Revamped blues

Hopeless Jack

It took a few years, but Jack Beisel and Spencer York have gotten into a good collaborative groove.

It took a few years, but Jack Beisel and Spencer York have gotten into a good collaborative groove.

Photo/Andrea Heerdt

Hopeless Jack’s self-titled album is available for download on Bandcamp.

Singer, songwriter and guitar player Jack Beisel, otherwise known as Hopeless Jack, has been working on his newest album for three years now—this time with a new drummer and a different mindset about what making an album should be.

Beisel said when he moved to Reno three years ago, he had a handful of songs he wrote but never recorded. He wanted his third album to be recorded at a renowned place like Prairie Sun Recording Studios, but he let that idea go when he started making music with his new drummer, Spencer York. “I have this amazing drummer who just wants to create stuff, and do and go,” Beisel said.

They ended up recording the album at a location that wasn’t soundproof and definitely wasn’t set up for recording music. With the help of producers Zak Girdis and Kevin Bosley, the duo decided to move forward with the album by recording it in a way that felt more like a live performance.

It also took three years of friendship for Beisel to fully let York’s classic-rock roots style infuse itself into Hopeless Jack’s raw, blues-heavy sound.

“He likes to try different things,” said Beisel. “He pushes himself to play differently than he did, so it’s constantly changing how I approach even the same song that I’ve played 100 times before.”

The two met at a Hopeless Jack show years ago in Southern California. Beisel was touring solo, and York had recently gotten out of the army. Months prior to the show, Beisel jokingly told York he needed a new drummer. When Beisel showed up in Los Angeles, they met up, and York crushed the drums. York made his way up to Reno to fully commit to the duo.

Beisel said his friendship with York and his life experience since his last two albums have changed his perspective on blues.

“The older I get, the more I relate to blues,” he said. “I understand it deeper, but the less I feel compelled to dwell on how bad [life] can be.”

When it comes to writing lyrics, Beisel believes the fewer words the better.

“When I have a thing, an emotion about something I feel inspired towards, whether it be good or bad, it always starts off as a giant cloud, like when you want to tell someone off and you’ve got a million insults for ’em until you keep weaning it down until it’s one single cut that hurts the most,” he said. He uses the same distillation technique when the message is something other than an insult, too. For one track, “Hollow,” Beisel wrote, “Knowing that/ Knowing that I too I have felt that alone/ I have felt that way in rooms full of people that know and love me.” That thought had started off as 20 pages of letters addressed to people he’s lost to suicide over the last five years.

Another theme on the self-titled new album is the dual nature of being a human—meaning people can be both good and bad, prideful and humble, lustful and shameful, all at the same time.

The duo will kick off the release of their new album with a European tour this summer, starting in June. Beisel and York hope that the crowds in Europe will dance at their shows rather than stare in shock at their wild, exuberant stage presence. Beisel said that he wants the crowd to be there with him, to feel the emotions of the soulful and powerful drums, guitar and blues singing.