Hope Of The States on their return: “It’s loud, it’s messy, it has all that heart in it”

Hope Of The States have announced their reunion, revealing a trio of UK gigs to showcase new material. Check out details below along with our exclusive interview with frontman Sam Herlihy.

The Chichester post-rock band achieved cult status in the early ’00s off the back of their two acclaimed albums: 2004’s ‘The Lost Riots‘ and ‘Left’ from 2006. They split just a few months after the release of their second record at Reading & Leeds festival that summer, saying at the time that they felt “cursed” by bad luck. They had earlier lost their guitarist Jimmi Lawrence to suicide in early 2004.

Now, the band are back for their first tour in 18 years alongside a remastered vinyl reissue of their debut album and news of brand new music being recorded with producer Jolyon Thomas [U2, Soft Play, Daughter]. Jolyon is son of the late Ken Thomas [Sigur Rós, Wire, M83), with whom the band made their first two records.

“I was always really against getting back together at first, and I don’t really know why,” Herlihy – who has since become a successful artist and restauranteur – told NME. “It was probably because it was a bit of a third rail. I was always really proud of everything that we did with our band, but all of the stuff that surrounded it kind of swallowed it in a way and made it feel like it might be better to leave it alone.


“Now it’s 20 years since the first record, which I didn’t realise until someone pointed it out, and it just felt like it would be nice to be in a room with these guys again. Why not? Plus my kids said they wouldn’t feel too embarrassed if I did it!”

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Check out our full interview with the frontman below, where he weighed up the band’s “curse”, shared his thoughts on the music industry now, and told us what’s to come…


NME: Hello Sam. Hope Of The States – along with The Cooper Temple Clause, JJ72 and Yourcodenameis:milo – always seem to come up online when people are discussing great bands of the ‘00s that never got their due. At what point did you start to have that same feeling and hunger to return?

Sam Herlihy: “I was surprised by it. I’ve always been proud of what we did while also thinking, ‘No one gives a toss about that – it was 100 years ago, let sleeping dogs lie’. Every so often I’d get a really sweet message from someone. I’ve been doing paintings and someone might say, ‘I love this, but I also loved your band so much’. I guess it takes 20 years until you believe it and think people might be interested.

“It was also a thing of needing the confidence to actually do it. I was reaching out to a lot of people asking, ‘Is this a moronic idea? Am I being silly? Am I too old?’ But people were lovely. You need that validation that it’s worthwhile and adds something to the world, other than just being entirely nostalgic. That had never interested me – I’d only ever do this if we were writing new stuff. It turns out the one thing I’m good at is writing Hope Of The States songs, which I hadn’t done for 18 years.”

Does it feel easier to return having not been tied to any ‘scene’ of the time back then? You couldn’t be called ‘indie sleaze’ by any measure…


“Yes, part of it is that we always felt quite separate. Everything we tried to was for that purpose. We called ourselves Hope Of The States because it was the complete opposite of The Strokes, The White Stripes, that whole thing. If other people’s songs were short, ours were going to be long. Then when everything happened, we became really separate because people had a view of who we might be. We didn’t feel like that; we thought, ‘We’re living our dream!’”

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Didn’t you play Top Of The Pops

“We did!”

That’s insane. 

“Totally insane! But we did it the way we did everything: in this carnival of disaster. We were there in ripped jeans, covered in gaffer tape, in the military jackets. It was that weird moment where Top Of The Pops made everyone play live, but we wanted to mime! It would have been way easier! So we got drunk and there’s S Club Juniors hanging around, then us with greasy hair, covered in gaffer tape, smoking and drinking Jack Daniels. We staggered through ‘Enemies/Friends’ with these blokes in the crowd who would have threatened us in school.

“Still, it was cool and we thought all of that was funny. Then it wasn’t funny, but we were still getting to do this thing we’d always dreamed about and worked really fucking hard to do. We’d be sat at festivals getting drunk and no one would want to sit with us. They’d be like, ‘Oh, maybe they’re grieving, they’re drinking through the pain’. No dude, the things are separate!”

At the time of the split, you spoke about feeling “cursed” – was that feeling always there in the present tense or something that built up over time?

“I guess that’s the melodramatic way I would have said it then, but if something could have gone wrong then it tended to. Maybe that’s karma; maybe I was an appalling person in a past life or something. There was so much weird stuff that happened with our band. Ultimately if the music was good, which I believe it was, then that’s the reason to do it again.

“All of the drama and other stuff is very separate to me. We played good shows, we made good records, and as friends we were close and carried one another through it. That’s more important to me than the idea of the curse. I spent 20 years thinking that, and I don’t want to think that anymore. It’s a waste of time.”

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You say you’re proud of what you did, but did you feel you were paid your dues?

“No! No, but it get it, 100 per cent. Everything changed. When we signed our deal, we were in the very final roll of the dice of that major label indie world. The two people who wanted to sign us were Rob Stringer – who’s still the head of Sony and hangs out with Harry Styles – and Lucian Grange from Universal who hangs out with Darth Vader or something. I’m joking, but they’re not talking talking to a band who looked and sounded like we did now. That world just doesn’t exist.

“They wanted to sign us, and that was exciting, but then the game immediately changed. The Killers released ‘Mr Brightside’ the same week we released ‘The Red The White The Black The Blue’, and we went in the charts above them. Then we went lower, they got higher and that’s fine. I mean, ‘Mr Brightside’ is still in the charts now! That was the turning point: Franz Ferdinand, Kaiser Chiefs, guitar bands suddenly had to sell loads of records. ‘The Lost Riots’ was never going to sell loads of copies. I guess if you look at what bands sell now then it did remarkably well, but back then it did appallingly badly! We spent a huge amount of Sony’s money, which was fun to do.

“As for ‘dues’, people like the record and it did what it did. Same for the second record. It wasn’t our world, then we stopped as we didn’t want to do it any more.”

How do you feel about entering this version of/what’s left of the music industry? 

“I don’t know. We were quite insulated from it back then. Perception-wise, people thought we’d split because we didn’t sell enough records. To be fair to Sony, they wanted us to do another record but we said no. Now, that would be the wrong place for a band like us to be. Back then, we needed money to do the projections for the live shows and record with the strings and buy a lot of gaffer tape! We were putting records out in these sleeves hand-sewn with recycled flags. They had the money to do that, so we spent it.

“I assume that doesn’t exist now, but there are still bands doing cool things. Fontaines D.C. are just so amazing, and each record is so different. Now they’re on a new label, dressing like KoRn, and sound awesome. It’s great they can do that. Back then, all bands could be more focussed on that. I don’t understand the industry, and I don’t think a band like us would ever be on a label like that.”

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What are your expectations for the return of Hope Of The States? 

“Probably trying to not think about it as ‘the return’! The new stuff we’re making is really good. To be in a room with those boys and be on stage is exciting, and I’d like to just enjoy it. There is so much of it that we didn’t enjoy. We had a blast, but there was such a ‘thing’ around it all that we didn’t appreciate it like we should have. To be able to do this with a smile on our faces is all you can ask for. There’s a real sense of gratitude to be able to do this again.”

What form is the new material currently in? 

“We’re in a rehearsal room and have been smashing it together. It’s all written and we’re going to go and record with Jolyon Thomas, who is the son of Ken Thomas who made our two records with. He was an absolute hero and I loved him dearly. He was an incredible, artistic, intimidating dude, but sadly he passed away last year. We first met Jolyon when we first met Ken when he was some snotty 16-year-old kid, and now he’s snotty whatever-year-old producer who makes records with U2.

“If the songs weren’t good, then I wouldn’t do this. As fun as it would be to to play the shows and give something back to funs would be lovely, it wouldn’t be enough to just play the old stuff. I genuinely believe that it’s as good if not better than the old stuff.”

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Sonically, is it more in line with the dramatic post-rock of the first album, the dancier post-punk of the second, or with flavours of both? 

“The perception with the second record was that we changed because we needed to sell records, which I totally understand. It wasn’t the case – we just got bored. The second record was a lot of, ‘We did that before, so we can’t do it again’. Things weren’t great in the band for various reasons. When it came to this new stuff, it started as an exercise in ‘Can I write Hope Of The States songs?’ Then we took away all the ‘can’t’. It was about asking, ‘What did I love back then?’ I still love all that. Those records that made you do it or pushed you somewhere else, they stick with you.”

And lyrically, is it in that same time capsule spirit?

“It’s all tied up with our friends, our girlfriends, the kids we went to school with. It’s about those moments when you were a kid and just fucking inspired by stuff! Going to Our Price to buy The Beta Band CD so you could play it on your Discman, that time the NME put Godspeed on the cover; those things take the back of your head off. We’re looking to that time and what music meant to us.

“Lyrically, all the songs are about that: being a teenager. It’s bizarrely specific to me, but I’ve been playing the songs to people I didn’t even grow up with and they’ve been like, ‘Fuck!’ People pick it up. No one forgets those moments or those people. It’s not being tied up in ghosts, memories of nostalgia, but that’s where we came from. We’re taking it all and making a movie version of it. It’s loud, it’s messy, and has all that heart in it.”

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How much are politics and world events shaping the new material?

“The first album had that; it was more personal than political but obviously the imagery that we were using obviously tied into that. It was less No Logo than it came across. We were kids, and it was mostly about us. The second record was entirely about us. This stuff is affected by that low ambient dread, but it’s really about our mates, and the things that happened to our friends and us. It’s way more about that.”

Have you guys talked about the wardrobe?

“Yes, it does get talked about a bit! It’s a nightmare. You can’t do ‘graphic designer trainers’! It’s got to be right. Ed from Type 2 Error is back doing projections for us for the shows, and he’s probably more excited than anyone! We’ll be doing all that, so wardrobe matters a little less. Hopefully that will cover up a lot of sins.”

What can we expect from the shows?

“We’re playing three small gigs. We haven’t played in a long time. Who knows who’s going to come? We’ll get in the van, we’ll play new stuff, we’ll play old stuff. Get the caravan of chaos on the road.”

Do you have a longterm plan from here?

“Not really. For all of us, it would be lovely for us to keep doing this. It doesn’t have to be every day of the week. We’re just grateful to have the chance to do it again.”

Hope Of The States 2024 reunion headline tour dates are below. Tickets are on sale from 9am on Wednesday July 10 and will be available here.


Wednesday 4 – Manchester, Deaf Institute 
Friday 5 – Glasgow, Stereo
Saturday 6 – London, The Dome