Hopscotch Army – Blurry

August 22, 1989
Hopscotch Army
Blurry compact disc & cassette
[HAHX-1256] four color process printed inserts, on-shell cassette labeling

Hopscotch Army’s first release presented a whole new side to Slamdek and took many people by surprise. The college/rock/alternative group found their way onto Slamdek by nature of the fact that Mark Ritcher played keyboards and sang. The remainder of the four piece line up consisted of Danny Flanigan, also singing and playing guitar, David Hoback on drums, and Tom Kaczorowski on bass (whose place in the band was preceded and succeeded by Scott Darrow).

Blurry was Hopscotch Army’s first journey into the world of recorded sound. This release also proved to be one more battle for respect in a war the group would be constantly forced to fight. Evolving from the Top 40 cover band, Nouvo, Hopscotch Army was initially a cover band as well. The transition they attempted from a cover band to an original act took years and, at the time of their breakup in 1993, was still not complete. For everyone in the band, playing cover songs in bars, frat parties, and the like, was their job. The band owned a huge PA and lighting system and employed both a sound man, Ted Subotky, and visual technician, Chuck Probus. Together, the six of them, booked by manager Gary Deusner, put on a staggering minimum of 150 shows a year and made a good living for themselves. They battled for a safe medium in which they could maintain the steady income of playing as a cover band, yet, at the same time, use their audience’s attention to pursue their own music, and play to other audiences as an all original band. Over the course of years, the prospect of making this work proved itself impossible and, in more ways than not, ultimately self defeating. A good part of the cover crowd wasn’t interested in the original material, and the general public, for whom the originals were intended, thought of them as a cover band.

Hopscotch Army, 1989:
Danny Flanigan, Scott Darrow, David Hoback, and Mark Ritcher.

Just as the life they were trying to lead appeared perhaps as two different bands, Blurry also leaves the listener with the impression that Hopscotch Army indeed could have split this album into releases by two different bands. Fronted by two singer/songwriters whose styles were recognizably different, Hopscotch Army seemed to be maybe even be fighting internal, unspoken battles in their quest for a unified sound.

Danny’s writing style on Blurry, and for the most part in his later solo work and with the Rain Chorus, is characterized by clean channel guitars led by vocal melodies. Songs that are so simple and true to form that they could stand wholly on their own with just an acoustic guitar and a voice. In contrast, Mark’s material stands out as darker, moodier, and saturated with distorted guitars and sweeping, heavy, synthesized sounds.

Hopscotch Army, however, did defy some expectations, break some barriers and enjoy success on levels Slamdek was not equipped to deal with. Radio play, CMJ charts, bulk mailings, major label interest, directly servicing regional record store chains, and things of this sort were totally foreign territory and caught both the band and myself virtually unprepared. I did a lot of traveling in front of the band making sure radio stations and record stores had ample
knowledge and stock of the band on hand. Gary Deusner did the same sort of thing over the telephone with radio stations, clubs, and local newspapers in each area. Slamdek had never experienced supporting a group that traveled, nor one of a genre that could feasibly receive airplay or possibly enter the mainstream. Gary’s Advantage 1 Management company, run from the Triangle Talent offices in Jeffersontown, had little experience dealing with bands that played original music. Everyone involved in the fight to get people to listen to Hopscotch Army, was essentially learning the ropes of their purpose as it happened. Weekly late night meetings at Danny’s Crescent Hill apartment sought to deal with these challenges in the best ways possible.

The Blurry experience grew respectably in the year following its release. The expansion of the band warranted an expansion of the label. By late 1989, I was self employed in the cassette duplication business (under the name SSDigital), while still living at home with my parents. Advertising SSDigital in the Billboard International Buyers Guide, and adding a toll free 800 number were two steps in entering Slamdek into the professional world. For nearly two years, “1-800-729-6616” was plastered on everything, until the line eventually became too costly. The tax year of 1989 was the first in which the IRS received a return from a new Louisville, Kentucky, sole proprietorship called SLAMDEK/Scramdown.

The money that officially made its way to Slamdek from the Hopscotch Army release, however, did so in an unconventional way. As well, the band’s official affiliation with the label was different than that of Spot, Endpoint, or Your Face. For Blurry, I acted as an employee of the band. Slamdek initially became involved as the band was recording an album which they anticipated shopping to labels for a record deal. Bigger labels tend to look more closely at successful small scale releases from independent labels, rather than those released by the bands themselves. It adds another element of credibility. This problem was easily solved as Mark Ritcher and I are brothers, and the SLAMDEK/Scramdown logos and addresses could simply be put on the packages as if it were an ordinary Slamdek release. The only snag in this arrangement was that Slamdek did not have the kind of money it would take to create Hopscotch Army cassettes and compact discs. That is, Slamdek had virtually no money at all. Hopscotch Army, on the other hand, did have that kind of money. As it was worked out, the band hired me to create the album cover artwork, duplicate the cassettes as SSDigital, promote, distribute, and handle a lot of the footwork involved. Since I needed money to get the Cerebellum cassette out (among other things) this turned out to be a perfect arrangement. Had the band signed to a major label, this would draw attention to the other material on Slamdek, earn points, etc. This arrange
ment also facilitated Slamdek with the ability to not only have its first compact disc release, but also its first title to be issued in more than one format. This helped it become available to more people, made it Slamdek’s best seller, and exposed the label’s name to hundreds of people who ordinarily would not have seen it. Interestingly enough, as the band’s cover and original fans were confused by the two sides of Hopscotch Army, the label’s regular fans were confused by the Hopscotch Army release, and Hopscotch Army fans were confused by the other material on Slamdek. Few seemed to make the connection that Mark’s brother ran the label. Perhaps family projects are unusual outside of country music.

Blurry was recorded at Juniper Hill, though not by Todd Smith, and not during regular business hours. David Stewart (not the guy from the Eurythmics), was the other partner in Juniper Hill, and actually owned nearly all of the equipment. Naturally, this gave him free access to the studio in which he recorded and produced Hopscotch Army during dozens of late night sessions. Since the band was constantly performing, and the studio was only available to David on certain evenings, the Blurry recording process took several months to complete.

Danny Flanigan wanted to make sure that David received full credit for the recording. Danny’s concern was to insure that it wouldn’t be confused as a Juniper Hill project, because essentially, it wasn’t. One night, Danny began calling the late night studio “Dave Stewart Land” as a joke. The term stuck, and the studio listed in Blurry’s liner notes is the fictitious “DSL.” Years later, when Juniper Hill closed its doors (as Todd to moved to New York to play with Domani) David took all the recording gear to his Jeffersontown home. He set up virtually an identical recording studio in the house, which began operating under the name DSL. An engineer named Mike Baker began sharing time at the cozy home studio and eventually took over the operation in 1993 when David moved to Fort Wayne, Indiana to pursue a career opportunity in audio selling high end professional audio equipment. Under Mike Baker’s careful hands, DSL has gone on to produce singles and full length albums for Endpoint, Falling Forward, Crain, the Rain Chorus (in which Mike played bass and Danny played guitar), Sunspring, Eleven-11, the Metroschifter, and Guilt, among others. While David still owns the house and studio, he also still lives in Fort Wayne, and Mike Baker still runs the studio. Recent overhauls of the studio have upgraded it to include automated mixing, and digital multitrack capabilities, as well as on site CD-ready mastering.

After it was all over, Blurry sold about 1,400 cassettes, and 500 compact discs.

Produced by David A. Stewart and Hopscotch Army
Engineered by David Stewart, Recorded and mixed by David Stewart and Hopscotch Army at DSL in Louisville, Digitally mastered by Glenn Meadows at Masterfonics in Nashville

Hopscotch Army has 2 singers
Mark Ritcher sings All I Want, Pray For Tomorrow, When Colours Fade, Dead, Jealousy, and Away From You. Mark also plays keyboards.
Danny Flanigan sings Whisper, The Beach Song, Real Religion, Save Me, and Anna. Danny also plays the guitar.
Scott Darrow is the bass player.
David Amel Hoback is the drummer.

Tom Kaczorowski played bass on this recording.
David K. Hoback, Sr. played tambourine on Save Me and When Colours Fade.
Krystal Veith, Kim Veith, Melissa Coates, Rochelle Stumler, Steven Gladdish, Ashley Carter, Larry Barnett, Lee Shipper, Jennifer Shipper, and Jimmy Winn are very special guest singers on Real Religion.

Jesus Loves the Little Children written by Rev. C.G. Woolston and George F. Root. Used by permission (we asked God).

K Scott Ritcher inlay card.
The Rueben Twins:
Ted Subotky live sound.
Chuck Probus lighting direction.

Special Thanks List: David and George Ann Stewart, Gary Deusner (Management/Booking/Spiritual Leadership), K Scott, Advantage One. Those who have invited especially Maria, Halle, Bryson. Far Out Music, Music Warehouse, Mom’s Music, Proline Tire, Allan and Mary, Mike Baker, Rob Brown, and last but not least, Dawn, Jo, Andrea, Gina, Denise, and Julie; those who inspired.

Music by Hopscotch Army, lyrics by the singer.

Side one:
All I Want 3:17
Whisper 4:37
Pray For Tomorrow 4:50
The Beach Song 3:36
When Colours Fade 4:30
Dead (A Night In June) 4:22

Side two:
Save Me 4:44
Anna 4:15
Real Religion 4:28
Jealousy 3:01
Silence 1:34
Away From You 4:23