You’d be hard pressed to find a band that is more invested in its community, more invested in its music, its fans and itself than Lara Hope & the Ark-Tones.
They’ve toured with Brian Setzer of Stray Cats fame, they played the 1969 Woodstock site to mark that famous festival’s 50th anniversary and on Saturday June 26 they’ll play the Colony Woodstock in the Town of Woodstock, New York. The occasion will be to celebrate the Friday June 25 release of their third record, “Here to Tell the Tale.” This collection of songs is strong on the rockabilly but doesn’t shy away from the rock, country, blues, surf, Western swing, and jazzy rhythm & blues. Click here for information about the Colony Woodstock.
This Kingston, New York-based band that features Hope, her husband and bass player Matt Goldpaugh, lead guitarist Eddie Rion and drummer Jeremy Boniello revolves around many things that are reflected in “Here to Tell the Tale.” These include determination, resilience, clever twists, a broad, relentless vision and storytelling that captures the essence of the enduring American spirit, as embodied in the everyday ups-and-downs of the couple’s hometown Hudson Valley.
Lara Hope & the Ark-Tones have plenty to offer their fans. They play a good show. They release solid records. And they don’t mess around when it comes to either. But the greatest thing about Lara Hope & the Ark-Tones is their vibe, their musical backflips and their ability to craft a compelling narrative with lyrics, melodies and rhythm. This band asks very little of their audience. For Lara Hope & the Ark-Tones, the giving seems to keep them plenty satisfied.
You will find all of this and more embodied on “Here to Tell the Tale,” a freight train of a release that hits the ground running and continues to push onward long past the finish line, long past the break of the brand new day and far beyond anyone’s expectations. The band’s records and live shows “capture, and release, the spirit of the original rockabilly and country bands that I have listened to and enjoyed for most of my life,” said Bob Dylan bass player and Ark-Tones fan Tony Garnier, in a press release for the new record.
Now howzabout that?
Many thanks to Lara for taking some time to answer some questions and giving us all some insight into the creative process of a band with no bells, no whistles and no reason to look back.
-What inspired this new record?
I’m not sure what didn’t inspire this record! This album was written over the course of three years, in many states, a few different countries and many head spaces. The songs were inspired by a plethora of life experiences, ranging from a traumatic injury that left me with a leg full of metal and a canceled cross country tour, to our first European excursion as a band, to navigating the strong will of the women in my family, and many other first-hand life lessons.
-What inspires this band?
Can’t stop, won’t stop! That’s one of our mantras. I don’t think we knew how to slow down, before being forced to last year. It’s like the snowball effect—every year things have gotten a little better, a little bigger and a little faster. I think we thrive on momentum. In the past I’ve had a hard time saying no to playing shows. That’s something I’m working on!
-How did the pandemic change you as a person and a musician, in terms of your priorities, your emotions, your approach to life and performance, your outlook on life, your creativity, those things you cherish and those burdens you have shed?
I know I am not alone in saying that the past 15 months have given me a lot of time to think and reflect. I’ve learned a lot about myself in this time, and I’ve started to figure out what I really need, and what no longer serves me. “Community” has always been so important to me, but I now realize that by being on the road as much as we’ve been for the past decade, it’s nearly impossible to form those bonds, and really be an active member. I am looking forward to focusing more on the quality of my shows, and less on the quantity.
I love the road, and I never want to stop touring or traveling, but I am looking into new ways of approaching it, so that we don’t have to be gone quite so much. I want to be here more and be involved in the Hudson Valley and in my immediate community. I am trying not to stress as much about the band as I used to. I am taking a more laid-back approach. I don’t know exactly how to put down the reins and relax, but I am definitely trying to find a more happy and healthy balance between music, administrative work, friends, family and time for myself.
-Have your Facebook performances and the regularity with which you delivered them shifted your trajectory as a musician at all? Pandemic aside, did they change your outlook on the music industry?
I’ve gotten more out of the weekly livestreams than I ever could have imagined when we started back in March 2020. I don’t plan on stopping them, even long after the pandemic has ended. Eventually, we may not keep doing them every single week, but the thought of doing a livestream from an interesting part of the country or a landmark, when we are back on the road, seems really fun. That’s part of why we decided to do them on Mondays. We’ve always taken Monday off when on tour, since most people want to stay home after a weekend. But that’s the beauty of a livestream—you don’t have to leave your house to watch and participate. Don’t get me wrong, a virtual show will never live up to the beauty of a live show, but it’s done a pretty damn good job of keeping us creative and connected with our fans.
-Did the pandemic shift your musical relationship with Matt at all?
As always, our musical relationship ebbs and flows. Early in the pandemic, when we had nothing but time, we were writing a lot and learning how to record ourselves, which led to the July 2020 Gold Hope Duo release, “Songs In The Key Of Quarantine.” Lately, we’ve been so focused on the new Ark-Tones album release that our rehearsals and songwriting have taken a backseat. Once the album is out in the world, we plan to get back to regular rehearsals, and hopefully some new tunes will flow!
-Your dog Dolly is named for Dolly Parton, correct? What kind of breed is she, how old is she and does she inspire your creativity at all?
Yes, Dolly is named primarily for Dolly Parton, but also for Salvador Dali, Dolly the cloned sheep and the Dalai Lama! We adopted her about four years ago, and she’s 6-ish now. We recently got her a sister, Reba (can you believe she came with that name?!). Dolly is a cattle dog mix, maybe with a schipperke, we’re not exactly sure. Dolly has definitely inspired our creativity, most notably by being the inspiration for our song “Dolly, How’d You Spend Your Time?” We perform that song as a duo, about the life we imagine she may have led before we adopted her. That one gets the tears going for many other dog shelter parents.
-You and Matt on the same day closed on your house and were set to go on a national tour just as the pandemic hit. You closed on your house but did not leave for tour. Looking back on that moment, what emotions does that bring up now?
We were planning to leave for a six-week cross country tour just hours after closing on our first home, when everything shut down around us, leaving us with an empty calendar and an empty house to fill. In retrospect, this house saved our sanity and maybe even our lives. Had this been any other time, when something that we were really looking forward to and had put a ton of time, effort and energy into had been cancelled, we’d normally have been devastated. Instead of feeling sorry for ourselves, we had something so positive and exciting to focus our energy and efforts on. We really had time to settle in and make this place ours. If we were going to be stuck inside for the foreseeable future, our new house wasn’t the worst place for it to happen. We still feel so fortunate to be here every day.
-The City of Kingston is undergoing some major changes right now, in terms of development, demographics and the community fabric. Does the Kingston cityscape leave a footprint on you as a musician and on your band in general? Does Kingston inspire you at all right now, for better or worse?
I am still waiting for the dust to settle, to see where Kingston lands as a place for creatives in a “post covid” world. I am truly saddened by the closing of BSP, which was such a wonderful community hub for so many different creative outlets and ranges of people. Also, the Anchor decided to stop having live music just before the pandemic hit. With two of my favorite places in Kingston to play gone, we aren’t left with many options. I am so thankful for Keegan Ales and their support of live music, especially after the sudden and tragic passing of Tommy Keegan. I am pleased to see the emergence of “Blueprint,” over at Tech City, the former site of IBM. It seems like they have big plans to become a new home for the arts, and already have a number of outdoor events booked there this summer.
A lot of new people have moved up here in the past year or two, which I have mixed feelings about. I just really hope that some of the new folks who came up here and were able to buy homes outright in cash will also take some of their money and invest it into the community, and ideally open some new venues and other community-oriented places.
-For someone who has never heard of Lara Hope & the Ark-Tones, never heard your music, never saw you perform, what do you hope they take away from listening to this record?
I’d want them to feel happy, to feel pumped and most importantly, to feel motivated! Motivated to “make their move,” as Parade Magazine said when they premiered the first single from the album. The running theme of “Here To Tell The Tale” is one of getting out of your comfort zone and having new life experiences, for good or for bad, so that you’ll have your own tale to tell.