A couple years ago, some old friends and I got back together and started doing this thing we used to do, again. “This thing” being writing songs and performing as The Legendary Trainhoppers.
We were originally active from 2005–2007, a particularly rambunctious era in OLG’s history. We still feel quite ‘bunctious, and so it’s been a joy on many, many levels to have this band back, and ready to soundtrack every little thing around the next corner.
As we hunkered down to make a new album—our third—I found myself in conversation with friend and filmmaker Brad Bores. Brad and I share a love of mountain bikes, and music. We got to talking about how story is intrinsic in the music we most love, and the work that we do that is most important to us. Brad started to feel that maybe the narrative of our band was a narrative he might like to preserve, and share.
We sent him the essay below via voicemail, and around nine months later, the film RAYS OF LIGHT SHINE was born. Brad joined us as we wrote, rehearsed, performed and recorded, and made the film from the ground up; we saw it for the first time the day before it was premiered in front of a few hundred people.
We’re endlessly grateful to Brad for his vision and commitment, and to our collaborator Jason Davis at Off the Cuff Sound for getting these irascible songs on tape.
The album—LET IT BREATHE—is available now on all streaming services, and at TheTrainhoppers.com.
– Matt Kelley
The Ballad of The Legendary Trainhoppers
I suppose as time has gone by, there’s something a bit blustery about having the word “legendary” in the name of our band.
But, it’s not like it wasn’t true.
We were a band with a story, from day one. It was built into the very idea of the group; we saw this photo of great-grand-dad’s band, from 1905, and it was a hundred years later and we thought, “Hey, wonder what those guys would sound like today?” And we decided we’d try to find out.
We could’a been called rounders, we could’ve been five-and-dimers, but there was just something about the way those guys wore their hats in that photo that made it look like they came in on a hopped train.
And off we went.
We went after it for a couple of years, with abandon. Then we stopped. Life, you know? Took eight years before we tried again, and things are different, for all of us. We didn’t all make it back, one way or another, but Chris, Dan, Phil and I are here, and our lifelong friend Casey is with us, and our new lifer Connor is with us, too.
The funny thing about getting older is you kinda get younger at the same time, and I think as we all timidly stepped back in to making music together, the thing that has been most refreshing, most exciting, is that it feels more free, less guarded, less precious. More open-minded; we’re all more open-minded, which has led to our songs, all of ‘em. Not his and his and his and his.
Maybe that’s what happens when you’re doing something you never thought you’d get lucky enough to do again—to make up songs and play shows with your friends.
We’re more than OK with the rough edges. The songs come fast, loose. The morning after every rehearsal, I play the latest version for my kids on the way to school, and they ask why the song changed, why there’s a new part, why it’s faster or slower, why it’s funny now and it wasn’t before, why somebody different is singing that one part, and when I can’t really answer, it’s not just a lesson to them, but a lesson to all of us—let’s embrace impermanence.
Let’s say yes to, “What if we…?”
Let’s fight complacency like disease.
May we never be set in our ways again.
All that said, it can’t go on forever, and it won’t. Last year, we wrote and recorded our second record—coaxing it out into the light, reeling it in to the boat—and released it ten years after the first, give or take a week.
And now, the third album.
This one, man, it’s really something.
It’s a train.
Way out there in the distance, you can hear its rhythm, steady, strong, insistent, and you can see its light, every now and again, between the trees, across the river, around the mountain.
There’s snow and there’s rain and there’s mud and there’s thunder between us and it.
It feels out of reach, but every time we get together, we rub our eyes and the thing is just a little closer, and it’s barrelin‘.
When I listen to the recordings of these songs, they sound like they were recorded in a train car, in the cold; they sound like the kind of thing that in about a hundred years, someone’s gonna think, “Wonder what those guys would sound like today?”
That’s cool with us. We’re a band. This is our story.