Lost Shoegaze Gems part I: Hope Chest
When it comes to “old” Shoegaze we often don’t get past the obvious pillars like Slowdive, My Bloody Valentine and Ride, Lush and Curve. Occasionally we digress (or discover) on lesser known bands like, Revolver, Blind Mr. Jones, The Belltower, Moose, Bleach, Kitchens of Distinction, but in all honesty : it was a pretty short-lived scene and therefore the old catalogue is pretty “defined” and depleted. Only once in a while some gem from the past finds its way to the surface and is picked and held against the light, shimmering and once more echoes those glorious lost days.
Today was one of those days. Today I discovered a band that was making Shoegaze in the beginning of the 90’s and wasn’t even British! Today I found “Hope Chest”! Frontman Raymond Puzey posted this perfect song on the group:
Now I am pretty picky when it comes to music and I certainly don’t like everything with the tag #shoegaze. I am the sort of person that hears within the first few notes whether it is a personal “hit or miss” . “Three” was instant hit, so I started listening to other tracks as well. Not all as perfect as “Three“, but plenty great stuff, especially for lovers of Kitchens of Distinction and Revolver and Airiel. Tracks like “Sunset”; “Hopeful”; “Sleeper” and “Three” are all genuine, “unpolished but shiny” shoegaze gems that take me back and spark that feeling of rapture that I used to get from this music, and that, I must say, is a rare thing.
I talked to Raymond Puzey, who is still very musically active, and he told me that he has plans to release and upload the band’s old material. Great news! For now, we will make do with what is available out there. Enjoy!
Small Bio and Interview:
Hope Chest was formed in 1992 in San Fransisco. Shimmery, hazy, melodic, sentimental. Hope Chest is a soft-psych shoegaze band from the San Francisco Bay Area trading in sentimental pop tunes. Acoustic meets electronic with 4-part harmonies…sort of like if The Mamas & The Papas were fans of The Smiths…if The Beach Boys were influenced by The Chameleons…you get the idea.
Like every proper band, Hope Chest was formed in a bedroom – in 1992 by singer/songwriter Raymond Puzey in his grandmother’s house, to be precise. After recruiting Paul Straghalis on guitar and Jared Matt from the Rosemarys on bass, the first version of the band set out in earnest for the land of free drink tickets. The following May, the debut release “A Sentimental EP” was recorded by Raymond and Stephen Duffy (no, not that Stephen Duffy – the other one, from Handsome Poets) which got good reviews and no airplay. Released in the heyday of shoegaze and Sarah Records, it’s still a strong listen (enough people thought so that a barely-advertised, limited edition CD re-release of it in 2000 sold out its pressing of 500 copies in a month and a half) and the standout track, “Three”, still receives frequent college and internet airplay.
After a few years and a relocation to Sacramento, Raymond moved on with a new lineup and Hope Chest released “The Bedroom EP” in 1997. With a cover available in 4 different colors, the EP sold out its pressing of 400 in 2 months. The band followed that up with the album “Constellation Prize” in 1998, which received very strong reviews and saw the band on the road constantly. A follow-up album with the working title of “Sugar Fix” was recorded and never released – inner tensions, epic drug addictions, an inability to play anything quietly, and a nervous breakdown caused Raymond to fire the entire band and take a break for 2 years. The tapes sit in their cases in Raymond’s bedroom, taunting him with their presence to this day.
The year 2000 came and Raymond found a huge collection of people in love with “A Sentimental EP” and, with his spirit rejuvinated, the re-release sold out and the newest version of the band (now with original guitarist Paul back in the fold after a 7 year absence) took to playing live again. New songs were recorded and a compendium album was planned, but was delayed when Raymond was hospitalised and almost died from a ruptured intestine. 2 years were spent recovering but also writing and recording, and the band now finds itself a fully-fledged unit much more capable of expressing the depth of Raymond’s songs than ever before.
Why this name?
It was out of necessity for a name, and the want for a romantic one. A sunny Saturday afternoon with The Smiths playing nice and loud, and a whole lot of drinking and smoking.
Do you play live?
Whenever we can. And of COURSE I like it – we get drink tickets.
How, do you think, does the internet (or mp3) change the music industry?
It’s brilliant; it gets to so many people. You can sample some great stuff you’d never buy in a store ‘cos you can’t listen to it.
Would you sign a record contract with a major label?
If we owned our tunes and publishing and had artistic control, yes. I’ve formed my own label, Pop Renaissance Records.
Slowdive, The Smiths, Revolver, Trash Can Sinatras, Ride, My Bloody Valentine, Cocteau Twins, Railway Children, Trembling Blue Stars, Moose, Lilac Time, Stephen Duffy, House of Love.
Raymond plays and prefers Gretsch guitars and tons of pedals.