Thursday, June 09, 2011

Hi, We're The Popes

The Popes are another one of those largely forgotten late 80s "alternative" rock bands. In fact, they're so forgotten they don't even show up on the All Music website (the only Popes you'll find there is Shane McGowan's band). Their self-released 1988 EP, Hi, We're The Popes, may represent the band's entire released output, although they might have put out a single or a couple compilation tracks as well. I've heard rumors that they recorded a full-length album for major label subsidiary First Warning, but it was never released. (Those who have heard the tapes say they're great.)

The Popes hailed from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and it was that Chapel Hill connection that brought them to my attention. Back when I worked at my college radio station I helped put together a multiple act show with my friend David Brower. David, a Chapel Hill native, booked The Popes and another NC band, Vanilla Trainwreck. I booked a couple local Pennsylvania bands, The Stump Wizards and Thee Cellar Dwellars, as well another PA garage rock act who shall remain nameless. There might have been another act on the bill as well, I can't remember for sure.

From what I remember, it was the music of The Popes that went over the best with the audience that night, and listening to Hi, We're The Popes today it is easy to hear why. I'm amazed at just how well this humble (hummable) little indie-pop EP stands up. Some might say it's a little under-produced, but I find that part of its considerable charm. Despite the fact that I hadn't listened to this record in 20 years or so songs like "Charmless" and "Marilyn" were still firmly lodged in my musical subconscious; musical fashions may change over the years, but catchy is forever.

Hi, We're The Popes neatly encapsulates everything that was fun, nice and good about late 80s collegiate rock, and if I wanted to explain what the whole thing was about to some alien ethnographer, I could do worse than simply hand them a copy of this EP.


Anonymous said...

it really has held up. I put it on a few months ago and was immediately back in the DCV office. The memory was disturbingly clear

Anonymous said...

Hi Pete. It's John from the Popes. Thank you so much for writing this. I'm blown away by it. Wow.
Steve and I have some new music, if you're interested I'd be glad to send it. I'm on FB at John Elderkin.
Again, many thanks.

Glenn Boothe said...

As good as this EP is (and it's really good!), the unreleased album is even better. But both hold up well and deserve attention...glenn

Anonymous said...

I'm writing to let you know that after years of requests, Chapel Hill's now legendary The Popes are finally making their first record, "Hi, We're The Popes," available digitally on Tuesday, October 18. iTunes and other outlets will have the music for sale.

Here is a link to some of that music:
And, here is our Facebook page:

Please let me know if I can provide you with any further info.

Steve Ruppentahl

The Popes rocked the Chapel Hill, NC scene from 1988-1992. Their first record, "Hi, We're The Popes," made a splash that surprised even the band -- Billboard gave it a rave review, Jon Pareles of The New York Times sent them a note asking for more music, and the record debuted on CMJ's "Hot New Release" chart one spot higher than REM's album of the same week.

The Popes later released a cassette-only collection called "Afar" and several specialty releases, including a hard-rocking cover of Alex Chilton's "I'm in Love with a Girl" that garnered national college radio play. A complete "great lostPopes album" is rumored to be hidden in a damp basement deep down in North Carolina, but band memories on this subject remain fuzzy.

John Elderkin, Henry Pharr, and Steve Ruppenthal formed the nucleus of The Popes. Albert Nisbet plays drums on "Hi, We're The Popes," and Marcus Jones, Jim Rumley and Mark Whelan later became full-time members of the band. More information can be found on The Popes Facebook page. Elderkin and Ruppenthal now play in the Washington, DC band The Public Good and have released two CDs to glowing reviews.

Pete Bilderback said...

Thanks Steve. I will post an update in the coming days. Glad to hear this is happening.

~Kevin said...

POPES REUNION SHOW - LOCAL 506 in Chapel Hill, Saturday, February 4, 2012: THIS WEEKEND!

First POPES show in 20 years!