horse jumper Love is a rock band from Boston that makes the kind of music you might want to play in your hyperbaric chamber if you were stuck there for a while and really wanted to lean into the experience. One of their best tracks, 2019’s “DIRT,” is built around a piercing guitar riff and the line, “And there’s dirt and there’s juice / And I mix the two up.” I don’t know what that means. I’m not sure I’m supposed to. The strange slowcore formulations of their new album, natural partis full of equally disconcerting writing.
In a recent interview with The fadeby Jordan Darvilleband leader Dimitri Giannopoulos explained the album’s title track, saying, “The tone of the guitar always reminds me to play The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time.” Again, baffling, but it felt like a curious insight into their process. Was this the key to the chemistry of this great group? Video game music?
From the bed of some nondescript hotel room somewhere in the South, Giannopoulos and HJOL bassist John Margaris attempt to explain themselves via Zoom. They both have beautiful long hair and easy smiles. (Margaris also has a strong mustache.) They’re both happy to discuss the game’s music.
For Giannopoulos, it all started around the age of 8 with a classic: Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater. Giannopoulos says it wasn’t one of the mallpunk songs that THPS is best known for but “TNT” from AC/DC THPS4which he liked so much that he made his mother take him to the CD store to buy High tension. “My childhood playing video games may have started my music career,” he says. “Without AC/DC High tension I wouldn’t have gone into rock ‘n’ roll.
For Margaris it was N64 mario 64 and Mario Party 3. “You don’t realize that you are listening to almost fusional music. To be able to listen to something over and over again and not get bored was a new experience. Score writers “were using such limited technology, it’s crazy what they were able to do”. Which reminds Giannopoulos of a favorite meme, on the underwater level of donkey kong. Beaming just at the thought, he paraphrase: “A guy hired to write the score for Swimming Gorilla accidentally writes the best ambient album ever.” Which then leads them to talk about various underground video game levels and how trippy musical cues can be in these changing landscapes. “They’re huge mood changers,” Margaris says, whether intentionally or not, echoing what his band does so well.
They both grew up in Boston and fondly remember “split screens”, the days when they played games like golden eye in friends’ basements and living rooms. Now it’s a big part of their common musical language. “I don’t know much about music theory,” says Giannopoulos, “but I do know a lot about pop culture. Right now I’ll be like, ‘John, do a bass line that sounds like ‘ [insert something from their youth].” There is also a Instagram account that Giannopoulos likes who releases songs from “really weird and rare Japanese video games from the 90s, a lot of cool acid house stuff or rave-ish music, and some of it is madly good,” says Giannopoulos. He sends them all the time to Margalis. Margalis sums it up: “They’re mean and weird.”