When Lara Hope posts a Facebook update from the road as her band Tigeriss makes its way from Chicago to Green Bay, Wisconsin, cheese is on her mind. She’s threatening to start a blog and photo journal all about mac and cheese, her love for it and who makes it best in the United States.
She might not be serious. The statement could have sprung from the punchiness of her rock band’s one-week Midwestern tour. Then again, she might be. Hope is perhaps most known for having her hands in a surprisingly wide variety of entertainment in the Hudson Valley.
The 28-year-old is in a slew of bands, not including the ones she used to play in. “Three, maybe four — three and a half,” she says. There’s Tigeriss, Lara Hope and The Ark-Tones, Lara and The Hope’alongs, and another in the works. With each band, her music straddles genres — punk, rockabilly and country. She hosts open mic nights at the Cafeteria in New Paltz and the Rondout Music Lounge. She produced a version of The Vagina Monologues that ran three years in a row. She’s also the pioneer behind Rosendale’s Zombie Fest and helps with the Rosendale Street Festival. She also does booking for Oasis Café and Cabaloosa in New Paltz.
To put not too fine a point on it: In one way or another, if you’re out to see live music in Ulster County, it quite possibly has some association with her. She might have produced or set up the show, but she at least knows the musicians. Several of those musicians might have even met and formed bands after playing one of her open mic nights.
Her dedication to live entertainment comes from a strange source. While she watches a lot of horror movies, which is somewhat apparent in Tigeriss’s lyrics, mostly she stays out from behind the flickering screen “because I hate watching TV.”
“I like to be onstage, and I like bringing people together for a fun cause,” she says. “It doesn’t seem like work to me, because it’s what I like to do. So if I wasn’t doing that, what would I do?”
Hope dresses a bit like a cartoon character, sticking to just one color palette of exclusively black and red. For anyone else it might be a front, but Hope has been dressing that way for most of her life, even back to her days growing up in Long Island’s Nassau County.
“That’s all I like,” she says. “Legitimately, I go shopping and I say to myself, ‘Hey, you should really try to branch out today.’ And I look at some purple, look at some blue, look at some orange and I just hate it all.”
Tigeriss, formerly Tiger Piss, is perhaps what she’s known most for — at least in New Paltz. She plays bass and is the lead singer of that band. Tigeriss started in 2007, sort of by accident when drummer Rev Kev tried to get out of a bind. He’d been booked to play a show, but he didn’t have anyone to play with — so he asked Hope, whose band The Red Hopes had just broken up, to play the show.
Cut to about five years later and the band is touring to support their third disc “Everybody Wins!” — the first released under the new Tigeriss handle. Perhaps defying the odds, Hope, Rev Kev and guitarist Danny Asis have stuck together and kept playing.
As they walk around Chicago before cramming back into the tour van, Rev Kev reflects about what makes Lara Hope tick and what collaboration has been like thus far. “For the most part, it’s very good. She’s very, very ambitious and she networks,” he says. “She knows everyone and I think that makes things a lot easier for us, because she is out doing so much.”
With a laugh, he adds: “She’s standing right next to me, so I have to say nice things.”
For full disclosure, I’ve known Lara Hope for a long time — just about as long as I’ve lived and worked in Ulster County. I met her through open mic night at what was then the Muddy Cup. Open mic nights crest high and low, from acts that are intolerable and indecipherable to the suddenly transcendent. Hope handles just about anything that happens in the coffeehouse — from the strange, to the lewd or insane — with a good-natured grace and easy-going sense of humor. Her praise is heartfelt.
That humor and warmth comes across in the Tigeriss. Asis, Rev Kev and Hope act a lot like siblings onstage — tossing out jokes and gentle heckles at each other before launching into songs. Early last week, just before they left town for the Midwest tour, they played at Oasis in New Paltz. Asis’s guitar was in shambles, the nut had come loose from the headstock making one string almost unplayable.
As he scrambled to fix the instrument, Hope shot me a pixie look of mock anger. “You could have picked a better show to cover,” she said with a wry smile.
Despite the rough start, they played a hell of a show. The new songs from “Everybody Wins!” have a spooky, horror movie feel to them and show a good bit of evolution for the band. Their sound has more of a gel or synergy to it than before. Asis is free to play some really gnarly riffs, Hope is free to sing her twisted lyrics and Rev Kev is at home behind the drums.
If you haven’t seen Tigeriss in a while, it’s worth giving them another listen because much of their set is entirely new.
By the time this article hits the stands, Lara Hope and crew will be back from tour. However, the next local Tigeriss show isn’t until September. Check them out online.
For other events with a Hope connection, check out Rosendale Zombie Fest coming up on Saturday, Sept. 22 at 6 p.m. in Willow Kiln Park. This year’s zombie celebration will be the first time the event has run at night.
Tigeriss is also due to tour with The Arkhams in the near future with the Coney Island Rock ‘n’ Roll Roadshow.