- Glad You Stayed
- Fall Back
- Everyone You Know
- Heart Never Stops
- They Say
- Quiet Games
- Total Disregard
- I'm On TV
- When It Goes
Hoops had to self-destruct in order survive.
These three friends from central Indiana, each one a distinctive singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist, had reached a point where years of hard work and creativity were just starting to pay off. They were hailed as one of the most inventive young bands around, with comparisons to Guided by Voices, My Bloody Valentine, and the Radio Dept., and that’s exactly when they broke up the band. “There was so much going on in our lives,” says Kevin Krauter. “I think we had lost a lot of steam, so the prospect of going on tour and recording a new album and being in this band didn’t seem realistic at all anymore. Hoops wasn’t moving forward organically. It was being dragged along.”
By then, the band members had been playing together for nearly half their lives. In 2011 Drew Auscherman recruited his pal Kevin Krauter to help him flesh out a solo project he had started in his bedroom. Three years later they added another friend, Keagan Beresford, on keyboards. Together they home-recorded some ingeniously catchy songs that spliced a variety of pop strains—jangly guitars, shoegaze drones, kosmische drums, even some ‘90s dance-pop beats—and self-released a series of cassette tapes whose popularity caught them off guard. So they toured the country, amassed a grassroots audience, and signed with Fat Possum Records. Their 2017 full-length debut, Routines, put them right at the brink of breaking out.
But in reality things were headed toward a breakdown. Hoops had become a burden rather than an outlet, and the trio felt burned out and overwhelmed both creatively and professionally. In July 2018 they announced they were taking an indefinite hiatus. They left it open-ended, but it felt permanent. And it felt like a relief. “I had to rediscover why I wanted to be in a band and make songs and perform,” says Keagan Beresford. “I had been having a lot of anxiety when I was onstage. I wasn’t even thinking about playing. I was just thinking about getting through the set without falling on my face. It’s crazy to think about all the shows we did where I wasn’t really present.”
With Hoops on the shelf, the three friends went back home and got on with their lives. Krauter and Auscherman formed a short-lived hardcore punk outfit called Matrix in order to explore some very different sounds and play some very different stages. “It felt good to go back and do a self-booked tour, play some DIY shows, and do some home recording,” says Auscherman, who lives in Chicago. “It definitely got me excited about music again in a way I hadn’t felt in a while.” Krauter moved back to his hometown of Carmel, Indiana, and released two solo albums. Beresford, based out of Indianapolis, returned to college to complete his degree and released a solo EP in February 2019.
Freed from the weight of Hoops, they kept writing what they thought sounded like Hoops songs, demos of which they sent back and forth to each other. There was no pressure to make anything of them, though, and that revived some of the excitement they felt when they made their first cassettes. In December 2019, Beresford called up his old friends to see how they felt about reviving the band: “I missed working with those guys. I’d been writing these songs and I thought we could do well together. They’re my best friends and my favorite collaborators, so I was happy they were so receptive to it.”
Just a few months later, they met up in Bloomington, Indiana, to record Halo at Russian Recording, the studio that had been home to L’il Bub (RIP). They invited their friend Ben Lumsdaine to produce. In addition to mixing and producing records for locals Amy O and Steve Marino, he had worked on Krauter’s solo albums and toured with him, and he immediately settled in as the fourth Hoop. For a week, they worked all day experimenting with each other’s songs, then hung out with friends and watched The Sopranos at night. It felt like summer camp, not just because they were sleeping in bunkbeds but because it had been ages since they had all spent that much time together in the same space.
Where they had once guarded their own songs in the studio, at Russian they discovered they were opening themselves up to more possibilities. “We were trying out crazy ideas, doing things on the fly, and not getting super caught up in things not sounding how we thought they would,” says Auscherman. “I think a good way to describe our band is that we all produce each other. Someone will bring in a song and we’ll make production suggestions. Oh, this guitar tone would sound good. We’ll suggest stylistic choices to make the song cohesive with the rest of the stuff.”
One thing they wanted to avoid was falling right back into their old routines. Instead, they took on new roles that allowed them more room to breathe, more space to create. They even wrote a few songs together—a first the band’s history. Auscherman had started “Fall Back” about a long-distance relationship, but he fleshed it out with Krauter and Beresford, who added jangly guitars, a buoyant rhythm section, and a swooning chorus: “Fall back in my arms again, just the way it should have always been.” Like many songs on Halo, it wasn’t written specifically about his bandmates but nevertheless addresses similar emotions about their musical partnership. “That’s one of the first songs we ever sat down and wrote together,” says Krauter. “That was one of the few songs that we ever collab’ed on that hard.”
Hoops take obvious joy in playing these songs and playing around with them, often nodding to their favorite bands but always putting those familiar sounds in new contexts. The percolating synths and beats of “Total Disregard” sound like the memory of an old Stereolab CD, but Hoops marry that to a woozy jangly-pop and a lo-fi fuzz-guitar solo as Krauter sings his way out of a deep funk: “Don’t want to know my damage, man… just go ahead and leave it.” Working from a demo recorded on his phone, the band spent more time on “Total Disregard” than any other song, building it up track by track before carefully editing it down to its current state. “That song is a good distillation of everything we listen to as musicians,” Krauter says. “I think it’s very unique to the three of us.”
An album defined by musical exuberance, full of gratitude and generosity to counteract and compliment the deep undercurrents of melancholy coursing through every hook and riff, Halo sounds like a lively conversation among close friends, each song a high five, as they look for some stability in their lives and figure out what they owe themselves, each other, and everyone around them. Reaching this point nearly destroyed the band, but Auscherman, Beresford, and Krauter emerged stronger and closer for their time apart. “This record is a more honest representation of our influences and interests as musicians,” says Auscherman. “We’ve grown a lot in four years, as people and as listeners. We’re starting to sound more like ourselves.”
- Stephen Deusner