Frank Lopes Jr., aka Hobo Johnson, started writing and producing music out of his car while living on the streets of California after his dad kicked him out of the house. He created his first album, “Hobo Johnson’s 94 Corolla,” in 2015, but it wasn’t until 2017 that Reprise Records approached him to produce another album, “The Rise of Hobo Johnson,” after seeing his music series “Live from Oak Park.”
Hobo Johnson and his band, The Lovemakers, submitted a video to NPR’s Tiny Desk Contest in the beginning of 2018, and man, did it go viral. Reaching over 10 million views on YouTube, the video of the band performing “Peach Scone” had everyone hooked on Lopes Jr.’s feelings for an unnamed girl who is dating somebody else. On his website, he explained how he wrote the song: “I wrote it at five in the morning in thirty minutes after sleeping on the floor of the studio. It shows off my personality.”
His personality certainly does come through in the song, and this has much to do with his tone. It continuously changes throughout the song, from occasionally whispering the lyrics to yelling them, most notably in one part of the chorus: “I love the thought of being with you/or maybe it’s the thought of not being so alone.”
Although they didn’t win the contest, Hobo Johnson and The Lovemakers did perform at an NPR Tiny Desk Concert this past September, which gave the band even more exposure and credibility. In the past, well-known artists like Macklemore and Hozier have performed these live concerts, so Hobo Johnson and his band getting this opportunity was a big step for their music career. In addition to “Peach Scone,” this concert may have brought more fans to Lopes Jr.’s unique vibe.
The originality of his lyrics and performances comes from focusing on subjects and experiences important to him. You might notice that Lopes Jr. seems to continue smiling throughout his sets, even when he’s singing about a somber topic. While singing about the divorce of his parents in “Romeo & Juliet,” he’s smiling and even laughing at the line, “Dear Shakespeare, could you write a happy ending please?” This gesture shows another aspect of Hobo Johnson’s personality; he adds some brightness to the dark.
After their “Peach Scone” video went viral, the band created an official music video for the song, and let me tell you, it’s nothing like what you would expect to see after listening to the song. The video starts with Lopes Jr. explaining the song’s meaning, and then, all of a sudden, he walks onto a stage and starts dancing with some stormtroopers. Random? Yes, but after watching, you know how eccentric he is; plus, it was the first official music video the band made, so who can blame the insanity? A note is added near the end of the video acknowledging that it could have been better and that it didn’t really work out; however, the song is about not working out, so it technically fits.
The “Peach Scone” video ended up reaching millions of views, so what was to stop Hobo Johnson from creating another one? Nothing, which is why a music video for “Father” was more recently produced, and it is much more sensible, probably because the band had more outside help with it. More video and audio effects were added to this one, making it a bit more entertaining to watch than “Peach Scone,” but don’t worry, Lopes Jr.’s personality still shines through. The lyrics, just like in “Peach Scone,” are deep and explore his experiences, and the ending of the video still leaves you wondering, “What the…?”
Fans can tell that Hobo Johnson’s music is a lot like spoken-word poetry put to music, and it sure is powerful. He doesn’t use many rhymes — but then again, not too many poems do nowadays — but he does use similes and metaphors, like with his song “Romeo & Juliet.” Unlike a lot of the current music out there, people are able to relate to his words. However, his songs seem to be the type of music you either hate or love, and there is no in between. Maybe you can’t relate to what he’s saying, but you love it anyway because you can feel the passion in his voice, or maybe you just hate it all. Well, that’s your opinion.
In an interview with Anthony Fantano, Lopes Jr. mentioned that the band’s next album is already in the making, and it will feature “Alone Forever,” another viral song. Personally, I wish this song was a bit longer, but hey, sometimes you only need a few words to get your point across. Lopes Jr. said that the next album will be darker than the last one, but the songs will be in the same style, which will be great because he will continue to talk about his sad experiences, like being friend zoned and watching his family fall apart. Maybe in this album, he’ll sing more about his depression and thoughts, which would make his songs even more relatable to fans.
So, what is the band up to right now, and where has the viral fame led them? Well, obviously more songs are coming, so more music videos will probably be in their future — hopefully ones even better than the first two. For now, though, they’re touring the world with their Bring Your Mom Tour. Starting in the U.S. and ending in Australia, you can see them live and watch Hobo Johnson shout the lyrics of your favorite song. You can even shout them with him and get all your feelings out. Pick up some band merch from their online store before you go, so you can wear Hobo Johnson’s face on a shirt. Oh, and don’t forget to bring your mom.