In a world where streaming, sharing, and shuffling are at the fingertips of music consumers, artists have the daunting task of creating the next best thing. San Diego solo artist, howard and the hopeless, has cracked the code, so to speak, on his new EP, ‘san diego freeway.’ The seven-track project plays with the cohesion and variety of a full-length album. Each track, the artwork, and his signature lowercase aesthetic all seem to fit together strategically. The stand-out singles “Poison” and “Set Me Free” will have you pressing add, play, and repeat.
Today we chat with Ian Logue about expanding his music career and defining what has come to be howard and the hopeless.
*Interview text is in lowercase format to preserve the aesthetic choices of the artist
branching out with howard and the hopeless
poetrydanslarue: Had you released any music before the making of ‘san diego freeway?’
howard and the hopeless: “my other band, electric elms, has released four singles and a full-length album since 2017. ‘san diego freeway’ is the first project of mine where i played all the instruments myself. this idea was always a musical goal of mine. two of my favorite musicians, paul mccartney and david bazan (of pedro the lion), inspired that aspiration.”
pdlr: When did you begin working on howard and the hopeless as a solo project?
howard and the hopeless: “i started thinking about putting out an independent project in mid-2017. the groundwork for howard and the hopeless and the writing of the songs that would become ‘san diego freeway’ didn’t happen until later in 2018.”
pdlr: Do other musicians help out, write, or play with you for howard and the hopeless?
howard and the hopeless: “i wrote and recorded about 90% of the album myself. the engineer for most of the ‘san diego freeway’ studio sessions, jacob montague, helped with a few guitar parts. he also produced and played a few instruments on the song “k(no)w.” jacob and i went to high school together. he did the mixing and mastering of most of the material i made with electric elms. he helped me take ‘san diego freeway’ across the finish line.
grant turley, another one of our high school friends, recorded the bass on “someone else.” the three of us had an instrumental indie band in high school. we mostly played in my parent’s attic.”
‘san diego freeway’ by howard and the hopeless
pdlr: Can you elaborate on the concept of ‘san diego freeway’ as the title? How did these songs fit together?
howard and the hopeless: “this album came at a time when i was experiencing significant changes in my life. i wrote these songs around the time that i broke up with an ex that i dated on and off for three years.
soon after that breakup, i decided that i wanted to move to la and give music a shot as a full-time career. i spent a lot of time in hollywood at a friend’s studio. i was signed to his label at the time, so there was a lot of driving back and forth to make music with him. i get a lot of good thinking done while i’m driving, so the concept of this album (not to mention the lyrical content) came to me on the road. the 405 freeway in la connects to the 5 south and is called the san diego freeway. i always found this odd because the 405 doesn’t take you to san diego.”
a road map of songwriting
pdlr: What do your writing and recording processes entail?
howard and the hopeless: “i am not too picky when it comes to getting in the studio and recording. i usually have a song pretty nailed down by that point. i am also open to suggestions from engineers or other musicians to get the right sound or vibe. i put a lot of trust in my engineer, who is usually jacob, to get me to the place i want to go.
this ep was unique to write because i had a specific vibe in mind for each track. i envisioned it as a mental road map of peaks and valleys that i wanted to reach. after experimenting with different guitar sounds, i settled into a style that i wanted the ep to convey. from there, i focused on distinct emotions that suited each song.”
breaking down the tracks
pdlr: The song “Myself” seems very personal with a lot of self-reflective lyrics. Was this song challenging to write?
howard and the hopeless: “the hardest part of writing “myself” was knowing that it was going to be the most brutally honest song i’d written in my career. the song starts with “i’ve never loved me half as much as i love to hate myself.” in the “most depressing lyrics that i’ve ever written” category, that one’s at the top of the list. i wrote the lyrics while driving back to san diego from los angeles on a saturday night and put music to it the next day. it was a pretty quick process.
these lyrics were things that i wanted to put on paper for most of my adult life. the album is reflective of who i was five or ten years ago. i didn’t have the courage to write lyrics like that when i was twenty. writing songs like “myself” turned out to be very cathartic for me.”
“your parents passed down some kind of poison. that’s okay, so did mine.”
pdlr: “Poison” reminds me of some of my favorite ’90s songs. Were there specific tracks or artists that influenced the making of this song?
howard and the hopeless: “i wouldn’t say that there was any particular artist or song that influenced the making of “poison.” my primary influence on the ep was the late ’90s-early ’00s indie rock music out of the pacific northwest. a lot of the big names, like modest mouse, death cab, and, my most significant influence, pedro the lion played a part. david bazan is a massive inspiration for me. his lyrical honesty, guitar lines, and his knack for melody have their fingerprints all over this ep.
even though i know bands like third eye blind and eve 6, i never thought they had any influence on my music. you’re not the first person to tell me that “poison” had a real ’90s feel to it, though.”
down the road
pdlr: What are some future goals for howard and the hopeless?
howard and the hopeless: “my main goal is to release a full-length album. that concept is in the early formation phase right now. in some ways it will be a continuation of ‘san diego freeway.’ a lot of the material on ‘sdf’ is emotional baggage from when i was younger. i think the next album will focus more on the current emotional baggage. i’m also looking forward to playing shows with some of the songs from ‘sdf’ and some newer material. we played one show for the ep release party, and that’s it so far. i’m excited to see what kind of live show we can put together in the next couple of months!”
‘san diego freeway’ is an EP that you appreciate for its sincerity and reflection. The artistry demonstrated through the concept, lyrics, and instrumentation certainly draws listeners to pay attention. If you find yourself singing along to it on the road late at night, that might be just where it belongs.