultimately decided to move back to Salt Spring Island since we already had a house there. My brother Chris Hooper is currently living in Vancouver ever since he moved from Kelowna ages ago. Kevin Kane resides in Toronto.

Question #2

Marc: What else do you do outside of music that contributes to your musicality or helps rejuvenate your creativity?

Tom: I’ve been keeping pretty busy playing music out here on the West Coast for the last 26 years. There are lots of really great places to play, so I do a lot of solo acoustic shows. Actually, I play in a punk rock band here called the Angry Hippies. We do fast old-style punk-rock. We perform tonight at a little place called the Treehouse Café if you wanted to drop by. Apart from the Angry Hippies, I also play with a band called Riverside, which features Matt Johnson of 54-40 on the drums. We perform often at the Bard & Banker, a beautiful English pub in downtown Victoria.

As you can see, I keep quite busy!

Question #3

Marc: In the 80s, before Grapes of Wrath, you guys all played in a few punk bands, including Kill Pigs and Gentlemen of Horror.

Tom: Yeah, that’s right!

Marc: They sound a lot like the punk bands I listened to back in the late 80s. I also noticed they are quite a contrast to the sound of Grapes of Wrath…what bands inspired you guys to start making music back then and continue making music now?

Tom: As you know, Grapes of Wrath consists of my brother Chris and I, along with our friend Kevin. Chris and Kevin were schoolmates, both in grade 9 when they met. I was in grade 7 at the time. Back then, we were all huge fans of The Beatles, The Who, The Stones, and that general genre of music. We started jamming in our basement and it was there where we first discovered Sex Pistols and the Clash. From then on, we started playing more punk rock. Over the years as music changed, bands like R.E.M. and Cure came around…so we just naturally evolved as music was evolving around us.

You know, people are often surprised that we had a punk rock beginning, but if you listen to our first album, September Bowl of Green, it is not completely punk but it does have an aggressive acoustic rhythm. You can definitely hear where it came from.

Marc: Absolutely.

Question #4

Marc: In regard to that point, what are you listening to these days?

Tom: Well, my current track of records is all over the place! The Beatles – Twist & Shout, Roxy Music – Avalon, Herb Alpert – Whipped Cream & Other Delights, Eric Carmen – Hungry Eyes, etc., and so much more.

Question #5

Marc: For your latest album High Road, what was it like coming back into the studio after a 13 year hiatus? Come to think of it, that was the first time the 3 of you were all recording together since These Days in ’91, is that right?

Tom: It’s a miracle really! <laughs> I always wanted to (make another album), and we have gotten together to play a bunch of gigs over the years, but since we’ve been doing our own separate things for so long I really didn’t expect it to happen! But then, Aporia Records, a record label in Toronto, reached out. They basically said, “You guys wanna make a record? We’ll pay for it…we don’t really need to hear anything up front, just go make your record!” Honestly a dream come true! So we did, and we absolutely love the way that it turned out. We recorded with our old friend Darryl Neudorf (producer) from Kelowna, and he actually always jammed out with us when we were all kids. He’s gone on to record with Neko Case, Blue Rodeo, and New Pornographers.

It was really great reuniting and working together again…fantastic.

Marc: I remember hearing a few songs from the album when it came out a few years back, and I just thought it was a great return to form. You guys hadn’t skipped a beat!

Question #6

Marc: Last year you played here in Calgary during the Canada Day long weekend.

Tom: That’s right, it was great! Actually, we play in Calgary more than most other cities and we love it. We’ve made a lot of good friends over the years. It will be really exciting to play in Calgary again this year.

Marc: You’re playing with Train, Goo Goo Dolls, and The Wallflowers for the Roundup Music Fest on July 11th…have you played with any of these guys before?

Tom: Yeah we played with Goo Goo Dolls in Toronto a few years back, but this will be our first time playing with the other artists.

We’re really looking forward to be playing this gig…we had to cancel our shows last week due to Kevin being in a car accident 2 days ago.

Marc: Oh no! How’s he holding up?

Tom: Well he’s lucky to be alive! A few broken bones, but he says he’s going to be up and ready to play the Calgary show. We’re just happy he’s ok and we’re so ready for you guys that day! (July 11th at Shaw Millennium Park)

Marc: Best wishes for a speedy recovery for Kevin, and looking forward to see you guys kick it at Wednesday’s gig. Thanks so much for taking the time to chat. It was an honour and so cool to get to know a little more about you and the band.

Tom: Thank you!

*End interview*

That’s a wrap! What an amazing opportunity to chat with one of our idols and to learn more about Grapes of Wrath and their roots. Keep up with their Twitter and official website to stay up to date on their latest concerts and music releases. Thanks again to Marc and Tom for the interview! Don’t forget to hit up Shaw Millennium Park on Wednesday, July 11th to check out Grapes of Wrath live along with Train, Goo Goo Dolls, and The Wallflowers.

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