Songwriter uses unusual stringed instrument for newest album
It’s called a harpejji, and you can hear it live soon
May 19, 2021
Lance Hoeppner, known for his work in progressive rock band Moser Woods, has just released his latest solo album called I AM Lance, Vol. 1, Harpejji Meets The Tempest.
It’s quite a jump stylistically from his main gig, but the Fort Wayne native has always been surrounded by variety.
“I have always listened to a lot of music,” Hoeppner said in an interview with Whatzup. “My grandmother made us take piano lessons when I was younger for a few years but it really didn’t take at that time.”
However, after a little peer pressure, Hoeppner was on stage.
“My friends were starting a metal band and needed a singer, so they talked me into singing for them,” he said. “That band was called C4 with Rick Kinney on drums, D.J. Riley on bass, and Andy Ford on guitar.”
Within a couple of years, Hoeppner expanded to more than just singing duties.
“We had been playing for about three years and D.J. suggested that I add something else other than just vocals,” Hoeppner said. “I decided to start playing keyboards at 22.”
Hoeppner was playing and constantly learning about synthesizers, all while building his knowledge of the instrument. Eventually he and Shaun Bryan started the band Moser Woods with a need to make music that wasn’t heavy metal. After a few lineup changes, Moser Woods consisted of Hoeppner, Shaun Bryan, Rick Kinney, and bassist Jack Vachon.
Getting edgy with the Harpejji
Hoeppner based his latest musical project around a unique instrument called the harpejji.
“I had come across it online and thought it was a super cool idea,” Hoeppner said. “I’m always looking for different things to play or add to my music. It is set up for a pianist to play. If you look at the fretboard, it has the white and black notes similar to the piano. If you know piano notes, you can look at a harpejji and at least figure out what notes you are playing fairly easy.”
The organic sound of the harpejji is also unique.
“I don’t write a ton of music on my keyboards because it just doesn’t draw me in like the piano,” Hoeppner said. “The harpejji is the first instrument besides piano that really does that. You can play the simplest thing and it just sounds amazing.”
Striving for something unusual
So what was the impetus behind making an entire album around this unique instrument?
“For this project I wanted to do something that was different than what I was doing with Moser Woods,” Hoeppner said. “My wife has been telling me for years to do some solo music just because I write so much. I had tried a lot of different set ups to play solo, but nothing really sounded great to me. I tried looping instruments, but it just sounds too repetitive to me.
“I had bought a Tempest (DSI Drum Machine/Synth hybrid) thinking I could play the beat live and then loop it, but it’s not really the best way to use it. I really liked how the Tempest is set up to be a synth and drum machine. If you know some subtractive synth, then the Tempest is kind of easy to at least have a starting point on. I almost sold the harpejji a few times just because I wasn’t sure how I would use it, but when I started programming beats and put the two together, it just kind of clicked.”
Hoeppner says artists like Bent Knee, Baroness, Dirty Projectors, Laura Marling, and Florence and the Machine have played a part in shaping the sound of his new album. But more importantly, he says it’s the instruments themselves that have shaped this project, along with the process of just exploring.
“I really just like to see where things go when I sit down to play something,” he said. “It’s always a surprise. Sometimes you will hit a wrong note or come up with a weird sound, and that can shape a whole song or idea.”
There’s a chance to see Lance Hoeppner in action with the harpejji. He’s got shows booked for June 19 at The Ruin and on Aug. 14 at 2 Toms Brewing with Marnee.
Looking ahead for Lance
So what’s up next for Lance Hoeppner?
“Moser Woods has a live album from when we opened up for Umphrey’s McGee at The Clyde that is almost done, along with video to go with it,” he said. “I’m sure I will probably play a few more solo shows, and Moser Woods will play a few, also. I’ll probably start recording more music in the winter. I write something new almost daily on piano, so I’m always working on new stuff.”
Lance Hoeppner’s I AM Lance, Vol. 1, Harpejji Meets The Tempest is available on Bandcamp.
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