Q+A: 5 minutes with Hooked Like Helen

Husband and wife Nikki and Jonathan Stipp form the power duo Hooked Like Helen. Riffing on themes of existential difficulties, they are a pair who are unafraid of tapping into their traumatic pasts to dig up audible gold. Based in the woods beyond Cleveland, Ohio, the couple leans alternative much like their inspiration, the edgy duo Twenty One Pilots

The colour pink and Hooked Like Helen are synonymous. In a sort of irony, the vibrant colour juxtaposes the dark undertone of their music, producing an interesting tension. Having recently released a colourful cover of Tori Amos’ chilling record ‘Winter’, they agreed to answer some questions.

Let us introduce Hooked Like Helen.

Stream / Download: Hooked Like Helen – ‘Winter’

Set the tone for us. Why the arts?

It’s the only thing we know how to do. Well, we’re also considering an OnlyFans account, but Music feels like a better contribution to society. For as long as either of us can remember, music has been the driving force behind all of our decisions. Nikki has been writing pop music since she was 5 or 6 years old and Jon has been in bands since middle school.

Which comes first when you’re producing – the sound or the idea?

Usually, it is simultaneous. The sounds and the ideas are vague, out-of-focus shapes with faint colors. And as we work on the music and the concept, they come together and become clear and vibrant. Nikki experiences Chromesthesia, and it is a huge influence on her creative process.

Does your material feature any collaborations?

Not these particular songs, however, Adam Box of Brothers Osborne tracked drums on ‘Streamers & Balloons’ and GRAMMY-winning Skidd Mills produced it. GRAMMY-winning Isha Erskine Mixed ‘Winter’ and Nikki self-produced it.

What’s on your current playlist?

Twenty One Pilots, The Weeknd, 2Pac, Kalen Chase, Paul Bellantoni, Liza Jane, Bailey James, Run The Jewels, Karma Vulture, and a bunch more old-school stuff.

Tell us about the chemistry you have with your fans on stage.

It’s a rollercoaster and a love affair and a whole therapy session. We relive our trauma, we express our rage, and we experience momentary relief, elation and peace. Together.

What techniques do you experiment with to get your original sound?

All the techniques. A combination of organic and electronic instrumentation and lots of harmonies!

Take us through a day in the recording studio.

We track most of our music in the comfort of our home studio, so it’s a lot of experimentation. We are very vocal-heavy so a lot of time goes into vocal arrangements and the layering of harmonies.

Was there a specific moment in your life where you thought, “this is what I want to do”?

For Jon, it was when he fell in love with the Guns N’ Roses’ Appetite for Destruction album. For Nikki, it was the summer of ‘97, listening to the radio at her grandma’s house and being so emotionally moved by all the music. Music is powerful, and she realized she wanted to become a part of that power.

What do you keep close by while you’re playing a set?

Water bottle.

Any emerging artists on your radar?

Kalen Chase, Paul Bellantoni,  and Liza Jane.

What gets your creative juices flowing?

Pain and Trauma. It’s funny because it’s true!

Take us through your collection of gear, tech or software that accompanies your creative expression.

Yamaha p-125 88 key weighted Keyboard. Sennheiser mics for live, AT4040 for tracking. Pro tools for tracking, Ableton Live for live. Headrush for guitar and bass sounds, Jazz Fender Bass and Ibanez guitar.

Any side projects you’re working on?

We’ve got an alter-ego called Milkglass that was self-produced by Nikki, mixed by David Nakaji (Glass Animals, Post Malone) and Mastered by Chris Athens (Halsey, Drake). It is currently unreleased, and we’re not quite sure what to do with it yet…

How have you refined your craft since you entered the industry?

Oh, most definitely we’ve refined a lot, yes. We are better writers, players and performers 10 fold, and we continue to grow and improve every day.

Break down the news for us: what can we expect from you this year?

Shows and tours and lots of new music!

Famous last words?

No half measures.

Listen to Hooked Like Helen‘s cover:

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Image Credits: Rat Majesty