Hopeless Otis, a punk rock band originating from Queens, New York releases their first album entitled A Better Place to Be on July 30th.

Established in July 2009, Hopeless Otis has a simple, yet distinct message: to encourage their fans and friends to remain positive when life feels rough. Hopeless Otis consists of three talented musicians: Joe Dorane, the band’s lead singer and guitarist; Larry Spahn, who plays bass and also does vocals alongside Joe; and Eddie Kalinowski, who has been playing the drums since the age of four.

For two years, the band has been hard at work finishing their album. Fortunately, this Saturday, we have the chance to listen to their finished product. Below is their first interview regarding the release of their album, and most importantly, how they have grown artistically and individually, since their very first band practice.

GALO MAGAZINE: When and how did Hopeless Otis come together?

Eddie Kalinowski: To be exact, two years ago, during July 2009. We realized then that we all liked the same kind of music.

Larry Spahn: Eddie and I were actually in a band before that with one of our mutual friends. That’s how we met. After that broke up, I had a barbecue at my house for my college graduation, and Eddie turns to me and says, “Would you want to start a band with Joe?” I turned back to him and said, “Yes.” Then I asked him right after, “Wait so are you going to be in the band as well?”

Joe Dorane: During our first day of practice, we spoke about what kind of music we’d be playing. I just played an Against Me! song, and it came together after that.

GALO: What genre of music would you say Hopeless Otis falls into? Is this a genre you’ve always been particularly struck by?  

JD: Punk rock — no sub-genres. We come from the 70s [and] 80s, where Punk Rock was Punk Rock in its most original form.

GALO: Is there any significance behind the band’s name: Hopeless Otis? It’s an interesting name, so I’m curious how you came up with it.

EK: Well, the original incarnation of the band was sitting in my bedroom: Otis Spunkmeyer’s Chocolate Chip Cookies.

LS: Unfortunately, there’s no significance behind the band’s name. After I saw the cookies, I typed “Otis” into a band name generator and one of the first things that came up was Hopeless Otis, and I thought, ‘Hey that rhymes.’

GALO: What other bands inspire you?

EK: The Bouncing Souls, Latterman, The Clash, Hot Water Music, and 7 Seconds. I think those are the five most random bands.

GALO: Other than those bands mentioned, what else influenced your interest in performing? Were you all always involved in performing music?

JD: We all grew up with punk rock. It was the kind of music that got us through relationships, high school, car trips, or bus rides. In the ninth grade, I got a guitar from my parents for getting good grades on my report card. That was the deal — I wanted to play a guitar, and they wanted me to get good grades.

EK: My father was a big influence on me. He used to play the drums when he was in college, and when I was four of five, I found his drum kit. Also, when I was in the seventh grade, my friend sold me a guitar, and the after that, I started playing other instruments as time went by.

LS: I started playing the bass since my high school days, more specifically since 2001.  Someone sold me a bass for 50 dollars.

GALO: What message are you looking to spread through your music?

JD: I know life is bad and I’ve always had a positive outlook on things. There’s always a way to get through, and we’d like others [to] see that as a way of thinking as well. Even if it’s buying a beer or giving a girl a chair — that’s punk rock to me. When we first started playing though, we didn’t start off thinking that. We originally wrote songs about bicycles and comic books. But, our first real song is called, “Something Positive.” After we created this song, the other songs that came after it weren’t as good.

LS: We’re a band that’s looking for something positive. That’s our message: bringing out the positive in a negative world. We don’t have fans; we have friends. We’re not idols, nor are we gods. Our music is simply a way to get you through the day – a light at the end of the tunnel. We recognize struggle and most importantly, a solution to that struggle. After Joe wrote, “Without a Fight,” I noticed something different. One of the lyrics in this song — “Stay true to what you do” — really made me feel like our music had an actual theme.

EK: Looking at all the music I love, I recognize that there’s a lot of heart to it. I really like the kind of music that I can connect to. The shows that I have fun performing at the most are the ones where we don’t perform on a stage, because I feel like we’re on the same level as our friends and fans.

GALO: You are about to release your first album. How long did it take you to put it together and what would you say were the biggest accomplishments?

JD: Our album is titled, “A Better Place to Be.” This quote is lifted from one of our own lyrics, advising someone to make the best of what you have. We’ve been working on it for as long as we’ve been together, since our inception. Three years. Right now, we have the means and the money to get it professionally done. We’re really happy about it. I remember when we did the last vocal tracks, and I raised my arms and said, “This feels great!”

EK: Regarding the album’s name, we really didn’t want a lyric to be our album title, but then I thought, ‘this is the first time that it makes sense.’ It also sums all of us up completely.

GALO: What advice would you give to aspiring musicians? Especially to those who are creating an album and may face ongoing difficulties?

JD: Keep yourself grounded and don’t think your band is the greatest. Basically, try not to have such a big ego.

EK: I actually got to meet one of my idols, Lars Frederickson, from Rancid. I told him, “I hope I’ll be in a band for the rest of my life.” He replied back to me, “It’ll happen.” Hearing that, I guess you really have to believe in what you’re doing.

LS: If you believe in your music, others will believe in it as well. Regardless of how good of a musician you are, you can always play something. Don’t forget your roots.

GALO: I hear that you are going on your first tour in August. Where exactly are you going, and what are you most excited about?

JD: As far as exciting goes, it’s good to finally break out. Even if we are just playing for other bands, if one person enjoys us or buys a shirt, we can flow with that. I do plan on getting a video camera and filming little things here and there. It’s just fun to know what can come after this. We feel like pioneers in our own circle of friends.

EK: I’m just excited to play with other bands. As much fun as it is to play in a band, it’s also enjoyable to be a fan. I’m also excited to go to Baltimore because I haven’t seen one of my friends there in a very long time. Also, every other place is new to me.

LS: This is our next big step. We’ve played shows out of town before, but never more than a three hour drive. This is what makes us a real band now. Also, making friends is one thing we’d like to accomplish on this tour. We’re hitting Columbus, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Chicago, and Baltimore.

GALO: You are an independent band. What significance do you think is important behind a band that is not under a corporate label?

LS: I think individuality is very important. It’s what the artist should feel music should sound like, not corporate suits instead.

JD: Music is going to be under our terms and not anyone else’s. There’s a comradery in it.

EK: I love putting pressure on myself. This is one of the reasons I’m a drummer. This makes me feel that I’d rather fail by myself than fail because someone told me what to do. The same applies to success.

GALO: Besides the tour happening in August, do you see any future projects coming your way?

LS: We’re going to be promoting this album for a while. We’re hoping to tour this winter though. We’re going to look to go down the East Coast, and then, eventually, another album.

JD: Writing new music. I’ve also played with the thought of bringing another guitarist to the band.

GALO: What is your favorite part of performing music?

JD: Well, to quote one of my favorite musicians of all times, Joe Strummer, “The biggest sin of all time is to bore people.” I really like going on stage and making people enjoy themselves.

LS: There’s no better feeling than having people sing along to your music — even if it’s just one person.

GALO: What do you think separates Hopeless Otis from other punk bands?

LS: One thing is our message. Although it isn’t a bad thing, bands in our genre tend to write songs about being angry, or being an outcast. We don’t write about problems, but about solutions. I feel like it’s a step further to write about solutions.

JD: We bring the positivity to the forefront. I remember listening to that angry music in high school, and I kept thinking, ‘What if there was music that made you feel good inside?’ Also, at our reunion show, we all had beards. This definitely separates us.

EK: If you hear someone singing the problems that you share, it puts it in a positive light. I like that our music puts things in a positive light and brings a solution to someone.

GALO: The album is coming out July 30th. As you’ve mentioned before, it’s been a long, accomplishing process. How do you think you’ve grown artistically as a band and also individually?

EK: As we mentioned before, over time our message really did come out. Individually, I usually never play the same drum part twice as a way of challenging myself.

LS: Over the last couple of years, our songwriting has become something meaningful.  Also, we’ve gained a lot more confidence. We feel like we’re actually doing something and that we really fit in with our scene.

JD: We found networking. We started off playing shows where we didn’t fit the bill at all. For instance, we played with bands that were 40-years-older than we were, or with band jams with sitars. There’s a video of our first show ever, and I don’t think a first show goes exactly as planned. We were very static. But now, we’ve got into the one, and we enjoy playing a lot more.

LS: I feel like this band has made [itself] as accepted members of the scene. Bands actually know who we are, and that shows that we’re growing.

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