Talk of the Town

Olympic Hopefuls' pop speaks volumes while the Twin Cities' best new band keeps tight-lipped

The olympic hopefuls have, at most, three moods.

It's fitting, that number three, because the trinity is holy in rock music--bass-guitar-drums, verse-chorus-bridge, one-four-five--and the Hopefuls, as their fans know, are positively puritan when it comes to their fidelity to the scriptures of pop song construction. The three moods on their debut album The Fuses Refuse to Burn (2024 Records) are well-preached and proven: There's feel-good, buoyant optimism, echoed in their name and in countless photo shoots of the boys donning their signature matching tracksuits, racing for the prize, reaching for the stars, below headlines like "Going for the Gold." There's staccato defiance, in which our heroes switch from hand clapping and toe tapping to finger shaking and foot stomping. And finally there's breezy ennui (to borrow a term that Hopefuls co-principal songwriter Darren Jackson sings on "Drain the Sea"), in which lyrics gently float over ooh ahh backing vocals, inspiring more than a few teenage romantics in the crowd to squeeze one another, tilt their heads, and sing along.

America's Next Top Model Citizens

As the pageantry of the annual Picked to Click poll draws to a close, the Olympic Hopefuls have emerged as the clear victors. While the boys wear their crowns with grace and poise, the question remains, what kind of agenda will they shape for the coming year? Will these five gentlemen serve in good faith as stewards of Minnesota music to the rest of the world? Does the number of votes equal a mandate?

True to pageant form, we asked each member to step to the front of the stage, smile big for the cameras, and answer the following question: "How do you plan to use your title of 'Best New Band' to better the state of music, in Minnesota and beyond?" Judging by their answers, we should be in for a good year. --Chuck Terhark

 

"We will be a beacon to all the aspiring young rock bands in Moorhead, in Owatonna, in Dundas, and throughout Minnesota. We will be an example of all that is pure and true in rock 'n' roll. We will refrain from lip-synching, male-on-male kissing, and baring breasts at major sporting events. We will represent Minnesota with pride and dignity for the rest of the world to behold."

--Darren Jackson, guitar, vocals

 

"Now that we have been 'Picked to Click,' I think it is imperative that we teach other musicians about the importance of good moral values. Moral values are the foundation of any music scene."

--Heath Henjum, bass

 

"I plan to use my title for free chocolate milk, and gym class all day."

--Matt O'Laughlin, drums

 

"We will introduce 'pay-for-play' so that only bands with the most money will be heard on Minnesota stages."

--John Hermanson, keyboards

 

"As 'Best New Band,' Olympic Hopefuls plan to do whatever it takes to continue being the 'best' and being 'new' and being 'a band' so that we truly can be the 'best new band.' We hope to make the Minneapolis music scene 'more happening' by making super happy number one rock 'n' roll music for the people of Minneapolis and beyond."

--Erik Appelwick, guitar, vocals

Three moods, each a tint of the same happy hue. And as I wait to greet the Olympic Hopefuls with news that they've won the top spot on City Pages' annual best new local band poll, Pick to Click, I wonder which one they'll employ in response. Will they break out in song? Will it be a triumphant leap in the air? Hugs and high fives all around? Will they smile and reply, "It's about goddamn time"? Or will they enjoy the moment in quiet reflection, remembering the past winners-turned-breakup stories, brooding cheerily over their cursed fate? What will they say?

"Oh."

Oh. That's the sentiment--abridged, granted, but distilled to its essence--that the Olympic Hopefuls offer upon learning the extent to which this town loves their music.

 

Let me explain. We're swilling beers in a Dinkytown pub, and so far, none of these guys are in the mood I was expecting. It's all sober business: Jackson's holding a wad of cash, passing out twenties to various bandmates. Keyboardist John Hermanson is explaining his new technique for saving his voice before a show ("Lemon drops!"). Erik Appelwick, spindly guitarist and co-songwriter, is telling drummer Matt O'Laughlin how the teen soap The O.C. wound up picking the Olympic Hopefuls song "Let's Go!" for its Christmas episode on December 23. (Turns out someone at Fox heard the group on XM satellite radio.)

For a moment, all discussion intersects on the problem of where to sleep during the band's upcoming three-day tour of Missouri ("We could camp." "Nah, let's Priceline a hotel."), and then, just like that, conversation scatters again. Hermanson talks about the keytar he wants to buy ("I know a girl whose dad invented it"); O'Laughlin and Appelwick confer about their fantasy football league ("Who are you playing this week?" "I don't know, whoever 'Love Fist' is." "That's my brother!"); and Jackson tries to convince the waitress to bring him a cup of hot tea ("It's right here on the menu!" "That's ice tea").

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