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Interview: Hop Along And Strand Of Oaks At 'Made In America'

By Michael Cerio

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- There has been a closer eye on Philadelphia over the past couple years as critics have sat up and recognized what we've always known, there's a ton of great music coming out of Philadelphia.

Once synonymous with Will Smith and Hall & Oates, Philly is now a goldmine of critically beloved indie rock. In the past year, around the world they've heaped on deserved praise for Philadelphia bands like Hop Along, Waxahatchee, and Strand Of Oaks. Bands born of Fishtown bars and basement shows, graduated to the stage of this weekend's Made In America festival. It isn't a favor, or a thank you for lending the Parkway to the Budweiser event, it's a testament to how important Philadelphia has become to music recently.

"We travel a lot, and I'll go to like Denmark or something, and they'll ask me about Philadelphia" explains Strand Of Oaks' Timothy Showalter. "I've been a part in and out of Philadelphia for the past fifteen, sixteen years, and to see us own it finally. And we always have owned it. We've always had amazing music. We've had working musicians who make great records, and it's so cool now that we've grown past the local thing, and we now are an international thing."

"Philadelphia bands that had to stand in New York's shadow for ten years, and now we're the cool kids at the table. We've always been the cool kids. We've been making records for however long, and it's just really neat to know that we own it, and I don't think it's going away because all these bands are lifers I think. There's not just one quick single that's going to get hot and then go away. All these bands that I love from this town are bands that are focused on art, and continuing their band and not being something with a haircut and then is here and there and gone. It's something more real that I love" says Showalter.

Showalter and Strand Of Oaks in particular have caught attention for taking the tribulations of his life, and transforming them into one of the best reviewed albums of 2014 with Heal. With Strand Of Oaks, Showalter bleeds on a song, opening up relationship wounds like cheating, not of the past but of those with his current wife. For every faith-shaking event you've had with loved ones, imagine it being sung-along to around the world as you catch the eye of that person just off the stage. It's cathartic, but deeply personal.

"It's hard to explain how a record that kind of came out of some darker times can be such a positive experience, and maybe that was the last step. Like I needed to make the record, and once it was out it was just about connecting" recounts Showalter. "I think anything grows stronger when there's more honesty involved. This was my way of being honest. We've had a lot of talks and it's a very special thing that we have. It's private and public at the same time, and it's just beautiful to see something mature. I need everything to be very real in my life, and that's what we have."

The band Hop Along has also connected and grown through their own brand of confessional music. When their album Painted Shut was released earlier this year, the world discovered the amazing contorting vocals of lead singer Frances Quinlan. Quinlan has evolved Hop Along from a solo folk acoustic mission, to an emo-tinged effort with 2012's Get Disowned, to this full and powerful personal divulging on Painted Shut.

"We're very, very grateful. We're especially grateful for people that have stuck around with us through the change" says Quinlan. "Very very blessed to have both new and old fans."

Quinlan has quickly become a star in the scene for her amazing voice. As she performed at Made In America her eyes would roll towards the sky to summon a powerful raspy snarl, yet she can still creak with vulnerability. It's impressive to watch, and commanding when coupled with backing of the other members of Hop Along.

With massive praise and critical success, most of the band remains in Philadelphia, working. "We all still have jobs" laughs drummer Mark Quinlan. "I work at a bar with a lot of former musicians so they're very understanding and sympathetic, and I also work in retail and my boss is really nice" adds Frances. Using vacation days as they work towards conquering the music industry.

Under a tree near the main stage of Made In America, the band recalls the wave of great Philadelphia musicians that have come along with and before them. Recounting house shows in West Philly from Dr. Dog, singing the praises of Kurt Vile and The War On Drugs.

"All bands that definitely influenced us somehow, whether musically, or as people, or just being cool to each other. That whole wave of Philadelphia bands, for me personally has been helpful in development" adds Mark Quinlan. "Philly's been kicking out good music for a really long time, but I think now all in the sudden it's like a thing" says Hop Along guitarist Joe Reinhart. "I guess it's too cool to ignore."

To hear more from Hop Along and Strand Of Oaks, check out their full interviews below.

Hop Along:

Strand Of Oaks:

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