Summer 2020 feels like a lifetime ago, and also, just yesterday. Such is the paradox of our current experience of time. Day-to-day happenings feel like the occur in an interminable void, like waiting for a flight at the airport, while the actual passage seems to accelerate with days and weeks evaporating in the blink of an eye.
Some (like those with a New York Times subscriptions) will claim that these distortions are due to the news cycle. Possibly, but people who don’t actively torture themselves by attempting to keep up with the Paper of Record experience it, too. It’s more likely a phenomenon produced by the way that we receive information on the internet and our lack of control over how that information is presented and how quickly we are expected to absorb it, removing our agency in seeking out information and metabolizing it.
But that’s not really what this piece. This is supposed to be a feature on a new album, by an awesome, new band, and so I digress.
The first thing I experience when listening to the new album South Loop Summer from Chicago emo kids Hospital Bracelet is an overwhelming sense of nostalgia. This is due, not only to the sense of a captured past invoked by the polaroid aesthetic of the cover art, but also the content of the songs, and the mood they midwife.
Hospital Bracelet’s songs are a warm, soft-focus lens thought which we are given the opportunity to recapture a glimpse of our past lived experience and examine it in the light of our present, whether this be aimless car rides with friends on long afternoons, or that listless feeling we experience when faced with major life decisions, or an instance when we made an obvious error in judgment, but pushed forward anyway, heedless of the consequences. All of these past selves and past lives are available to you through the tesseract of the mind.
Not that you’d necessarily want to go back any of those points of interest in the foreign land that is the past, though. Growing up is hard, and thinking about growing up is even harder. It’s difficult to tell where you are going, or even what direction you’ve come from once you’ve become aware of your arrival in the present. Time and our experience of it are slippery, hard to embrace, and impossible to wrangle.
I think Hospital Bracelet are able to capture that feeling of being jettisoned through time while attempting to gain some perspective on one’s trajectory though, and they are adept at presenting their struggle in the shape of music. Maybe they’ll get their bearings and land on their feet, or maybe they’ll crash in a heap.
Either outcome is equally likely, as I’m sure we’ve all experience for ourselves. The power of music is that it allows us to experience these trials and failures as our own, and hopefully, come to a better understanding of ourselves, and others in the process.
When you are ready to take the leap, you can stream the entirety of Hospital Bracelet’s latest LP South Loop Summer below via Bandcamp, and keep scrolling to read an exclusive interview with the band’s chief time lord Eric Christopher.
Interview conducted on December 14, 2020 via email.
How did you all meet? Was it before or after the band formed?
It’s actually really funny. Manae and I met through an app that my old college had available for students. I was looking for a drummer for Hospital Bracelet while it was still a solo project, and we came across each other.
Arya went to the same school, but we actually met long before they were in the band because they came to a house show I played. It ended up being a pure coincidence that they hopped on bass. We practiced and realized we vibed really well together as musicians, and that was the first time Hospital Bracelet had a real lineup.
What are your musical backgrounds?
My musical background starts from when I was a kid honestly. My dad has been a musician his whole life, and my mom used to be a singer. I was just raised around it. I started playing guitar when I was seven, but I dropped off for a long time in high school until I picked it up again in college. But I also play a little bit of piano, bass and ukelele. I was just raised in a musical household.
Where were some of your favorite places to play live when you were still able to do so?
Toronto and Bowling Green Ohio no doubt. In Toronto, it was such a thrill to be playing out of the country, but also we made the most friends and had the best audience there. In Bowling Green, every time we play the Summit Shack/Howards, we have the best time. We’re always on bills with friends, and I get to see everyone I love. I just think those are the experiences I’ll look back on my whole life. Also, anywhere in the DMV. Those guys know how to show up.
Who did you like to play with back before everything got shut down?
Our homies in Yin Waster went on our first tour with us together, and even though we make completely different music, they were just SO much fun to be around. We also really loved playing with Origami Angel, Carly Cosgrove, Niiice., Dogleg, and Arcadia Grey. All of them are such sick people, and it’s impossible to have a bad show with them.
What do you think makes Chicago’s DIY scene unique?
I think Chicago’s DIY Scene is very unique in the sense that I don’t think we’re really all that lucky. It’s a major city, but we have a lack of accessible, all-age venues. Even so, we still manage to have a very close-knit community of artists. The house venue scene is immense, and it’s really cool to see so many different bands in different genres on the same bill together. I think that there are no limits to what you can do here.
South Loop Summer feels like a very personal album, do you draw much from lived experience while writing?
Oh, completely so. The record revolves around experiences I went through my freshman year of college and the summer that came after. It talks about my assault, my friends, my family, and my love life. I basically put my entire life into songs. All of Hospital Bracelet’s discography is incredibly personal and lived, but this album especially so.
How did you get connected with Counter Intuitive?
My first connection with Counter Intuitive was through Ryland from Origami Angel, my homie Dree, and Alex Martin, who manages our band. The idea of being on Counter Intuitive, my favorite label, seemed so far fetched until all of them convinced me it was possible.
Alex Martin made the connection with Jake Sulzer for us, and when we first got the offer for the record, my mind was blown. There was no way we weren’t going to take it. We’re so lucky to have the team and support we do, and now having Jake on, I feel like we’re unstoppable.
Are there any bands who are now your labelmates who you are excited about?
Oh, I’m about to sound like such a punisher. I’ve been a massive fan of Prince Daddy and The Hyena for years. Cosmic Thrill Seekers was my favorite album last year, and I’ve always loved their style of music. Also, of course, Mom Jeans has had a massive effect on my music taste in the last four years. They’re one of the only bands who has actively stayed in my regular listening for that long.
Origami Angel is also something really exciting for me. Not only is Gami incredibly talented, but Ryland is also just one of my favorite people on the planet. I consider him to be a really close friend, and I’m lucky to say he’s supported Hospital Bracelet from the very beginning. I’m lucky to share a label with so many different, talented people.
If there were three records that people should listen to in order to get in the mindset for your record, what would they be?
The albums I drew the most inspiration from when I was writing were probably Cody by Joyce Manor, Historian by Lucy Dacus, and Happy Again by Stars Hollow. In 2019, these records we’re pretty much back-to-back playing every chance I could play them, and I definitely think that all three influenced my writing heavily.
How did you need to adapt your writing and recording processes after COVID to complete the record?
We had to wait so long to get back into the studio after COVID. Luckily, by the time the pandemic had started, the only thing left to do in the studio was guitars and vocals, so it was just me and Adrian. We just constantly wore masks unless I was singing and used hand sanitizer religiously. Writing in the pandemic has been hard, but I’m also very happy about what’s come out of it so far. I’m hoping that others will enjoy it just as much.
What was the best part about making this record?
The best part was definitely touring some of the songs before we’d recorded. A bunch of people who had only heard our acoustic songs finally got to hear what we sounded like live and seeing the response to that was INSANE. I’m more than excited to see now what the people who didn’t hear anything live feel about the full record, since it’s such a different sound.
What does a typical, south-loop summer look like for you?
Before COVID, a South Loop Summer for me was just a lot of making memories with my friends. Whether it was going to work or going out with my friends to shows, I was never bored. Sometimes, the summers can be hard, but with my homies and the support system I have, I know I’m always gonna come out on top. I think that’s what the record embodies for me. The worst shit can happen to you, but there’s always great things on the other side.
Who was on your summer jam playlist this year?
I’d say the top bands and albums on my summer jam playlist this year were Third Eye Blind’s self-titled record, Fake Blood by Heart Attack Man, Sounds Good by Pretty Pleased (a really sick smaller Chicago band), Happy Again by Stars Hollow, and Hard Feelings by Future Teens. I was listening to all of these records back-to-back all year long. Sometimes you just find records that hit perfectly every listen, and that’s all of these for me.
What is your most memorable birthday?
My 18th birthday, I actually flew out to San Francisco and got to see a bunch of wild otters and go to a really nice aquarium. San Francisco is my favorite city in the states, and otters are my favorite animal of all time. I got a little stuffed otter keychain, and I still wear it everywhere I go.
What are your winter plans now that it’s clear we’ll need to be locking down again? Any New Years’ resolutions?
Honestly, I’m probably going to quarantine in North Carolina with my partner. I’m gonna finish up writing our second record, and then wait for it all-out. My New Year’s resolution is to just keep making and releasing music through Hospital Bracelet and put as much hard work as I can in. It feels like I’m so close to making my dream come true, and I’m gonna work as hard as I can to keep that up.