It’s coming up on the Year of the Rabbit, but it already has been the year of Hop Hop in Lexington music. And if that rhymes with “Doo Wop,” no matter how it seems, it is just a coincidence.
The Loudon Avenue-based record label launched in Spring 2010 by local music bellwether/impresario/stalwart Ross Compton and the wunderkind currently known as James Friley has a pair of “post-doo wop” hits on its hands in its first year : releases by Idiot Glee and Matt Duncan.
“The label never had any ‘sound’ idea behind it….you could make the pun both business and music there,” Compton said in a telephone interview.
Nonetheless, Hop Hop’s Kentucky Proud musicians have soundly landed their songs on a major European label, on “Vampire Diaries” and “Private Practice,” in a glowing piece in the influential “Band of the Day” feature in The Guardian newspaper, in Vice magazine and on “Top 10” lists.
Idiot Glee has a 5-song Christmas download called “An Idiot Glee Christmas” featuring Ashley Crawford on www.bandcamp.com that has exceeded the number of monthly free downloads and is still flying off the server at the nominal $2 charge for four classics and a Wham! cover. Idiot Glee did “Baby It’s Cold Outside” on the BBC. Matt Duncan’s “Beacon” CD outsold effin’ VAMPIRE WEEKEND at CD Central.
And the two acts will reprise a stunningly popular cover sets performance that they did in September — just after Christmas. at 9 p.m. Wed. Dec. 29 at Al’s Bar at the corner of Sixth and North Limestone Sts. James Friley (presumably with Ms. Crawford as Ms. Nicks and Sara O’Mane as Ms. McVeigh) will play the tunes of Fleetwood Mac as Meetwood Flac and Matt Duncan will play the tunes of Steely Dan.
With a logo that includes two bunnies, Hop Hop is a label named after a club that never opened.
(The best laid plans for the space marked “Hop Hop” in orange butcher shop letters at Loudon and N. Limestone were laid low by building code, but Ross Compton has his dream of a club and two bunnies). The bunnies abide.
“James is half the label,” Compton said . “It was more about celebrating Lexington. I think about hearing James for the first time… he and I both have this wide-eyed and mouths wide open approach to Lexington music. It’s open-mouthed awe at what our friends are able to accomplish. For me that was him, “ Compton said. “For me, it was trying to be that spark in other people getting him to see him.”
Idiot Glee is, in essence, Ashland-native James Friley, 23, and his multiple musical, digital and heavenly post-doo wop vocal skill sets.
A classically trained pianist, vocalist and multinstrumentalist, Friley puts two toy keyboards, a real keyboard, a Micro-Korg and the voice of an angel through his 2008 discovery of Brian Wilson’s “Pet Sounds” and a Macintosh and comes out with a gauzy, ethereal doo wop sound.
Already a draw at local clubs and on local airwaves with self-released music, Friley and Compton put out Hop Hop’s first release in April: a seven -inch EP titled “Idiot Glee,” featuring four songs.
In the last year, in addition to playing gigs at the likes of Glasslands and other venues in Brooklyn, Idiot Glee has toured the United Kingdom and Europe, playing cities including London and Berlin on stages with the bands Women, Summer Camp, and Neon Indian.
That brought international attention, a bunch of fine writeups in the London papers, and a European deal with Moshi Moshi, the London-based label that backs acts including Florence and The Machine, Hot Chip, Friendly Fires, Lykke Li and Still Flyin’. Moshi Moshi will put out a full-length “Idiot Glee” release in May. Already, an October 2010 release of a single has garnered British fans’ attention and Friley returned to England in early December for Christmas shows. Click here to buy Idiot Glee on iTunes.
Matt Duncan is another classically trained instrumentalist and songwriter in his mid-20s. “Beacon” features smooth vocals, brilliant lyrics, and jawdropping syncopation, perfect pitch and painstaking, perfectionistic production.
A Lafayette High School alum, Duncan first gained attention with the now-defunct Parlour Boys, one of Lexington’s strongest indie bands in decades. A pianist and vocalist who also plays bass, guitar and a number of other instruments, Duncan is also a member of the band Englishman, a project of Andrew English.
In terms of local sales, both Idiot Glee’s 7” and Matt Duncan’s 5-song EP are in the Top 10 Local Bestsellers of 2010 list at CD Central. And mind you, that list included Apples In Stereo, who had a little bit of a head start, and the remarkable Ben Sollee and Daniel Martin Moore Subpop release, “Dear Companion.”
But Duncan’s CD is also on the bestseller list of all music, checking in at No. 5, just in front of Vampire Weekend. It has been picked up by the indie music tipster aggregator site Hype Machine and also used, under license, as music on recent episodes of the television shows “Vampire Diaries” and “Private Practice.” Click here to buy Matt Duncan music on iTunes.
Ross Compton, Without Whom
Compton has been the driving force behind much that is great about Lexington’s music scene since he moved here in the early 1990s.
He’s the guy behind Hop Hop. (The label and the imaginary club, pictured here in a portrait by Mick Jeffries).
He’s the guy behind the extraordinary Outside The Spotlight jazz series that has presented 122 experimental and free jazz concerts in town over the past decade.
He was the guy behind many of the events and shows at the Icehouse.
He is the guy behind The Lexington Project.
He is one of the people (along with Teresa Tomb) behind the Lexington arts collective that has been turning your head with happenings, performance art and parades from the Sun Ra Arkestra Mardi Gras strut to the annual “Thriller” Halloween zombie parade.
From booking shows with upcoming bands and national indie standouts at University of Kentucky, Yat’s, Mecca, Gumbo YaYa, Al’s Bar, FreeKY Fest and the Red Mile Round Barn, to serving as a dj on WRFL and an original lineup member of Hair Police, Compton has been the guy to say “you gotta hear this,” and then lets us.
The Louisa native and University of Kentucky Gatton School and Honors Program graduate, in addition to his central scenemaking role, also makes the novelty bunny cakes that are sometimes distributed at Hop Hop gigs.
What’s next for Hop Hop? A release by local band The Butchers, a-shirt, a onesie, and beyond. The first year – six months really – has been been good, for a little city label—really for any label.
So with an eye toward Louisville, always a strong producer of indie rock, back to Antietam days. “We’re not anybody’s little brother. We’re kicking the ass of cities all around us and with the way tech is organized now, that’s not really the point anyway.”
Er, London calling.
Who are This Year’s Models in Lexington? Model Citizens? Visionaries? Innovators? Big Thinkers who are also long on Action? Every year, Ace celebrates “This Year’s Models” with a special year-end Annual Edition (on stands now). All year long, the readers nominate Lexingtonians who have made a difference in making Lexington a better place to live.
This year’s class includes an artist bent on revitalization, an athlete, a couple very different bloggers, hip-hop moguls, and a bike-ridin’cowboy.