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HOPE’s up

Moncton punk outfit HOPE releases its fifth album, “10 times better than anything” they made before it. Jon Bruhm agrees.

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Dana Robertson has just given away a loaf of bread. During an in-studio radio appearance earlier this week, his band, Moncton punk rockers HOPE, partook in an interview and gave away concert tickets, CDs and a loaf of bread (as a mystery bonus prize) to a lucky caller.

Foodstuffs aside, HOPE has another bun that’s ready to come out of the oven, and it’s not just the pending birth of Robertson’s second child. After three years in the works, HOPE is finally prepared to deliver their fifth full-length offspring.

Around since late 1992, but only taking the band more seriously over the past half decade, Robertson, bassist Jamie Oldfield, drummer Tom “T-Bone” Antle and guitarist/vocalist Marco Rocca have worked long and hard on their new self-titled album. Three years between records is an eternity in the rock world, but certain unavoidable circumstances caused some serious delays in the project.

HOPE hasn’t had the best luck when it comes to record labels. A well-documented feud with Calgary’s Lameass Records, followed by the bankruptcy of California’s Aggravated Music left the band to complete the album entirely on their own. Shortly after its completion, a former tourmate referred them to Milk and Cookies, a Quebec-based label that was looking to sign new acts.

“I sent them a copy of the album and got an email a few days later,” remembers Robertson. “I met them in Quebec City a few weeks later and had some beers with them. They seemed like good guys and they were on the same page as us. The difference with these guys is they want to help us sell as many albums as possible. The other labels wanted to as well, but weren’t willing to sink any money into advertising. Milk and Cookies are as happy with the album as we are and we all want everyone to hear about it.”

Whereas some of their earlier recordings were rushed, the new disc is the complete opposite. Working with Laurence Currie, Jon Epworth and Craig Sperry at the now-defunct Halifax studio Idea of East, the band’s slow and steady pace—a year to write, another year to record and six months to ready the release—has resulted in a brilliant example of why HOPE is one of our nation’s most promising punk treasures.

Recording over the span of a year may sound unconventional and could conceivably hinder the band’s level of focus, but Robertson says that their scheduling, financial and record label issues were actually a blessing in disguise.

“We trekked back and forth 20 or so weekends to work on it,” he says. “I think it worked out great because there were different guitar parts and bass parts written over the year—if we had recorded it in a straight month, the songs would have been quite a bit different. Also, we really took our time. We didn’t have any deadlines, no one pushing us to get an album right out, which I feel was the reason why our last album was lacking. I mean, there’s some good songs on it, but for the most part, it was rushed. This time, we took our time and we’re all extremely happy with the outcome. It sounds 10 times better than anything we’ve ever done, and there’s no filler, which is a first for us. For once, we all feel that there’s 11 great songs on the record.”

Fourteen years later after their humble beginnings in Robertson and Oldfield’s apartment, HOPE has a new label, a hot new album and, at last, a well-deserved sense of accomplishment. What will happen next remains to be seen, but Robertson says that they’re ready to welcome any opportunity with open arms.

“Anything is possible right now,” he says. “Realistically, we can’t go away six to eight months per year because of priorities at home, but that doesn’t mean we can’t tour,” he says. “We’ve never set a long-term goal, we just play it day by day. Maybe that’s the reason we’re still playing music today. We’re still having fun.”

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