A band name like “Horse Jumper of Love“ is so memorable that it’s practically an implied promise; you might expect music that’s dreamlike yet with a passion for human connection unmistakeably drawn from the corporeal realm. That’s just what the Boston-based indie rock trio have delivered since their formation in 2014, when they began releasing a series of startlingly intimate bedroom demos, songs that faithfully drew from slowcore tropes while incorporating elements of freaky folk, ambient, and shoegaze.
With each successive album — HJOL’s self-titled debut was released in 2016, followed by 2019’s So Divine — the band grew more comfortable in exploring their ambitions. Natural Part, the third Horse Jumper of Love album, contains some of the most memorable songwriting they’ve ever done: Frontman Dimitri Giannopoulos lets us further into his cozy, elusive lyrical universe, a welcoming atmosphere co-developed by bassist John Margaris and drummer Jamie Vadala-Doran. With a wisened slacker's pace and whimsy, Natural Part filters out the sound and fury of the outside world and offers a listening experience akin to finding the shapes in passing clouds.
To commemorate the album’s release, Giannopolous and Margaris spoke with The FADER and gave us some insight on each of the songs on the new record.
Dimitri Giannopoulos: I wrote this song around the time David Berman died. I remember I had the guitar part for a while — I thought it was a very medieval-sounding riff. The lyrics came after he died though. I was smoking on my porch and it was thundering but not raining. I had him in mind. The song is about people we idolize. Could be anyone. In the song I reference “The substitute [teacher],” “father,” “cult icon,” “the governor,” etc.
"Ding Dong Ditch"
John Margaris: I love Dimitri and Jamie singing together on this one. When we were writing the main section, Dimitri had brought that cyclical picked guitar part in, and Jamie and I were imagining someone with very long legs taking big, stretched-out steps. He started humming the bassline while pantomiming that giant sort of flapping around. It’s the best feeling when something is very funny but good at the same time.
"I Poured Sugar in Your Shoes"
DG: I was working as a prep chef in a kitchen and was carrying this huge sack of sugar over my shoulder. It tore open and got all over the floor and inside my chef Crocs, and when I was walking around, I tracked sugar all over the kitchen. The lyric was originally “I Poured Sugar in MY shoes,” but I thought “YOUR shoes” was more romantic, and I turned it into a love song. When I think of lyrics at work I jot them down in my phone, so I have hundreds of single lines for songs. Sometimes I can go through and use one as a starting point but the meaning of the song becomes totally separate from the experience that initially sparked the lyric.
"The Natural Part"
DG: This is my favorite song on the record. I was listening to a lot of Oasis at the time and I really wanted cello on the track. Brad told me to hit up Emily Dix Thomas, who is an amazing cello player — I remembered seeing Emily play in this band that really blew me away when I was in high school going to DIY shows around Boston, so it was really special having them play on the record. The tone of the guitar always reminds me of playing The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time.
"Under The House (Skunks)"
DG: There was a family of skunks living in the crawl space under my house. I felt I owed them a song.
"Sitting on the Porch at Night"
DG: One apartment I used to live in had such a beautiful porch. My absolute favorite thing in the world was to come home and drink a beer with a cig on that porch. A nice time to reflect and meditate. I still like to sit on whatever porch I can for as long as I can. The ultimate porch song, though, is “Dusky” by Friendship. Dan [Wriggins] sings “Blessed is the front porch and your 6 pack…” he captured the feeling I was trying to portray in this song infinitely better.
DG: Recently I was emailing my friend Tina about this song and I think I explained it to her best in that email, so I’m just going to paste it from there:
“Chariots” is a song that came from a time I thought I saw a devil sitting in the window of my grandmother’s house when I was a kid. She used to take the evil eye from us when we were sick and “trap” it in a glass of water by doing a prayer and dropping a small cross in the glass. She would throw the “evil water” outside of only one particular window in the house, and that is where I saw the devil.
"I Put a Crown on You"
“I half dreamt this song and woke up at 5 a.m. and grabbed my guitar and threw it down on a voice memo. When we went to record it, I wanted to capture the feeling from that voice memo. It was a reminder to myself that I can write a really simple song and still capture a lot of my feelings in it. The night before I had watched The Passion of Joan of Arc, so I think this song is really inspired by the image of Renée Falconetti as Joan of Arc crying with the crown on her.”
DG: I wrote this after reading a short story in the collection Julia and the Bazooka by Anna Kavan. I can’t remember what the story was called, but I remember it had a part where someone was driving in fog at night. And the story made me think of the layers of separation between people: I imagined two people driving past each other on a foggy night wearing masks (like a Halloween mask not a medical one — I wrote this song in 2018, lol) but there are all these layers of separation between them: the fog, the windshield, and the mask. I don’t know exactly what I meant by it but I think it’s a song about feeling isolated.
JM: This is another one where Jamie and I were imagining someone walking around, this time trying to not wake up a sleeping household. Pretty literally following the lyrics, imagining being sick to our stomachs with a fever. The chorus opens up to some vocals we recorded in an old factory next to the studio that was soon to be torn down. Felt weirdly sacred to be singing this plea of a chorus in the cathedral-ish setting.
"Bucket of Gold"
JM: This one gets stuck in my head the most. Sometimes I forget Dimitri wrote it. I feel like it’s melancholy in the most appropriate way, makes me feel connected to relatives that I’ve never met. We had been messing around on D’s drum machine for a while, and I love the way it came out — feels like we arranged a song that was already around before.