Wanted/Needed/Loved: Mark and Frances Quinlan’s Favorite Things

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Mark Quinlan:

I don’t want to come across as “Mr. High and Mighty” and say I don’t care about stuff, but I am extremely disorganized and so I can’t get attached to anything. There’s such a huge chance that whatever it is, I’m going to lose it or it’s going to break. So instead of talking about a thing, I’m going to talk about the one thing I am attached to which isn’t really a thing at all—it’s my cat. His name is Grease. He’s long. He’s thick. And I want to say he’s about fifteen pounds. Yeah, Grease is a big boy. He also thinks he’s a dog.

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What else can I tell you about him? Like a dog, Grease is super-affectionate, he doesn’t hide when people are around, and he needs to be touched and picked up all the time. And, yes, he does bark. A lot. Specifically he barks if people aren’t paying attention to him—or if it’s time for food. Like I said, Grease is big. He likes to eat.

I also have a chinchilla but they don’t get along very well together. During a certain period I tried to integrate them, but one day Grease was lying on his side, just kind of watching the chinchilla run around the apartment, and then out of nowhere the chinchilla ran up and bit him right on the crotch. But Grease gets along with other dogs. They’re buds. He’s also good with other cats… but not as good as he is with other dogs.

Grease isn’t my first pet. When we were growing up my mom was big on rescuing animals. We got our first cat, Blackie, when I was eight. Someone in our neighborhood threw him out of a car window! He started coming around to our place, and so we fed him and eventually adopted him. Since then we’ve always had cats—after Blackie it was Friskiss, and then Pinkie, who was actually black and white. Pinkie had kittens, so we kept one for a while until it disappeared, and then there was Misty, and then I rescued this weird cat someone else had abandoned. Oh man, I’ve had a lot of cats!

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I’ve had Grease for about four or five years now. My wife Courtney and I got him from a shelter in Harlem. Courtney makes better decisions than I do, pretty much all around. When we arrived at the shelter my first impulse was “What looks cute?” Based strictly on appearance I zeroed right in on a little gremlin, and I was like, “Courtney! This cat looks amazing!” And then I picked it up and it immediately snarled and bit me. Yet even then I was like, “It’s okay! It’s still cute!”

But Courtney kept on walking. She went to the way back of the shelter and saw another cat smashing his face against the gate of his crate, and she said, “It’s this cat!” So we ended up getting the one she picked and naming him on the A train on the way back from Harlem.

When we got married, Courtney and I took him along. He doesn’t do well in a cat carrier, so I held him on my lap for the whole car trip. When we got to the place, I put a harness on him and took him out for a walk with us. I take Grease with me everywhere I can. If I could take him out on tour with Hop Along, believe me I would! If Courtney sends me a picture of him while I’m away, that’s great. If she’s in the picture too, that’s even better! What I want/need/love most is to be with my family.

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Frances Quinlan:

My “thing” is inanimate but like Mark’s it’s one of a series of similar things I’ve had since childhood. Ever since I was about thirteen I’ve always kept a journal. At first I hated doing it. My mom used to make Mark and me both keep them because she wanted us to develop as writers. At first I remember that I would draw my mom really big and I would draw myself really small. I would give my mom a really mean face and write something like, “My mom’s making me write today!”

By the time I was in my teens, I started to come around, and I tried to write in my journal continuously. Still, my high school journal was just stuff like “I went to prom alone,” “So and so was a bitch today,” etc. It was all very basic teenage stuff. But eventually my friend Elise made me a hardcover journal with beautiful Stonehenge paper and that’s when I started putting more care into conveying my thoughts on paper. When I was close to running out of pages I ran out to find a replacement, and I’ve been doing so ever since.

In college I started thinking of my journals as a very serious place to record my ideas, and reflect on my life’s work. When I was in art school I had those little orange Rhodia journals—you know, the ones with graph paper? I recently found one with the lyrics from my first solo album in it. But I think my all-time favorite journal is an old red one, which has all but fallen apart.

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A lot was happening in my life when I wrote in that one: Hop Along was working on our first full-length album, Get Disowned, and I have the sketches from the record in there, along with some poetry, and my first writings and drawings from touring.

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I’m always on a lookout for new blank journals, and this time around I spent months and months just looking for the right one because I’ve become very picky about paper. I know Moleskines are very popular but I just don’t like how smooth the paper is. I like to draw and do ink washes, so I like paper with tooth.

I used to be more active on social media, but now I do more looking than posting. Journaling for me is so different. My journal entries aren’t so much about the day-to-day, like I went here and I did this, unless it was a day when it felt like a lot happened. If I’m reading something that feels meaningful I’ll also write it down. If I can, I like to draw in the tour van—even if it’s a quick scribble, it’s a way of capturing the moments as they go by.

We recently stayed at the most beautiful place in Knoxville. We found it by asking on Facebook if there was anywhere we could stay since we’d never been to that town before. A young man named Sam who we’d never met before wrote back and said his parents were musicians and we’d be more than welcome to stay with them. After the show we went to their cabin up in the winding hills. They had a donkey and goats, chickens, Jack Russells, and a really sweet pit bull.

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It was the most beautiful house I’ve ever stayed in. When we woke up, Sam’s mom made us breakfast and took us for a long walk. I brought my journal along and drew as much as I could, and later I inked the drawings in her house. I suppose I could have captured that trip with my phone camera, but it’s not the same as being able to record it with my own hand.

It’s nice being in a band and having a “collective” memory. We’re about to be joined on tour by my friend, Dom, who also went with me on my very first tour. I have a journal from back then too, and when I re-read it I’m amazed by the things I chose to remember, like that I wrote down when we were getting gas in Kentucky just because I thought it was so cool that we were in Kentucky! Dom’s memories are often of the people we met and the places where we went. He helps me to fill in what I didn’t record.

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I keep all of my old journals on a shelf at home right by my poetry books. If I lost them it would be like losing a piece of my life. It’s such a gift that we have the ability to write and draw in order to remember, and yet at times I still find myself taking it for granted. When my mom first encouraged me to keep a journal, I didn’t really understand why, but now I realize that what I want/need/love the most is the chance to remember, and to savor, as much as I possibly can.

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Wanted/Needed/Loved: Musicians and the Stuff They Can’t Live Without is an illustrated column where musicians share the stories behind meaningful objects. As told to Allyson McCabe and illustrated by Esme Blegvad.

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The Philadelphia-based indie-folk quartet Hop Along features siblings Mark Quinlan on drums and Frances Quinlan on vocals, along with Tyler Long on bass and Joe Reinhart on guitar. The band’s 2015 sophomore album, Painted Shut, is a collection of raw and vivid character portraits of those who struggle, and sometimes persevere. It debuted at #7 on Alternative New Artist Albums and went on to make the “Best of 2015” lists from Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly, MTV, VICE’s Noisey, A.V. Club, Stereogum, and Paste Magazine. Hop Along is currently headlining a national tour with Dr. Dog. Frances Quinlan is also playing a series of solo dates with Barry Johnson (Joyce Manor).


Allyson McCabe writes and produces stories about music for NPR, The Brooklyn Rail and others. Esme Blegvad is originally from London but is now Brooklyn-based. Her work has also appeared at Rookie and VICE. More from this author →