Listen: The story of the Hopefuls in 15 songs

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(l-r) Andrea Swensson, Paul Allen, and Jay Gabler.
(l-r) Andrea Swensson, Paul Allen, and Jay Gabler. (MPR)
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Playlist: The Hopefuls in 15 songs
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On Feb. 8, author Paul Allen joined Jay Gabler on the Local Current stream to discuss his new book The Hopefuls: Chasing a Rock 'n' Roll Dream in the Minnesota Music Scene, published last fall.

Earlier, Allen told The Current's Andrea Swensson he got the idea for the book when John Hermanson of the Hopefuls passed where Allen was standing at a concert. "I immediately started thinking of this idea of local fame," Allen told Swensson, "and that kind of spun me off into thinking about those guys and all the interconnections between them." Two years later, Allen has produced a book that chronicles the rise of the Hopefuls (originally dubbed "the Olympic Hopefuls" before a legal tussle with the actual Olympic Committee) and details those interconnections, a network of "local fame," in the Twin Cities rock scene of the early 2000s.

On Local Current, Allen curated an hour of music from that era and featured artists ranging from the Hopefuls themselves to Camaro, Tapes 'n Tapes, Storyhill, Kid Dakota, and more.

The first two songs in the set were "Happiness Runs" by Storyhill and "Walking Under Green Leaves" by Spymob, both born of the late '90s. Allen discussed Storyhill's formation at St. Olaf College between longtime friends Chris Cunningham and John Hermanson. "Happiness Runs" was plucked from the duo's fourth album; as Allen explains, "it's sort of the beginning of the collective that led to the Hopefuls." That album in particular, Clearing, was recorded in the same Northfield studio formerly occupied by the Replacements and Hüsker Dü.

"Walking Under Green Leaves" was Spymob's attempt at more accessible music after the release of their first album. The band eventually got the attention of Pharrell Williams and landed a gig as the backup band for N.E.R.D.

Allen explains, "I thought it was so interesting to have these four guys be responsible for so much different music not only as performers, but also as producers. They just had a really wide reach not only in the Twin Cities but beyond."

After the end of their original group, Camaro, Darren Jackson and Erik Appelwick plunged forward with the Olympic Hopefuls along with Eric Fawcett and John Hermanson honing their level of craft, applying some pop sheen, and donning track suits. In 2004, their work paid off and the group were City Pages' Picked to Click winners. According to Allen, the band got people excited about the local music scene again after somewhat of a lull.

Next, Allen chose to play a cut from Storyhill's latest albums after the duo reunited in the early 2000s. "Highlight" was originally written and performed by John for Chris's wedding. Allen explains, "What I really like about it is it shows the bond between those two guys who have broken up and gotten back together a couple times but they've known each other since junior high."

By 2007, the Hopefuls had had their run-in with the Olympic Committee and were split off producing music for other bands. In the same year, Jackson and Appelwick collaborated as Vicious Vicious. Allen played the group's "Girl, What's Your Name," which was the last track Jackson and Appelwick worked on together.

The Hopefuls produced their last album in 2008 through individual recordings passed back and forth via hard drive. Allen explains that "a lot of their songs sort of double as a love song, but also a song about the band, so you can hear them singing to each other in a way about the bond that they have and the music that they're able to make together."

Songs played:
"Happiness Runs" Storyhill
"Walking Under Green Leaves" Spymob
"Revelation" Alva Star
"Easier" Camaro
"Let's Go!" The Olympic Hopefuls
"Holiday" The Olympic Hopefuls
"Ivan" Kid Dakota
"Cowbell" Tapes 'n Tapes
"Girl, What's Your Name" Vicious Vicious
"Highlight" Storyhill
"Hold Your Own" The Hopefuls
"Those Kind of Girls" INTL FALLS
"Cold Calculated" Alva Star
"National Holidays" Spymob
"Stars" Kid Dakota

great as them again," he writes, and whether or not you'd care to argue, you can certainly see where he's coming from.

The Current's The Hopefuls Giveaway

Use this form to enter The Current's The Hopefuls giveaway between 2:00 p.m. CDT on Friday, Feb. 22, 2019 and 11:59 p.m. CDT on Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019.

One (1) winner will receive one (1) paperback copy of The Hopefuls: Chasing a Rock 'n' Roll Dream in the Minnesota Music Scene. Three (3) backup names will be drawn.

Prize retail value: $39.95

We will contact the winners on Friday, March 1, 2019. Winner must accept by 10 a.m. CT on Monday, March 4, 2019.

You must be 13 or older to submit any information to American Public Media. The personally identifying information you provide will not be sold, shared, or used for purposes other than to communicate with you about things like our programs, products, and services. See Minnesota Public Radio's Terms of Use and Privacy Statement.

This giveaway is subject to Minnesota Public Radio's 2019 Official Giveaway Rules.


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