By Caroline Rein, HLR Editor
History of Painters is a hopeful, melodic band that is comprised of two songwriters who strive to create genuine, heartfelt Alternative/Folk music. They put the truth and their hearts in every song they write and are dedicated to making honest music that makes a difference. Accompanied by percussion, strings and female vocals, History of Painters produces a unique and uplifting outlook on life and love. History of Painters plays in many places around San Luis Obispo County, such as SLO Brew and Steynberg cafe. Hanging Lantern Review interviewed Justin Hooper, one of the two songwriters from this folk duo:
HLR: What artists do you like?
JH: There are a lot of bands I enjoy, but some of my top favorites/ most inspirational are Simon and Garfunkel, The Beatles, Coldplay, Switchfoot, Arcade Fire, Sigur Ros, Radiohead and Mumford & Sons.
HLR: What is your favorite song?
JH: That’s a tough one… If pressed I would have to say it is a two-way tie between Another Day by Steven Delopoulos and The Boxer by Simon and Garfunkel.
HLR: When and why did you start playing?
JH: When I was young I used to sit at the piano and sound out different songs that I liked,
and I would sing a little, but just for fun. I really started getting into music when our High School choir got a chance to perform at Carnegie Hall in New York. We had to memorize a 45 minute choral piece in Latin (something SLOCA students can relate to), and working hard on creating beautiful music sparked a passion in me that hasn’t gone away. After we got back my friend (Josh Cody) invited me to join his band, and there I taught myself how to play and write music and I have been doing it ever since. In fact, Josh is the other songwriter for the band that I am in, History of Painters.
This picture shows Justin Hooper playing the little, red toy piano and Josh Cody playing the mandolin.
HLR: Which instruments do you play?
JH: I play piano (toy and regular), guitar, and I sing (or try to anyway.)
HLR: Do you have a musical family?
JH: Not really. My mom and myself would play piano by ear on occasion, but other than that I didn’t really grow up listening to or doing anything musical at my house. I was never one of those kids who dreamed of being a musician when I grew up, and it actually kind of surprised me when I realized music was something that I could do.
HLR: Which artists influence you?
JH: Same list as top artists I like, which makes sense.
HLR: What was your first performance like?
JH: If you want to go way back, my first “performance” was singing Amazing Grace with no musical accompaniment in front of about 800 people for a baptism at Grace Church. I was a small timid Sophomore and was forced into it by a Senior girl who heard me singing next to her in worship service and thought I had a good voice. That was the first time I ever sang in front of anyone, and it was definitely like getting pushed off the deep end with no water wings. Luckily my voice didn’t crack and it went pretty well, and now I lead worship at Grace on a regular basis, but now I get musical accompaniment:)
HLR: Do you get nervous before a performance?
JH: Not anymore. When I was younger I would get a few butterflies, but after being a Jr.
High teacher at SLOCA I am no longer afraid to stand in front of anyone. If you can entertain those short attention spans for an hour you can do anything!
HLR: What kind of advice would you give to beginners?
JH: Being a musician requires a small amount of talent and a huge amount of practice.
You have to push past the slow and sometimes painful beginning process in order to get comfortable with an instrument, then it gets fun. It is important to know the rules of music, but only to test and break them, and it is important to always try to be creative and play from the heart.
HLR: How often and how long do you practice?
JH: Not as much as I would like. Between teaching music and taking care of the business aspect of being a musician it actually doesn’t allow for a whole lot of time to practice. However, my new years resolution was to make sure I do get time to practice and write new material, especially since playing music is when my soul finds peace.
HLR: What inspires different songs?
JH: I already somewhat answered that in the first question, but I can give a specific example. I wrote the song Cathedrals about a personal experience I had when I worked bussing tables at an Italian restaurant in downtown SLO. I got off work around midnight, tired and exhausted by a long and stressful shift. On the long walk to my car I stopped at a red light, took a deep breath, and looked up at the stars. In that moment I felt a voice tell me that everything was okay, and a huge wave of peace rush over me. I went home and put the experience to music, and there ya have it. Whenever I write a song I want to make sure it has intention; I want to make sure it has a purpose. My desire is that people experience hope in the music I write, and if that happens then I have done the job I feel God has given me.
They are dedicated to making honest music that makes a difference.
HLR: Why did you name your band “History of Painters”?
JH: That is actually a funny story. Josh and I used to be door-to-door paint salesmen
where we grew accustomed to being yelled at by people and chased by dogs. Since that was a very interesting and unique time in our lives, we decided to use the painters part for our band name, and the history is because the songs Josh and I write are very autobiographical, and also because I am a history nerd. So there you go when you put it all together you get History of Painters.
HLR: What inspires you?
JH: In regards to what I write about in my music, there are a variety of things that inspire
me. History, nature, personal experiences, people’s stories and my beautiful wife are among some of my top inspirations, but above all I am inspired by the hope I have in the God who loves me and his son who saved me.