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Five Fascinating Facts From The Hopefuls: Chasing A Rock N' Roll Dream In The Twin Cities Music Scene

by Erik Ritland

June 2020

Originally published at

Last year, local author Paul V. Allen released his book The Hopefuls: Chasing a Rock n’ Roll Dream in the Minnesota Music Scene. The exhaustive book covers the careers of the four principle members of the Hopefuls, one of Minnesota’s most popular bands in the ‘00s.

Something of a supergroup, The Hopefuls featured Darren Jackson (Kid Dakota, Alva Star), Erik Appelwick (Viscious Viscious, Alva Star), Eric Fawcett (Spymob, Storyhill, Alva Star), and John Hermanson (Storyhill, Alva Star).

The book is a treasure trove of revelations about the Hopefuls, the other bands their members were a part of, and the Twin Cities music scene in the 2000s. Its ending, which assesses where our music scene has gone since then, is essential reading.

Below are five of the most interesting facts from Allen’s book, which you can purchase here. I’m going to assume that you already know that they had to change their name from the Olympic Hopefuls to the Hopefuls because the actual Olympic committee threatened a lawsuit, and that they wore jump suits.

Alva Star was the Hopefuls before the Hopefuls were the Hopefuls…kind of
Of all the Hopefuls members, John Hermanson had the biggest pedigree going in. His folk duo Storyhill were local heroes and very successful nationally. They broke up in 1997, though, and after working on various projects, Hermanson wrote an album of pop songs that he released under the name Alva Star.

The pop/rock sound of the record, Alligators in the Lobby, was a huge departure for Hermanson from his largely acoustic background. Alva Star featured each of the main members of the Hopefuls: Darren Jackson, Erik Appelwick (who joined after the release of Alligators), and Eric Fawcett.

The pop/rock vibe of the Hopefuls, while not identical to Alva Star, is certainly in the same ballpark. The thing is, while Alva Star was making their first record, Jackson and Appelwick were already working on songs that would end up being released by the Hopefuls under the name Camaro. So they were kind of created together. It’s hard not to believe that there was some overlap in influences and output.

What a tangled web musicians weave.

Hopefuls drummer Eric Fawcett played with a little band called N.E.R.D.
Of all the members of the Hopefuls, it’s hard to say that drummer Eric Fawcett isn’t the most accomplished. After the release of the successful debut album from his pop/funk/rock band Spymob, Pharell Williams recruited the band to back him in N.E.R.D. The international tour included a gig opening for David Bowie.

Fawcett also plays with Wang Leehom, who might not be a household name in America, but is one of the most popular musicians and actors in China.

The Hopefuls first album beat out…Morrissey?
Yep, you read that right. Upon its debut in 2004, the Hopefuls debut album The Fuses Refuse to Burn debuted at #4 on the on college radio charts, behind Modest Mouse, My Morning Jacket, and Bright Eyes, but ahead of Morrisey.

Heiruspecs bassist and Current DJ Sean McPherson gets the award for best line in the book
Hopefuls shows were the place to be throughout the ‘00s, especially during their heyday in 2004 and 2005. Sean McPherson described their shows perfectly: “For a while in 2003 and 2004, the Olympic Hopefuls could fill the Uptown Bar twice a month with late 20-somethings with real money who were outrageously good-looking. It was like an Edina High School reunion with extra tattoos and alcohol. It was just the youngish generation of Twin Cities music hitting their peak, playing great and making guys like me real jealous.”

 The Edina High School reunion line is the quote of the century.

Hopefuls guitarist Erik Applewick as Dear Abby?
During their heyday, a popular local Twin Cities culture magazine hired Appelwick as a relationship advice columnist. According to author Paul V. Allen, he gave “cheeky council,” which makes sense for the guy who wrote “Shake That Ass on the Dance Floor.”