Posted June 28, 2021 by Jeff in Tunes

Lara Hope and the Ark-Tones Emphasize Horns on Rowdy New Album

Lara Hope and the Ark-Tones by Franco Vogt
Lara Hope and the Ark-Tones by Franco Vogt

Since forming about ten years ago, Lara Hope and the Ark-Tones have gathered some significant accolades. The group won the 2017 Ameripolitan Music Award for Best Female Rockabilly Artist, New York’s Hudson Valley Magazine named the group the “best up-and-coming band.” The group has performed with acts such as Tiger Army, Gary US Bonds, Dale Watson, Big Sandy, Wayne Hancock and America. Its third studio album, Here To Tell the Tale, another collection of fiery rockabilly tunes, comes out worldwide on June 25. Hope and fellow Ark-Tone Matt Goldpaughalso play as a the Gold Hope Duo and recently self-released Songs In the Key of Quarantine, a collection of tunes that address life during the pandemic. 

In a recent phone interview from her upstate New York home, Hope spoke about the band’s career and the upcoming album. 

You just had an operation on your vocal chords. Talk about that. 
It wasn’t an operation. It was an injection. It’s like getting the equivalent of Botox to plump them up. I’ve been feeling an extra strain on my chords. There’s not a cyst. We were trying to figure out where the strain was coming from, and I thought it was maybe extra air passing through. We tried to fix it this way. It was a longer recovery than I expected. I don’t feel 100 percent, but I’m getting better every day. We played a gig last night, and it went well. Getting back out there feels good.

Talk about your background.
I don’t like to admit it, but I grew up in Long Island. I lived there until as soon as I could get out. After I graduated high school, I moved to upstate New York to near Woodstock to go to college. That’s how I ended up in the Hudson Valley in New York.

What kind of music did you listen to?
My first love is show tunes. My mom used to be a lounge singer of sorts. She’s really into show tunes and so is my dad. They divorced when I was a kid. I would spend weekends with my dad, and he would take me to Broadway shows almost every weekend. That was a thing we did together. I found a love for that and when I was 9 or 10. I started doing musical community theater in my hometown. My first time on stage was in Oliver and I did West Side Story and Fiddler on the Roof — all the hits. That was how I first got comfortable singing on stage and performing in front of people. 

How’d you get into rockabilly?
That happened much later in life. In college, that’s when I started my first band. It was more of a pop rock/indie rock type of thing. Shortly after that, I joined a punk rock type of band and played in that band for ten plus years. When it was playing a lot, I got a phone call from someone who was a stranger at the time saying, “I saw you out with your band Tiger Piss, and I’m starting a rockabilly project. I need a singer, and I think you would be good. Would you want to meet the guys and give it a go?” I was familiar with rockabilly music before that, but I didn’t play or write it. It was a call from a stranger. There were a lot of rockabilly shows in our town at the time. I went and met these guys [in the Champtones], and we started playing originals and old songs. We jelled and it felt like I found my voice. That was about 12 years ago. 

How did the Champtones morph into the Ark-Tones?
The Champtones were going strong for two or three years. Everyone ended up moving about the same time. Our drummer moved to New Orleans. Our bass played moved to New Mexico. It fell apart just by default because the folks no longer lived in the area. We still had a whole summer of gigs and festivals lined up. I wasn’t ready to give the shows up. At the same time, I had started hanging out with my now husband, Matt. He was in the Arkhams. We knew each other very personally from the scene. It was around that same time, I asked if the Arkhams could back us up. We called the band the Ark-Tones and thought it would be a temporary name. Then, we did a bunch of shows and just kept the name. The drummer and lead guitar player phased out shortly after that, but Matt and I were starting a relationship. We stayed in the band together. That was in 2012. Since then, we had a few guitar players and a few drummers even though we do try to keep people around as long as possible. 

What was it like to make that first album, Luck Maker?
We did that album at Dreamland Studios where the B-52s recorded “Love Shack.” It’s a big, huge space. It was fun. I had recorded before, but it was my first full-length album of this genre. The Champtones had only done an EP. All of our albums were crowdfunded, so it was nice to know that some people were excited for the album. It was songs that for the most part were things we played. We just hashed out one in the studio. These are songs we have played for a while. 

Love You to Life is the one that won you the Ameripolitan Music Award? 
I don’t know if the award was based on the album, but it was around that same time. We recorded at a different studio and had a different guitar player but it was the same drummer. The approach was different. Personally, I like Love You to Life better than Luck Marker. There are a couple of hits on both, but it was a good experience. The guy who recorded the album was the same guy that I recorded Tiger Piss with. He’s more known in pop-punk and punk. He’s so good at his job and I enjoy working with him so much. He’s done My Chemical Romance albums and stuff like that. This is a little outside of his comfort zone, but he is so good.  

How did the Gold Hope Duo form?
We’ve been doing the duo since 2012. We have a live album and an EP. That was when we first moved in together. When you do stuff with the band, it’s a hassle coordinating people’s schedules, etc. If we can do this side project, we can always sync our schedules up and play places that the band can’t. We can do breweries and house shows. It opens some doors for us. We played music full-time for the past ten years, and it’s easier to do that by having this stripped down version of the band. 

What was it like to cut Songs in the Key of Quarantine?
It helped keep us sane. Those first few months when nobody was seeing anyone and it was c old and snowy and we were locked in the house, we were trying to figure out the next step. “Social Distancing Blues” came out two days after quarantine. I knew that we needed to write at least one song.

The rest came to me naturally as we navigated different things we were trying to figure out during the new normal. We also learned to record ourselves.

I think “Bad Time to Quit Drinking” would stand the test of time. 
For sure. Before I decided to quit, it always seemed like it was a bad time to quit.  

That photo on the album is so creepy. 
Masks were still a novelty back then. I always wear red lipstick; it’s my trademark thing. I wanted to still show that it was me through the mask and keep the taped on red lips to keep the branding. I wanted to drive home the severity too and just grab people’s attention.

Did you write and record your new album before the pandemic shut everything down?
We recorded in January 2020 with the intent of releasing it at some point in 2020. Then, the pandemic hit, and we thought it wasn’t the right time. We sat on it for a while until the time seemed right, and then, a few months ago, when it looked like things might open again and people for anxious for new music, we could put it out. 

“Some Advice” is such a good rowdy tune. I think the horns really swing and those backing vocals make it come off as a really exuberant celebration of life. 
There’s that song on the pandemic EP about my grandma and then I had also written one for my grandpa a few years ago. I thought my mom needed an anthem. She’s a Long Island Jewish woman. She’s a big worrier. I’m an only child and get all the good and bad attention. We do our Monday night livestreams, and she calls me after every show to give me critiques. That’s the type of woman she is. I thought I needed an ode to my mom. She’s the queen of advice giving. It’s not all negative. I try to touch base on the fact that she’s forward thinking and proactive and a feminist and she had a great sense of humor about the whole thing. That’s actually her voice on the recording. 

I love the horns. 
That’s our friend Hayden Cummings, who is most known for his playing with the Kings of Nuthin’. He’s been a long-time friend of Matt’s and has played on all of our albums. 

Have you been able to lock down tour dates yet? 
No legit touring, but the schedule is filling up with mostly Northeast stuff. We’ll play the Viva Las Vegas festival in September. That will be fun, and I know we’ll fly to a festival in Florida in February.

Photo: Franco Vogt


Jeff started writing about rock ’n’ roll some 20 years ago when he stood in the pouring rain to hitch hike his way to see R.E.M. on their Life’s Rich Pageant tour. Since that time, he's written for various daily newspapers, alt-weeklies, magazines and websites. Feel free to comment on his posts or suggest music, film and art to him at [email protected].