We met at 9 a.m. It worked best for both of our schedules, and rumor has it he’s a morning person.
“I’m staying out and never sleeping in,” sings frontman and songwriter Johnny Hopson on “Freakin’ out the Fam,” a song off the band’s latest record, Friends.
Future Crib is an increasingly unavoidable phenomenon of indie rock bliss here in Nashville. At one point boasting a revolving line up of 33 musicians, it’s hard to find a local artist who hasn’t shared the stage with Hopson and Co.
Even though Future Crib’s lineup is no longer rotating, community is still at the heart of the band’s music and success. Road warriors of the house show circuit, no one bleeds the DIY mentality more than Hopson and friends. When they aren’t touring on their material, Future Crib members are mainstays in the live bands of both Briston Maroney and Nordista Freeze.
I got the chance to sit down and chat with Hopson about songwriting, touring, and crying while watching Pixar’s “Up.”
Music Mecca: So who or what got you into playing music?
Johnny Hopson: I can remember enjoying music for as long as I can remember. My parents owned restaurants and my dad went around town managing them. I just remember being in the backseat listening to Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, Dinosaur Jr., all these indie rock bands. So I grew up listening to a lot of that stuff. I remember being 11 or 12 and my dad was watching the Austin City Limits show and Wilco played and I just don’t think I’ll ever have that feeling again. I was just thinking, “this is the greatest thing I’ve ever seen.” So I don’t think it was ever a question that I loved music.
MM: How did Future Crib come together?
JH: In high school I had a band called Naff Noise with Bryce who’s in Future Crib now, and my other roommate Ben and our drummer Spencer. We played kind of pop-punky, louder stuff that we grew up listening to. We listened to a lot of Minor Threat and Black Flag so it was kind of like that tinged with more pop. But senior year they started getting real busy with marching band and I wasn’t in marching band. So we didn’t really have time to do anything even though we wanted to start playing out of town and making more recordings but nobody ever could. I’d bought a tape machine I’d been saving up for from working at the restaurants during the summer and two or three times during week during school. Since I had all this time and couldn’t get together with the rest of the band, I had all these songs lying around that weren’t really what we were doing so I made that record, “Stevie B,” and I was like, “there will be no open high hat! Barely a crash! No singing above a whisper.” I just wanted it to be the opposite of everything else we were doing. I would just come home from school and drink some tea and make the record.
So at the end of high school, I wanted to start playing shows with that music I’d written. So Julia Anderson played bass and my brother Joey played drums, Ben played guitar, and we kind of played like that for a while. Then when we graduated, we had this big rotating cast of characters for a year or so. I think I counted one time and it was something like 33 people that had played in Future Crib at one point. Eventually Noah Pope played drums at one show and I was just like, “that’s it, I’m never playing a show without this dude again” (laughing). He came on a tour we did in 2018 that was really awesome. So it kind of settled into me, Julia, Bryce, and Noah, and now George, as the five people in the band. It feels really special and good to have come around to that.
MM: What’s your songwriting routine like?
JH: I’ve been kind of in a rut recently, but I think it’s because we’re working on this new record we’re really excited for. I think a lot of the creative energy in my mind is getting put towards what we can do to make it the best thing ever. So not a lot of new stuff is coming out of my brain. I don’t really like to have one approach. It’s totally a different world when you’re playing guitar or a keyboard or finding sounds. You have to put yourself in a lot of unfamiliar situations to find something that’s exciting. If I get too familiar with something I just do the same shit and it’s so frustrating. Sometimes you can just play the same music on a different instrument and have a totally different feeling about it. So I think if I feel like I’m not getting anything done I’ll tell myself not to play guitar all week and only play a toy keyboard instead. But every once in a while I’ll wake up ad be humming a song and be like, “what song is that” and then realize, “oh! It’s mine!” That’s the coolest. (laughs)
MM: Any upcoming releases?
JH: We have an EP we’ve been working on with some songs lying on the outskirts of that batch from the album. Then we’re going to make a record that we have everything written for in May. We’re just trying to play the songs a lot at shows because it’s better for us to play them a lot and bring out the things that belong there instead of recording them first and figuring out later what doesn’t work.
MM: Any tours coming up?
JH: We just got a bunch of weekend runs right now. We’re going to tour for a couple of weeks in the Northeast in May right before we record the record.
MM: Do y’all record in a home studio?
JH: So I live in Woodbine with Bryce and Noah. George lives right down the street and we can walk to each other’s houses. So we practice at our place a lot but our recording space is actually at my parents’ house, which is like a 20-minute drive from my house. That’s where we got all our gear. When we record the record we’ll probably just live there for a couple of weeks and take hikes in the woods. (laughs)
MM: I saw your LP, “Friends,” came out back in September. What has the reception been like since then?
JH: It’s been cool man. It’s been really rewarding because I think all the songs on that record felt cool by themselves. I’m a big fan of records with songs that feel like they live in this world together. I didn’t really feel that way about “Friends,” which is why I’m so excited about the new one, but I think that record was more a collection of songs that we had been playing a lot at the time of us really being a band of those four people: me, Julia, Bryce, and Noah. What was so cool about it for me was that there were certain songs people picked out like “Astronaut” and “Yer Movin” and “Friends” that I think really brought us closer to other people. “Friends” especially, every time we play it it always feels special because there’s always someone who tells us they want to be our friend. I was happy with how it turned out. I think we definitely could have done things a little differently like playing the songs more before we recorded them but you always learn from what you did before, so.
MM: What is one skill you wish you had?
JH: I wish I were really good at quick mental math. I think I’m decent but I wish I were really snappy.
MM: If you could have a beer or coffee with any artist, dead or alive, who would it be?
JH: Damn dude! Any kind of artist? I don’t know because some people you think you can sit down with but they might just be incredibly awkward or I might be incredibly awkward. Like I don’t think I want to sit down with Jeff Tweedy. (laughs) I think Stephen Malkmus would be pretty funny, but it could go either way.
MM: Any on-the-road cooking hacks?
JH: (laughs) Dude we really like to save as much money as possible! We’ll go to Costco and get bulk beans and rice. Like when you get home you don’t want to see a black bean again! But I mean, you can bring some Sriracha and it’s great. It’s kind of gross if you eat it in the van, but you can always bring some tuna packets or tuna cans with crackers. It’s a good snack. Noah brings a little Coleman cooking stove and small camping pans to make mac and cheese. Just like bulk foods that you can make a lot of are the move. But we’re fortunate to stay with enough friends’ families that’ll feed us dinner or breakfast and that’s awesome.
MM: What is something people don’t know about you?
JH: I feel like I’m pretty open. (laughs) I don’t really keep secrets. I do watch “Adventure Time” before bed every night. I watched the finale for the fourth time again last night and I did cry again…every time. But if you really want to see me cry, show me the first five minutes of “Up.”
MM: Speaking of movies, favorite movie you’ve seen recently?
JH: I’m not really a huge thriller man, but I really like Midsommar.
NM: A favorite book you’ve read recently?
JH: When David Berman passed away I really wanted to find that book of poetry he did, “Actual Air,” but since he died they really jacked up the price on all the used copies so it was like $150 for this little book of poetry. But they reissued it and I went home one day and my dad had it and I was like, “Where did you get that? Did you drop $200 and not tell me?” (laughs) but it was like $25. So I’ve mainly been going through that. It’s pretty cool. I like David Berman and the Silver Jews a lot.