Four years ago, Naomi Hooley was sitting in her truck, dejected, scared and on the edge of something great. She had just ended a marriage and made the decision to move the 3,000 miles from Alaska to Portland to pursue her longtime love of music as a full time career. She set her sights on the city with nothing more than the name of a Portland producer, Rob Stroup, a man she had never met.
Earlier that year, while taking a touring Portland band out for beers after a sparse turn out at their Alaskan gig, she read Stroup's name on the back of the band's album. Hooley said in that moment, she knew that she wanted to work with him.
Hooley was driven, and now, she has not only had an album produced by Stroup—who is a founding member of the popular Portland rock band the Baseboard Heaters—but shares the band Moody Little Sister and a romantic relationship with him, all based on the single production credit on the back of a random album. The Source
caught up with Hooley about her travels, her new Kickstarter campaign and her work with Stroup as Moody Little Sister.
Source Weekly: How did you and Rob team up?
Four years ago I got in my car and drove from Alaska to Portland to be a musician. That’s a long story in itself. I knew he was a producer and I knew I wanted to record my record with him.I came down here to make my record and start my life over again and start it as a musician. I was ready to make my passions my life.
SW: What was the move like from Alaska to Oregon?
I visited 6 major cities that were supposed to be music cities. In Alaska, the band I was touring with, we had to get on a ferry for 6 hours and drive 12 hours in a van for our first gig. Alaskans love music and will buy all your t-shirts and CDs, but you can’t make a living because it’s too spread out. Every musician that takes themselves seriously has to leave the place they love to make it. Oregon is natural and wild. Moving from Alaska it’s a really a shock, the lack of alone time with wild places, but Oregon does give you that from time to time, in smaller bite size pieces. I tried to move to San Diego one time and I about died.
SW: When did you change from going as Naomi Hooley and Rob Stroup to Moody Little Sister?
Some people give the advice, never name a band. Just go under your own name. It was a big leap. The day I switched my Facebook page it was like having cold feet before getting married.
Part of it was that people would come up to us and have 5 seconds, they’d ask ‘What are you guys called? How do I find you?’ and we’d say it’s ‘Naomi Hooley and Rob Stroup.’ People weren’t remembering our names no one can spell them. It was more of an obstacle. We needed something we could tell people in one sentence, and as soon as we switched the name the clunkiness went away. We started co-writing, it was evolving into a collaborative effort.
SW: How do your musical backgrounds mesh?
Rob has been a rock and roll guy. He was in a band, the Baseboard Heaters and had quite a following and a name he’s been in the scene a lot longer than I have, and he’s a producer. He not only sings but he does percussion with his feet, he sings back up harmonies, lead vocals, and plays guitar. He’s kind of like three people in our band. As a producer what he brings to our music is what he brings to records too, which is the production and song arrangement and knowing what makes a good song.
SW: You guys are doing a Kickstarter to fund your new album? How did you come to the decision to approach making a record that way?
We had gone completely different direction. We had a manager come into our life and we were going in a certain direction and, I don’t know how to explain it other than it was under this leadership, and then all the pieces fell apart. It wasn’t anyone’s fault. Life happened. I looked at the record and said ‘I don’t think this is the record we would have made without him.’
My songs rode the line that was still me, but when we listned back I felt rushed. I felt pressured, and I was trying to be someone I wasn’t. My first record is such a Polaroid picture of when I was 30 sitting in my truck scared as shit going from Alaska to Portland. When we would play those new tracks I would feel put under the gun, clamering rather than organically coming from a genuine place as an artist. I couldn’t release it.
I had $200 to my name I wrote $9000 worth of checks to go to LA. So we went to LA and we sat in this room with these new people and relaxed and we knew who we were. I don't think I've ever sang better in my life. As a result the tracks are powerful.
As a women, you have a beautiful body and you can dress it however you want because underneath the skins the same. But if you put scantily clothes on you’re going to attract this certain type of guy, you’re dressing for that. We felt like our songs were dressed wrong. We had to put them in the right clothes. We wanted to put out a record that was everything our fans had been waiting for.
[That being said] these tracks will sit in a computer while I clean houses and Rob saves money to make this happen.
Moody Little Sister
Thurs., Sept. 18, 7 pm.
McMeanamins Old St. Francis