The Hopefuls
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The Hopefuls


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"Hear Now: Olympic Hopefuls"

By Molly Priesmeyer
Friday, April 9, 2004

Personnel: Erik Appelwick, guitar and vocals; Darren Jackson, guitar and vocals; John Hermanson, synthesizer and bells; Heath Henjum, bass; Matt O'Laughlin, drums.

Background: Darren Jackson and Erik Appelwick have been doing triple overtime in the Minneapolis music scene: Appelwick plays in Jackson's haunting, slow-core outfit Kid Dakota, while Jackson lends a hand to Appelwick's Vicious Vicious, the experimental pop band weaned on Ween that received a best new band of 2002 nomination from the Minnesota Music Academy. And in a way, the duo's current project has been triple blessed. The already critically acclaimed musicians began bashing out their unabashed pop songs in the spring of 2002 in the basement of Blackberry Way, the studio where the Replacements recorded "Let it Be." And after mixing the songs with producer Alex Oana through e-mail exchange, Appelwick and Jackson enlisted the help of pals and Minnesota music vets Henjum (the Beatifics), O'Laughlin (Friends Like These) and Hermanson (Storyhill, Alva Star) to complete the Hopefuls lineup.

Concept: None of their new songs seemed to fit into either Kid Dakota or Vicious Vicious, so Jackson and Appelwick decided to record their guilt-free, powerpop songs under the name Camaro, then Bows and Arrows, and finally Olympic Hopefuls. "Neither Erik nor I really censor ourselves in terms of writing, so a lot of stuff comes out that doesn't fit stylistically in the other bands," Jackson says. "When we started recording it, we were going to use eight tracks, and that was it. Once we got Pro Tools, we had 32 tracks, which is an entirely different world. You can do three-part harmonies or 10 guitar parts, whatever you want to do. So it sort of evolved what the final product was going to be like."

Review: The end result of the Olympic Hopefuls' 32-track experiment, "The Fuses Refuse to Burn," is a glorious, hook-filled, drunk-on-pleasure pop confection. Loaded with handclaps, dreamy '60s melodies and stick-in-your-craw bubblegum pop, the Olympic Hopefuls are reminiscent of current Top 40 power-poppers Fountains of Wayne. But while Fountains write lame lyrics about some chick's hot mom who has it going on, the smart Olympic Hopefuls write catchy, tongue-in-cheek tunes about a trust-fund junkie who smashes up her car. Forget hopeful. This five-some is sure to compete for the title of Minnesota's best new band of 2004 and come away with the blue ribbon.

Gig: CD-release party at 8 p.m. Saturday; 7th St. Entry, 701 First Ave. N., Mpls.; $6; 612-332-1775.

© 2004 St. Paul Pioneer Press and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved. - Saint Paul Pioneer Press

"Olympic Hopefuls: Going for the Gold"

By Rob van Alstyne
April 4, 2004

Perhaps only Minnesotans can properly appreciate the beauty of summer - for only those of us who have braved countless snowdrifts and endured endless cold fronts can truly perceive the beauty of the summer’s first rays. It’s something most Twin Cities folk spend a good six months out of the year waiting for, and it was in the heart of yet another brutal Minnesota winter that the audio lover letter to summertime known as The Fuses Refuse to Burn, (the debut release from new local outfit the Olympic Hopefuls) was crafted.

“I think the most summery records probably get recorded during the winter,” claims Erik Appelwick, one half of the group’s songwriting team. “Yeah, as self preservation,” jokes OH’s other main man, Darren Jackson. I’m seated next to the pair at a Dinkytown Café and their explaining the metamorphosis of the Olympic Hopefuls from a two man basement recording project back in 2002 into a full fledged pop powerhouse about to unleash arguably the debut album of the year.

“I think originally when we started recording it we thought it would see the light of day a lot faster than it actually did,” admits Appelwick. “We worked on it for like three months two winters ago and then I think just holing up in the basement that much drove us away from working on it anymore for awhile.” Both, as is so often the case with Twin Cities musicians, were busy with other bands (with Darren Jackson fronting spooky-rock trio Kid Dakota and Appelwick practicing his own brand of lo-fi faux soul under the moniker of Vicious Vicious) and for awhile it looked as though the eight-track recorded pop magic they were crafting together was destined to collect dust in the basement.

There were occasional live shows performed under the name “Camaro” (held almost exclusively at Carleton College’s music enclave, The Cave) but little was known of the project beyond myth and rampant rumor. It took Jackson’s purchase of a Pro Tools home recording program last summer to get the project up and running again. Eventually The Fuses Refuse to Burn reached completion, the band ditched the “Camaro” name (turns out some undoubtedly lamer group already had dibs) and the Olympic Hopefuls were ready to unleash the pop album of the year on an unsuspecting Twin Cities music scene (with a recently assembled live version of the group that includes Alva Star’s John Hermanson on keyboards and backing vocals, Matt O’Laughlin of Friends Like These behind the drums and Heath Henjum of the Beatifics on bass).

Ten tracks of pulsating new wave pop and occasional mock classic rock throwbacks split right down the middle between Jackson and Appelwick on songwriting/vocal duties, The Fuses Refuse to Burn is bursting at the seams with melody. The pair handled all the instrumentation and recording excepting drums (which were performed courtesy of Iffy skinsman Peter Anderson and engineered by longtime Kid Dakota cohort Alex Oana) and a few cameo appearances by their respective girlfriends and nearly the entirety of Fuses was sculpted in the basement of Jackson’s house, dubbed “Short Man Studios” for its conspicuously low ceilings. Nearly every song combines buoyant hand claps, absurd xylophone fills, backing oohh and aahhs galore, trashy synthesizer lines and razor sharp guitar leads in a shameless effort to keep heads bopping and asses shaking throughout the entirety of the albums 37-minute sonic joyride.

With so many musical tricks employed the question begs to be asked, was there ever the danger of throwing too many sounds at the songs? “When we originally started we had pretty tight parameters to work in because we just had the eight-track to work with,” explains Appelwick. “Bouncing it all over to Pro Tools wasn’t even part of the game really at that point. So a few songs we almost pretty much fleshed out entirely on the eight-track self-contained, so when we bounced those ones over to Pro Tools later some of the songs were more realized and we kind of didn’t tinker really much with those, but some of the songs were just a bass, drums and two guitars… so those ended up having pretty major reconstructive surgery.”

The reconstructive surgery included many bells and whistles – but not the xylophone. “All the xylophone was done before we went to Pro Tools, so it was all done with the thought that ‘we only have eight tracks… and one of them is going to be xylophone,’” remembers Jackson, beaming.

“I think at one point we had xylophone on all the tracks,” counters Appelwick, “then we took some of it away later.” “Erik took the xylophone away from me after awhile,” recalls Jackson, “he was like, ‘I’m sorry Darren – you’ve abused your privileges.’”

Clearly good times were had in the basement studio and Jackson sums up the mission statement of the Olympic Hopefuls succinctly, “It’s fun music for happy times.” And although that’s a bit of an oversimplification (two of Jackson’s patented drug torme - Pulse of the Twin Cities

"Test Spins: Olympic Hopefuls"

JULY 2004 VOL 15.01

The Fuses Refuse To Burn
(2024 Records)

Pop has given us great bands like The Beatles, Great Buildings, The Shoes and Material Issue. Keeping that legacy alive is Olympic Hopefuls, with their polished collection The Fuses Refuse To Burn, featuring ten songs that are sweeter than Sugar Pops, cooler than a Minneapolis spring breeze, with enough hooks to put a smile on Grumpy’s face. These boys have mastered that long forgotten art of writing songs with melody and harmony. Even the song “Pretty Big Mouth” (a track about a girl that won’t shut up) will have you pogoing through the streets. This is happy music for people that like to get behind the wheel of a car and drive nowhere in particular, but wherever they end up, it will have been a joyous ride. It’s time for a gold medal.

Grade: A

Copyright © 2004 Mean Street Magazine, LLC - MeanStreet Magazine

"CD Review: Olympic Hopefuls"

Issue #2 June/July 2004

Olympic Hopefuls
The Fuses Refuse to Burn (2024 Records)

I can't stop listening to this CD. Olympic Hopefuls have a hit record on their hands, assuming they can get it in front of the right people. It's no surprise that "The Fuses Refuse to Burn" is a masterpiece of indie pop. With collaborators Erik Appelwick (Vicious Vicious) and Darren Jackson (Kid Dakota) being backed by a cast of characters including bassist Heath Henjum (the Beatifics), drummer Matt O'Laughlin (Friends Like These) and multi-instrumentalist John Hermanson (Storyhill), it's awfully hard to steer the ship in the wrong direction.

"The Fuses Refuse to Burn" is chock-full of driving choruses, sweeping bridges and even an occasional hand-clapping breakdown. You'll likely find yourself picking up your air guitar, bobbing your head or just closing your eyes and singing along. This CD is good to the point of being a danger to you in your car, so leave it in the little jewel case until you've reached your destination. KW - Rift Magazine

"Olympian Heights"

Heavy sweating with indie-pop supergroup Olympic Hopefuls

by Lindsey Thomas

Lounging on the porch of his new south Minneapolis home, Darren Jackson wonders when his neighbors, members of bondage rockers All the Pretty Horses, might bring over a welcoming casserole. Then the topic of his band comes up, and suddenly he's doing the "Motobike," bending forward at the waist and rocking his hips back and forth, while making an inexplicable stirring motion with one arm. The dance has no apparent connection to the vehicle or the Olympic Hopefuls song it was named for, but it supports the relationship between the group's music and shameless body rocking.

Taking a seat, Jackson and fellow guitarist-vocalist Erik Appelwick discuss the urban/rural kinetic correlation. Basically, the less populated (and therefore, mind-suckingly boring) an area is, the easier it is to get people to dance. In South Dakota, for example, "the slightest semblance of a beat gets people gyrating," claims Jackson.

By that logic, it's impressive that on the next night Olympic Hopefuls get so many 24-Hour Day of Music Festival goers on their feet. There's the expected crowd of baby T-shirted young women who know all the words, but the glow of the stage lights also reveals a shuffling man in his sixties, a thuggish looking guy in a wifebeater hopping from foot to foot, and a male poplocker sporting enough jelly bracelets to be a very fashionable seven-year-old girl circa 1985. Onstage, five guys in identical red tracksuits work up a sweat like so many steroid-popping jocks on National Pee in a Cup Day.

Appelwick and Jackson have experience wooing the locals, having footholds in the scene with roller rink heroes Vicious Vicious and the emotionally volatile Kid Dakota, respectively. Plus, some members pull double or triple duty with Alva Star, Storyhill, and Friends Like These. After playing infrequent shows as Camaro for a few years, the group launched a preemptive strike against lawsuits and thwarted Google confusion by changing their name. (They continue to taunt the legal vultures with their logo, the trademarked Olympic rings flipped upside down.) And the tracksuits, which the band originally donned for a photo shoot, have become mandatory attire despite their lack of adequate ventilation.

Channeling the rush of gold medal victory, OH's excellent debut album The Fuses Refuse to Burn (2024 Records) is the soundtrack to a summer of nonstop waterslides and beach volleyball. "Holiday" zips by like a banana-seated three-speed flying downhill. On "Shy," Appelwick plays the sensitive heartthrob, leaving a trail of swooning indie girls in his wake. The anti-sleep campaign of "Let's Go!" earns its exclamation point with fuzzy protester-with megaphone vocals crying, "Hey all right/It's a.m. time/and we've got Mini Thins and nursery rhymes!" Jackson calls their music a cross between Weezer and Herman's Hermits, but really, they're related to any band that knows that the only thing better than more cowbell is more handclaps, and the only thing better than more handclaps has yet to be invented.

"We're hoping the album holds up during the fall and spring too," says Appelwick. "But winter obviously is not going to work. It'll have to sit in the corner with the beach balls and flip-flops."

Back at Peavey Plaza, Jackson introduces "Trust Fund" as a "slow" and "tragic" number. And yet, after the solemn first lines, the song clicks into the group's familiar follow-the-bouncing-tambourine beat, and its tragedy fills the dance floor to capacity. The band throws an additional chorus on the end of the song, and a minute later Appelwick flashes a grin to his bandmates, threatening to extend it again. They cut him off but it seems like the crowd would be up for dancing to this particular song for another three or four days. Teach them the Motobike and suddenly downtown Minneapolis has all the dance-crazed fervor of Sheboygan.

Music • • Vol 25 • Issue 1233 • PUBLISHED 7/21/04
City Pages is the Online News and Arts Weekly of the Twin Cities - City Pages (News and Arts Weekly of the Twin Cities)

"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. 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.

Cover Story • • Vol 25 • Issue 1251 • PUBLISHED 11/24/04
City Pages is the Online News and Arts Weekly of the Twin Cities - City Pages (News and Arts Weekly of the Twin Cities)

"Talk of the Town"

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

by Chuck Terhark

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 feelgood, 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.

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 cosongwriter, 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").

In an attempt to rein the discussion in, I interrupt the shop talk to pose a simple question. "Were you guys excited to hear that you won Picked to Click?" I ask. "How did you react?"

And then there is silence. The band glance sidelong at one another and collectively shrug. O'Laughlin, the youngest member, takes a bite of his burger and admits that, yeah, he thinks it's pretty cool. Hermanson and bassist Heath Henjum nod in agreement. After a pause, Appelwick breaks the silence to talk about a recent video shoot for "Motobike," a song about scooter accidents; while it was being made O'Laughlin appropriately though inadvertently crashed his rented moped ("It was an accident, okay?" "Well, you were hot-rodding").

The group's stubborn refusal to rejoice in their achievement strikes me as strange. But then, glancing at their CD, I realize that this is a new mood, one that doesn't come through on the record--except in the band's logo, an acronym that says it all.


To be fair, "oh" might be the appropriate response. To sit in with the band for a drink is to hear them chat one another other up, and it doesn't take long to recognize their dedication, not only to this band but to their musical careers. If you work as hard for as long as they have, you start expecting your dues.

As many who cast their votes in this poll will tell you, selecting a winner was a no-brainer. The election was cinched long before polling began--a fact made all the more obvious with a peek at the polling numbers. (Olympic Hopefuls won nearly twice as many points as the second-place contender.) You don't have to be John Zogby to forecast that kind of outcome. The Hopefuls were expected to perform well among the 16-to-21-yearold female demographic, thanks to their one-two-three combo of a sock-hopping debut, sexy uniforms, and five pairs of pink cheeks just ripe for the pinching. Add to that the well-publicized fact that every single member of Olympic Hopefuls plays in at least one other band, and four of those bands (Alva Star, the Beatifics, Kid Dakota, and Vicious Vicious) have already made it into the hallowed poll's ranking in the past (though none has won). All of this makes them more than a single band; they're a cluster of musical vortices, five scenester mushrooms planting pop spores in countless bars, clubs, studios, and headphones across the state. Add a vast network of fans that crashes Friendster accounts and attracts Picked to Click votes like pig snouts to truffles, and you've got yourself one g - City Pages (News and Arts Weekly of the Twin Cities)

"Dr. Hopeful & Mr. Kid"

Darren Jackson has two of the hottest local indie bands
Chris Riemenschneider, Star Tribune
October 8, 2004

"Olympic Hopefuls make music for teenage girls." The co-leader of this year's hottest new local band said this only a few minutes before getting a soy latté from just such a fan in a downtown coffee shop. But the girl behind the counter didn't say to Darren Jackson, "Hey, you're in that group that wears the funny track suits." Instead, she asked, "You're Kid Dakota, right?"

Yep, he's still Kid Dakota. After a year of having fun with a group that he admitted "didn't originally have a lot of motivation behind it," Jackson is reinvigorating the act that first made him a familiar face in the Twin Cities indie-rock scene.

Kid Dakota's second album, "The West Is the Future," lands with release parties tonight and Saturday at the Triple Rock in Minneapolis. The album is a dark, tempestuous, icy recording derived from a time in Jackson's life he's glad is behind him. Almost everything about the CD is the direct opposite of the Olympic Hopefuls. The catchy, bright, bubbleblowing pop-rock quintet released its first album in January and came up with a costumed stage gimmick -- matching athletic track suits -- to help sell its live shows (see: Hives, Faux Jean). It worked. The band headlined First Avenue just last weekend.

It's not uncommon for musicians in this town to be playing in two happening bands at once, but it is rare for those acts to be so different -- so bipolar.

"It all comes from the same guy," marveled Zak Sally, bassist for the Duluth band Low, whose Chairkickers Union label is putting out "The West Is the Future." Sally has been double-timing as Kid Dakota's bassist for almost the past three years. "Darren is kind of a pop slut," he said. "He works all over the pop-music idiom, and can bounce from one type of song to another and write all sorts of different things with it all still sounding like him."

For Jackson, the two different bands "are almost a requirement," he said. "The songs come out different ways, and it seems to work best filtering them into these different identities," he said. "It would probably ruin the integrity of either [act] if I tried to put the songs all together in one mish-mash." "Besides," he added with a laugh, "I think a lot of the people that have gotten into the Olympic Hopefuls would probably hear Kid Dakota and say, 'Why are you bothering with that stuff?' "

The Dakota kid
Jackson said he was writing pop songs of the Hopefuls variety even when he first started playing as Kid Dakota. That was in the summer of 1999, after he had bounced around the country and in and out of drug treatment -- when the darker music seemed to come out a little easier. "So Pretty." It's a photo of Jackson with his arm in a bandage and his face scraped up like a hockey rink after a Soviets-Czechs game. He says he simply fell, but it's no coincidence he went to rehab right afterward.

Alex Oana, who produced the Hopefuls and Dakota albums, helped Jackson put his Kid Dakota songs to tape soon after he straightened out. The two were schoolmates at St. Olaf.

"He'd had his problems, but he was always one of the most smart, together, big thinkers that I've ever known," Oana said.

The producer hooked Jackson up with drummer Christopher McGuire, and together the duo pounded out the tracks that became "So Pretty," which was originally self-released with five songs, then re-released on Chairkickers with eight tracks. The album, Jackson admitted, "was pretty dark and autobiographical, even more so than the new one." Songs like the title track and "The Overcoat" came straight out of drug counseling, with lines like, "Instead of a habit, you should have a hobby."

By the time of "So Pretty's" re-release, Kid Dakota had developed into a full band -- at least part-time – with Sally on bass. About two years ago, Jackson also hooked up with fellow South Dakota native Erik Appelwick. The full lineup is half of what separates "The West Is the Future" from "So Pretty." Jackson says he's a fan of orchestrated, arty rock acts like Sparklehorse, Neutral Milk Hotel and even Pink Floyd, and the album reflects those influences with instrumentation ranging from stark, barren parts (such as "Pine Ridge," about the impoverished Indian reservation near Jackson's hometown) to crashing, falling-through-the-ice kind of arrangements ("Ivan," the CD-ending "Atomic Pilgrim" and "Homesteader," which goes from soft to loud to soft to ...). The other half of what makes "The West" different is its themes. Instead of autobiographical tunes, Jackson spins out tall tales and uses his poetic license in songs dealing in despair and isolation.

The album's concept, as evidenced in the title, is about "false optimism, and confrontation of the unknown," Jackson said. It's still a personal subject, dealing with a lot of what Jackson faced in his troubled post-college years. "I - Star Tribune

"Revenge of the Surf Wax Nerds"

by Stefan Braidwood
August 3, 2004

Weezer: a band, a phenomenon, a sound, a slacker-nerd approach to life. Thickly-rimmed shades, nostalgia, loneliness and anger being vented through garage rock rawness, paired with sweet multi-part vocal harmonies for the inner sentimentalist. Doomed to endlessly recycle their first two cult records in a hopeless quest to recapture that initial, unhyped freshness and bite; to prove to the world that having grown up (or perhaps, being unwilling or unable to do so completely) and become successful has not dimmed the talent or hunger any.

Long-time Minneapolis mainstays Erik Appelwick and Darren Jackson had already tried (and failed with) other bands and sounds before finally surrendering to their inner Rivers and switching to loner indie pop. Playing as Camaro, the duo went through several line-ups before settling on the current five-piece band and changing their name to Olympic Hopefuls to release their debut, thereby doubtlessly pre-empting the wrath of major automobile gods.

Given the already-invoked W word, you don't really need me to outline what form the music takes; the drumming bracingly bright, underlining raw guitar chords and the twisting lines of solos; the singing wistful, energetic and heartfelt without ever going for cinematics, easing back in the choruses as the serenading lushness of the backing vocals drifts by. It's supplemented by some nice lighter touches of electronics and, on "Shy", what might be treated kettle drums; all adding glimmering silvery wakes to the onward surge of the rhythm section and strictly adhered-to verse/chorus structure. Whilst everything here can easily be traced back to "Buddy Holly" and the rest of the "blue album" exploding into the American musical consciousness, Appelwick and Jackson have deconstructed, polished and built the core back up again in a subtler, more polyvalent yet hazier form.

The Fuses Refuse to Burn opens with "Imaginary", a slightly worrying ode to ignoring reality in favour of the (non-existent) woman of your dreams, "Holiday", whence comes to the album's title, and the aforementioned "Shy", whose lament to lacking confidence ("it happens nearly every day / I sit and waste my chances away") fits in perfectly with the persona Cuomo defines and became idolised by. These make a plenty fine trio, their relatively uninspired subject matter more than made up for by the accomplished enjoyment evident in the lightness of the conventional playing, as well as some great unexpected touches, like "Holidays"' spacey bridge. But we're not going to talk about them for very long (or the fact that "Imaginary" is too long and not nearly involving as it thinks it is, thereby making it a bad opener), because songs four and five are stellar and quite frankly blow a smoking hole in the rest of the LP.

"Drain the Sea" has apparently been with the band quite a while, and you can see why: the irresistibly '60s aura, the innocence and affection, the mega-tons of charm and plentiful moments of pop perfection. What a damnably lovely tune, what a way to pledge attempting "the beautiful thing, somehow". There's the strolling bass and the hand claps, there's the xylophones, there's those brilliantly cheesy backing vocals, there's the singer evoking the start of the affair with "I remember when I first saw you / Shipwrecked and lost at sea / Abandoned on the island / Of sadness and ennui", and there's the bit from which the song gets its name, which I frankly refuse to spoil for you. It's all so bare-facedly, adorably winsome and catchy that you can't help but grin. One of the tunes of the year, without a doubt.

Up next is the deliciously nostalgic new wave of "Motobike", which strips everything back nicely without letting things sound any less lush, the refrain of "It breaks my girl's heart / Every time I crash my motobike" being met with the fade-out "but I'll never slow down..." It's never made clear just what the "motorbike" stands for (his dreams?) but quite frankly, when you have "hair just like James Dean" and "pretty girls wearing baby Ts", why does it matter as long as you've got one?

The rest of the album rocks on in affecting form without becoming effervescent, often hampered by the Hopefuls' tendency to continue adding musical layers past redundancy. Claiming that this album is really worth getting only for "Drain the Sea" and "Motobike" is to do them a disservice, yet the fact remains that the former, especially, is just so much better than its brethren that the latter pale in comparison. If Appelwick and Jackson let their gift for oddball, retro whimsy carry them away from Weezer-terica, their next album could ascend formidable heights indeed. To make sure they get that chance, buy this album and listen to "Drain the Sea" on loop. You will thank me. - PopMatters

"Feeling Minnesota"

excerpt from: The 10 (or 28) best local albums of 2004

by CP Staff

The Fuses Refuse to Burn
2024 Records

There's good reason this five-piece Minneapolis band has graced the cover of City Pages, been lauded by local critics and music fans alike, and won the prize for the Best Indie Label Recording of 2004 at the Minnesota Music Awards. By packing their acid-soaked sardonic pop songs with lots of sugary sweet goodness, Olympic Hopefuls have created one of the best pure power-pop records to come out in years--and not just locally. Listen to "Drain the Sea" and "Trust Fund." With a few handclaps, an accordion, and lots of head-swaying la las, these guys can make a song about a rich girl doing smack sound like one of the greatest children's songs ever written.

--Molly Priesmeyer

Cover Story • • Year in Music • Vol 25 • Issue 1254 • PUBLISHED 12/15/04
City Pages is the Online News and Arts Weekly of the Twin Cities - City Pages (News and Arts Weekly of the Twin Cities)


'The Fuses Refuse To Burn' - LP (2024 Records), April 2004

'Let's Go!' (track 7) was featured on the January 6, 2005 episode ('The Family Ties') of The OC (, and is receiving sustained airplay on Twin Cities FM adult album alternative (AAA) radio station Drive 105 (

'Motobike' (track 5) is receiving sustained airplay on Twin Cities FM adult album alternative (AAA) radio station Cities 97 (

'Whisper' (track 6), 'Holiday' (track 2), 'Shy' (track 3), 'Drain the Sea' (track 4), and 'Motobike' (track 5) are receiving sustained airplay on Twin Cities FM adult album alternative (AAA) radio station 89.3 The Current (

'Holiday' (track 2), 'Drain the Sea' (track 4), 'Motobike' (track 5), 'Let's Go!' (track 7), and 'Pretty Bigmouth' (track 9) are receiving sustained airplay on XM satellite radio station XMU channel 43.



As veterans of the Minneapolis music scene, Erik Appelwick and Darren Jackson have earned their stripes in Vicious Vicious and Kid Dakota. Adventurous musicians both, the longtime friends began experimenting with a sound that was completely different from their other bands. And this is how The Hopefuls’ unabashed indie pop was born.

The duo played under the name Camaro with several transient members, airing the charming innocence of ‘60s-era pop cuts like ‘Drain the Sea’ and the bittersweetness of anti-love songs like ‘Pretty Bigmouth’ to enthusiastic crowds. To appease their fans and stalkers, they recorded the album that had become long overdue. Their full-length debut, titled ‘The Fuses Refuse to Burn,’ is slick in all the right places but always full of soul and surprises, and combines a bit of Weezer guitar grit with the playful, carefree anthems of bands like The Cars and The Apples in Stereo.

The mission statement of the The Hopefuls succinctly, ‘It’s fun music for happy times.’ And although that’s a bit of an oversimplification, the bulk of the The Hopefuls output is lighthearted feel-good rock with fist pumping bacchanalian anthems (‘Let’s Go!’) and speeding motorcycle devotionals (‘Motobike’) setting the tone of the record. Nearly every song combines buoyant hand claps, absurd xylophone fills, backing oohh and aahhs galore, trashy synthesizer lines and razor sharp guitar leads in a shameless effort to keep heads bopping and asses shaking throughout the entirety of the albums' 10-track, 37-minute sonic joyride. ‘The Fuses Refuse to Burn’ is so full of glorious, hook-filled, drunk-on-pleasure pop confections that it's impossible not to get snagged on one of them.

With an assault of chord changes so familiar they resonate, The Hopefuls are a perfect example of why great, fun pop songs--when written, sung, and played with intelligence, chops, form, and feel--can be transcendent and extraordinary even while seeming familiar. And the echoes of those coital outbursts survive today, in every teary-eyed ‘Oh, sweet Jesus, I love this band!’ that comes from the crowd at an Hopeful's show.

In addition to winning a variety of regional titles and awards, they’re gaining some serious national steam and have been heard on VH1’s Best Week Ever and The OC.

Onstage, bassist Heath Henjum (The Beatifics, Little Man), drummer Eric Fawcett (Spymob, N.E.R.D.) and multi-instrumentalist John Hermanson (Storyhill, Alva Star) complete the The Hopefuls lineup.