EP Walkthrough: 2020 breakthrough Hope D breaks down her debut EP, Cash Only
Fresh from blossoming in the past year, the Brisbane-based newcomer shares a debut EP that proves her place.
Header image by Casey Garnsey.
One of 2020's most brilliant breakthrough acts came courtesy of Hope D, the Brisbane-based musician who - by all accounts - felt impossible to slow down over the last twelve months. It kicked off in late-2019 with the charming debut single Swim, but it's what came after that which reinforced her knack for dizzyingly intimate indie-pop; the run of singles throughout 2020 - Second, Common Denominator and Miscommunicate - being potent bursts of relatable pop music relishing in its personality and honesty.
Every song felt like an introduction to its creator as much as it felt like an introduction to her sound, containing some of Hope D's most intimate and honest moments processed through glistening choruses and dancing melodies. Clearly, something struck with the punters too. She snuck in performances at every big festival there was (before they were shut down for 2020, that is), performed sold-out hometown shows and - perhaps the ultimate sign of her breakthrough year - achieved the rare feat of a triple j Hottest 100 placing in her debut year, with Second weaselling its way into the countdown.
Now, she eyes off an opportunity to keep her trajectory upwards, commencing her 2021 with the release of a show-stopping and place-cementing debut EP, Cash Only. Featuring the highlights of her past 18 months and glimpses of the future alike, Hope D's debut EP feels like everything she's worked towards reaching fever pitch; an encapsulation of her craft in honest and relatable indie-pop at a time where it's needed more than ever - at a time where people are reaching out for glimpses of comforting reliability amongst the madness of the last year.
On Cash Only, Hope D's past work thrives amongst snapshots of new music, which show how her sound can mould around different facets of her indie-aligned charm. Leading song Addict could've easily been a pre-EP single just as impressive as the others, conveying her habits of addiction even as a young teenager: "Having an addictive personality and a huge love for the arcade as a kid, I knew that the shining lights and fruitful promises from the casino would be something that might be more than just a one off," she says. "The song itself is a real recount of when I was going through the very loopy and hallucinogenic period of time when I was becoming addicted."
Life Sentence, meanwhile, combines Hope D's stark vocals with the kind-of subtle euphoria you'd expect from Bon Iver - albeit beefed up instrumentally - as the single's two-minute outro distorts itself with warping vocals and glitching, electronic-rich production, adding a further dimension that leads Hope D's sound down potential future paths without taking away from the Cash Only's storytelling core. "With everything I’ve ever written and will write, I want listeners to feel like they’re not alone," she says on the EP. "I aim to write with a wide range of topics, themes and feelings to try to make people know that they are not invisible."
You can dive into the EP below with its arrival today, and underneath that, explore Hope D's track-by-track dissection of the EP, which breaks down its themes and creation one song at a time. There's also a full, east-coast tour announced too - dates underneath, or you can find more information here.
Addict is a song about a gambling addiction I had when I was freshly 18. Having an addictive personality and a huge love for the arcade as a kid, I knew that the shining lights and fruitful promises from the casino would be something that might be more than just a one-off. The song itself is a real recount of when I was going through the very loopy and hallucinogenic period of time when I was becoming addicted. I was living at home at the time and my family and I had just gotten a new puppy, so I was waking him and everyone else up when I was coming home at 6am after a STUPID long night spent at the roulette tables.
The song is meant to sound just as cynical, paranoid and frantic as it felt for me. The absolutely traumatic cycle of winning, losing, drinking, crying, laughing, screaming and taking sleeping pills to make my whirling brain calm the f*ck down so I could get more than 2 hours sleep in pure AM daylight are represented by all the hectic instrumentation and production in this song. I still get slightly triggered when I think of red and black and any number from 0-36 and I lost way too much money than I care to recall. I finally kicked the addiction after too many restless nights of no sleep, and when I did sleep I had bad dreams. I just got so sick of it.
Nowadays, I work at a cafe and HATE the idea of wasting anywhere near an hour’s pay on a bet. Recording Addict felt so purgative, especially in the bridge and the extremely delirious section, I got to SCREAM like a maniac. But overall, f*ck the casino, if you catch me there for anything other than the food or drinks, I give you permission to slap me.
Miscommunicate is a heartfelt emotionally-charged song about a relationship that is on its way down. It's about how I deliberately miscommunicated to try and get a reaction from my partner, in order to feel unstable and to jeopardize the relationship, as I was craving a change and wanted to deliberately make it bad instead of having to actually share my true feelings.
I am not very good with my words when I have to talk, but singing them in this song was my way of communicating how I truly felt. I jeopardised the relationship by miscommunicating instead of just properly saying what I was thinking and feeling - which was pretty unfair. I think it is a common thing to avoid communication, since confrontation and pain truly sucks.
Life Sentence is my oldest written song on this EP. It was recorded at the same time as the rest of these songs, but I wrote it when I was in grade 12 during a very toxic and intense relationship with a girl at the same school as me. I was still navigating the fact that I only had feelings for girls, so that journey itself mixed with a very concentrated amount of feelings for my partner at the time created the idea that I was deranged. She was also coming to terms with her sexuality, so we both had a very bizarre relationship.
The reference to religious themes in the chorus relates to the Christian school we went to, and feeling extremely hated and alone for being a closeted queer. It truly makes you feel f*cking insane. The song features the sound of a chain hitting the ground as percussion, which plays into a jail cell idea, and being imprisoned and trapped in the feelings we had.
I played this song to her in my room one day after I wrote it in 2016 when we were not together. I still have the voice recording from that day of me showing her, which is 5 years ago now. I included it in this EP because I still feel the same intense feelings relating to love and relationships, and I reckon a fair few people feel a little bit ‘crazy in love’ like this at some point in time.
Second is about having a huge night that you regret profusely the next day. You wake up in last night’s gravy stained clothes, have to drive to work on less than 3 hours of sleep, have the hangover from hell and you keep flashing back to cringeworthy puzzle pieces from the night before. This was pretty much every Sunday for me for a few months on end.
It’s about getting a break from a long week and being able to have a good time for just a ‘second’, but then that second turns to minutes, and minutes into days and eventually you’re pretty battered and numb. I was in a bit of a rut from these huge nights and I’ve definitely learned that sleep + being a decent human being is better than excessively abusing a good night or 20. Writing the song was a huge therapeutic release for me, I made it an angry outlet, and I think that the lyrics really clearly communicate how those nights were.
Common Denominator is about a relationship of two people that only have limited things tying them together. I wrote this song after I had my first relationship, where we were set up by a mutual friend. I gradually realised that the only thing we had in common (and the reason we even met) was that we were both gay. Our other common interests were little, and therefore didn't have much else to bond over. I actually remember pretending to know her favourite bands, which gave us more bonding ground. She was very clever and I was more interested in parties and music rather than studying and understanding politics.
The sound of this single is different to my recent releases and takes a more conversational approach through the lyrics, I wanted to capture the lack of knowledge and communication skills that I had as a naive, dumb 16-year-old. You can hear distorted tracks of my voice absolutely sh*t-talking throughout the song, which is meant to illustrate how arrogant I am being. The song is a big exaggeration of our dynamic and is meant to capture the feeling of a new and exciting relationship, regardless of how it turned out.
Swim is the first single I ever released back in May 2019. It was a huge deal for me to release a proper song that took so much care and time to record, and for it to be about an extremely fragile topic that is very close to my heart. I knew that Swim was going to be my first single because I wanted people to hear a song that made them feel not alone. I felt very alienated growing up, I felt like a freak just for being different. I never thought I would be happy in my life, since it would be such an inconvenient life to live - or so I was told. I came out when I was 15, but I never had any other queer friends until I was about 17 - so I still felt very alone.
Swim is for anyone who has ever been ridiculed for being the way that they are, I seriously don’t understand people who bully others. I can confidently say that the happiness and joy that I get from playing this song live, hearing people scream the lyrics and the messages people send me about it is worth all of the ridicule and trauma that came from growing up gay in a very straight world (at the time of my childhood).
I feel things very intensely which made me know that I wanted to be with a girl very early on in my life, so I had to go through the navigation of all that myself. It kind of sucked, but I wouldn't be who I am today without it. And the fact that I am not alone is EVERYTHING to me, which is why I try to connect with other people who are similar to me through my music. It is the most rewarding thing on this earth.
The final song on the EP is an Outro for the 6 tracks. It is basically a sequel for Swim that showcases the positive outcome from all the torment that Swim discusses. To this day, I have never played it live, but I will whip it up for the tour if people seem to like it. Seeing that Swim is more of a song that expresses the pain, trauma and alienation from coming out, Outro is meant to be a huge ‘f*ck you’ to all those people who made me feel that way, including myself. It is a massive ode to loving yourself no matter what.
Swim talks about ‘swimming’ as conforming to the ‘norm’ to avoid the awful life of being hated for being who you are. Outro talks about owning your narrative, and embracing it with the widest arms that you can possibly stretch. It touches on religion again, as I was surrounded by it in my school education. Being taught that the way you feel/are is a sin is so messed up. In the end, I am so much more confident and matured having gone through the journey of believing you are less because you are different.
People don’t realise that either. Going through that, makes you so much stronger. I am finally happy being my whole and true self, and I will never be swayed or teared down by anyone ever again. I am lucky enough to have the most badass friends who also dont give a f*ck, they inspire me every day and make me unbelievably grateful for the path that I went through - because it led me to them. So this one's for you guys :)
Fri 12th Mar - The Triffid, Brisbane
Early Show: 6PM (NEW SHOW)
Late Show: 9PM SOLD OUT
Sat 13th Mar - Miami Marketta, Gold Coast
Fri 19th Mar - The Workers Club, Melbourne
Early Show: 5PM (NEW SHOW)
Late Show: 8PM SOLD OUT
Sat 20th Mar - Grace Emily Hotel, Adelaide
Early Show: 6PM (NEW SHOW)
Late Show: 7PM SOLD OUT
Thursday 25th Mar - Oxford Arts Factory, Sydney
Fri 26th Mar - The Hamilton Station Hotel, Newcastle
Early Show: 7PM (NEW SHOW)
Late Show: 9PM SOLD OUT
Sat 27th Mar - Waywards, Sydney
Early Show: 6.30PM SOLD OUT
Late Show: 9.30PM SOLD OUT
Sun 28th Mar - La La La's, Wollongong
Early Show: 4.30PM SOLD OUT
Late Show: 7.30PM (NEW SHOW)
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