Alt-Pop duo Hooked Like Helen has shared their new EP Tragedy Of Physics on May 31 via Stipp Manor Music. Co-produced alongside Grammy award-winning mixer, engineer and producer Isha Erskine (Ziggy Marley, Maroon 5, Black Eyed Peas), the EP also features vocals by NBC’s The Voice contestant, Emily Keener. Their latest single ‘Tear this Place Apart’ was premiered via The Line of Best Fit and as for the first single, ‘No Turning Back,’ it premiered via Clash Magazine and was used as the soundtrack in the trailer for the film High Strung: Free Dance, set to hit international theatres this year. ‘Liar,’ also lifted from the EP, won acclamation by winning the Indi.com songwriting contest and has been snapped up for use in a dance scene choreographed by So You Think You Can Dance’s Tyce Diorio for High Strung: Free Dance.
A music video for Liar is set for release in conjunction with the film, featuring scenes from the movie starring Thomas Doherty, Juliet Doherty, and Jane Seymour. The soundtrack for the film includes 3 Hooked Like Helen songs and 2 additional tracks co-written by Hooked Like Helen’s Nikki Stipp. Previous tracks ‘Get Well’, ‘Concrete Tub,’ and ‘Surface Break’ were placed on MTV’s Unlocking The Truth docu-series alongside its official Spotify Playlist, and their track ‘Stable’ was placed in a promo video for the television show Nashville.
Nikki and Jon hail from Los Angeles, California and Cleveland, respectively, and met while both playing in classic/ alternative-rock band Red Circle Underground. Crafting their sound in a house in the woods about 40 miles west of Cleveland, the husband-and-wife duo, Nikki and Jonathan Stipp, began their musical brainstorm experimenting with home recordings before developing their sound into their current an alt-pop vision. Within a year of the project’s inception, Nikki and Jon had shaped a new sound reflecting their truth and their influences in a seamless blend of organic and electronic production. They toured all along the Sunset Strip and Hollywood area (The Satellite, Bootleg Theatre, Silverlake Lounge, The Roxy, Hotel Cafe) until leaving the LA area in 2013.
Jon’s early musical interests lay with the raw energy of punk, and the throbbing chords of rock, frequenting Green Day, Smashing Pumpkins and Third Eye Blind concerts. He joined an Emo band as a teenager, Trees Are Tall, the drummer of which, eventually convinced Jon to move to LA and join Red Circle Underground, where he met Nikki. Nikki began tracking cassette-tape demos by the age of 11, and by her 20’s was a regular on the LA circuit, playing at venues like The Viper Room, House Of Blues, and Cobalt Cafe. She experiences Chromesthesia, a type of synesthesia in which heard sounds automatically and involuntarily evoke an experience of colours, shapes and patterns. During the songwriting process, a new idea for a song already has a set colour scheme and pattern in Nikki‘s head, and her composing, arrangements and production choices are guided by this template.
Hooked Like Helen‘s sound embodies a unique vein of pop music; Nikki’s haunting, layered harmonies and lush vocal arrangements create a surreal atmosphere of simultaneous melancholy and hope, dissonance and resolve. Dark lyrics and themes of existential pondering provide an eerie contrast to HLH’s melodic sensibilities. With influences spanning over decades, Nikki’s affinity for artists such as Prince, Mariah Carey, Michael Jackson, Carol King, Billy Joel, Stevie Wonder, Halsey, Rihanna, and The Weeknd, blends at once while contrasting with Jon’s love for rock such as Guns and Roses, The Eagles, Steely Dan, Green Day, Rage Against The Machine, Chris Stapleton and hip-hop and alt-rock like 2pac and Twenty One Pilots.
A fusion of pop, rock, and R&B as well as the merging of classic and current songwriting structures, are defining attributes to Hooked Like Helen‘s sound. The appealing combination of Nikki’s vocals paired with the balance between whimsy, sensitivity and fun, conjures images of Ellie Goulding meets Of Monsters and Men.
Starting the EP off, the duo twists their idiosyncratic brand of alt-pop into a power ballad on ‘Tear This Place Apart’ and allow Nikki’s vocal intensity to boil over into cathartic exultation. The track offers lyrics about the agonies and ecstasies of love, impeccably underpinned by a soundscape that reaches nuclear-threat levels, thanks to Nikki’s voice. On ‘No Turning Back,’ Hooked Like Helen takes the best parts of all of their influences and make them their own, coating everything in the breathy flutter of Nikki’s voice. The track is a kaleidoscopic soundscape, confident and emotionally resonant. In terms of pure power-pop delight, ‘Beautiful World’ is hard to beat – it’s one of those tracks that tap directly into your musical pleasure centre and jabs at the best bits. It is everything that pop music should be: eloquent, glamorous, spirited, with an infusion of freshness.
All in all, Tragedy of Physics is full of piano hooks, intricate, rhythmic bass lines, and epic, driving drums which carry the EP through the subject matter, but with an underlying groove and a constant sense of pop.
Speaking of the Tragedy of Physics EP, Hooked Like Helen said: “Tragedy Of Physics is growing pains in Extended Play form. Recorded in our home studio and self-produced, each track reflects a step further for us into the trek toward who we truly are, what we mean, and where we want to be..”