Local musician Hod Hulphers is a little uncomfortable about that fact that he hired a PR guy to promote the debut album from Hod and the Helpers.
His dream was just to press the album on vinyl, and, you know, have an actual physical representation of his work that would exist outside of the internet. That’s pretty much it.
“I told the guys, ‘I don’t care if we only sell one, I’ll pay the full price for 500 records,’” Hulpher says.
The album was released on Bandcamp on April 20, and will be out on vinyl in mid-July. He reconsidered the importance of promotion with much prodding from his bandmates. (“Do I really want a bunch of fucking vinyl records in my basement the rest of my life?”) Besides, Hulphers reasoned, with a PR guy promoting the album, maybe there would be more benefits than simply album sales.
“I’d love to get some good reviews, and have a good press package, so we can go on the road and play in front of 10 people wherever we want,” Hulphers says. “I’m really looking for some affirmation. Someone saying, ‘Good job.’ Wouldn’t that be nice?”
It’s understandable why the process is a bit unsettling for Hulphers. He’s played music his entire life, first as a drummer in bands like Lost Kids, then as a solo singer-songwriter. After five shows where he was tacked on to the end of the bill, he changed his moniker to “And Hod,” the ultimate self-depreciative name.
“The add-on, the tack-on, the proverbial ‘and,’ like they hired a clown to perform after the serious music was over. I wasn’t about to let that oversight be forgotten,” he says.
Then about four years ago, friend and long-time Santa Cruz musician A.J. Marquez (Slow Gherkin, Dan P and the Bricks, the Huxtables) caught one of Hulphers’ solo sets. He’d seen him before, but was struck with how much better his songwriting and performance had gotten—and was disappointed in how little attention he was getting. Marquez saw potential for more than just an indie-folk singer-songwriter: This could be a killer band.
“I gave him a full Goonies talk,” Marquez says. “‘We need to do this. This could be really fun.’”
The lineup built slowly, including Hulphers on guitar/vocals, Marquez on keys, Greg Braithwaite on drums, Dan Potthast on bass, and Jeff Stultz on guitar. The latter is the moment Marquez feels the band came into their own. (“Not sure whether it was completing the Voltron aspect of it, or just Jeff’s insane talent and focus,” he says.)
Stultz not only offered his skills on the guitar, but also recorded the album. He also provided a counter-balance to Hulphers’ mixed feelings about devoting any resources to marketing, which Hulphers calls “the antithesis of what art is.”
That wasn’t Stultz’s thinking. “Why don’t you have some people hear it? We can spend less focus on the creation process and more on the sharing process,” Stultz told him. “You put so much time and energy and hard work into something, it’s sort of a false humility to be like, ‘I don’t care if anybody knows.’”
The record is brilliantly produced. It captures Hulphers’ eccentric songwriting style, and draws the songs out into gorgeous, mellow psych-folk tunes. Hulphers is part lounge singer, which he smoothly executes, but he also injects a layer of cynical, ironic cockiness. Marquez refers to it as “Texas mogul gone country singer.”
All of these elements create a record filled with humor, social commentary, and a blurry line between truth and fiction, which is indeed a key part of Hulphers’ personality.
“I’ve lost a lot of girlfriends because that line is so blurry. It scares them off,” Hulphers says. “I listen back to what I’ve just written, and I’m like, ‘that’s fucking ridiculous.’ I’m fucking ridiculous. So I inject this levity into it that insinuates I’m totally self-aware of what I just wrote. So you go back and say, ‘Did he mean that last line? Cause he just said this.’ So it’s like this constant battle.”
The album’s record release show is at the Crepe Place, though they are trying to get another band on the bill to headline for them. Headlining is not really their thing.
“We prefer not to,” Hulphers says. “We’re still And Hod at heart.”
INFO: 9 p.m., May 26, Crepe Place, 1134 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. $10. 429-6994.