Houston Music

Hope the Neighbors Like Hope the Neighbors Like Jumprope

Kerbert, Gibson and Dunaway (L-R) are Jumprope
Kerbert, Gibson and Dunaway (L-R) are Jumprope Photo by Jacob Calle, courtesy of Jumprope
Iconic album titles sometimes have interesting back stories. Queen is said to gone with A Night at the Opera because the classic Marx Brothers film of the same name played during recording of the 1975 LP which spawned “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Radiohead’s OK Computer reportedly came from a super fan inexplicably shouting the phrase at the band.

Whether Houston’s Jumprope has added an iconic album title to music history remains to be seen, but the band’s debut EP, Hope the Neighbors Like Jumprope, comes from a fascinating place and time. The official album release show is a free, all-ages event with a stacked bill set for Saturday, February 25 at Equal Parts Brewing.

“When we were first playing, we only did it on our porches really because during the pandemic we weren’t going into houses or anything. So, we would be just staying up really late at night, ‘til two in the morning, and our neighbors would definitely be sleeping,” said Taylor Gibson, guitarist and vocalist for Jumprope, which formed in early 2020, near the start of the pandemic’s lockdown. “So, it was kind of a little joke on, ‘Man, I hope the neighbors like Jumprope, because we’re playing really loud and it’s two in the morning.’”

The phrase took on a life of its own and became a bit of a catchphrase while recording the six song EP.

“We were recording all the music and we were picking out our favorite mixes to put on the recording, so we’re at our engineer’s house and he’s got paper thin walls in an apartment complex and super loud speakers,” Gibson shared. “We had to get the volume right to pick out the mixes so before he’d turn it up, he’s like ‘I hope the neighbors like Jumprope.’

“It kind of translated into, ‘Man, is anybody going to like this?’ We’d been playing it to ourselves for two years. Everybody would be curious why we were always at practice but never played,” Gibson continued. “In the East End we have a really strong community, so we’re also hoping our friends-slash-neighbors enjoy our music too, because we had no idea what the reception was going to be when we first played.”

The reception has been enthusiastic based on interest in the EP’s lead singles “Optimist” and “CCV,” as well as attendance at a spate of live shows the band’s performed recently. While the band is a new entry, its members are trusted Houston music veterans. Chris Dunaway is the group’s bassist and vocalist and Nolan Kerbert is its drummer. The trio has roots in acclaimed acts like Devil Killing Moth, Mockingbird Brother, Bernie Pink and Trashkat, the latter of which also boasts Gibson and Kerbert as members.

“Chris and I had been in bands, had played adjacently, and then right before the pandemic hit he asked if we wanted to make a band similar to this band called Hop Along because he thought with my singing style and his bass our music would turn out to be that way. That’s where the name Jumprope came from, it’s like a play on Hop Along,” Gibson explained. “So we started out, just him and I, doing acoustic jams on my porch or another porch. And then a friend, Lukas, he wasn’t really a drummer, he was more a performance artist, asked to play drums. And then maybe a month into practice he tells us he’s leaving to California.”

Gibson said the band played a farewell party for their friend, the first official-unofficial show as Jumprope ahead of bringing Kerbert on full time. Notably, he plays guitar for Trashkat and Gibson drums for that band. They’ve essentially switched roles for Jumprope.

“We played that show and it was really beautiful and the drummer from another friend’s band asked if he could drum and then, I don’t know, we kept losing drummers and then finally landed on Nolan.”

With Kerbert on board, Jumprope had its first official show in August 2022.

“It completely does not sound like the band that he wanted to start, in like a nice way,” Gibson said. “Chris is a phenomenal bass player so whatever he’s writing – and I come from more of an acoustic folk background with the songs I’ve written – so putting that together it’s been like really bizarre, time-change, weird stuff, but we’ve tried to also make it mesh together which I think, I hope, we’re doing.”

The reception has been fantastic because the songs are fantastic, written and performed by musicians we know and trust. The Houston Press got a sneak peak of the full EP which includes the lead singles that were released to listeners late last year. The album opens with the vibrant track “Oh Wow” and never lets off the gas. As good as the recorded songs sound, they’re even better live. Last year, we heard them at one of our favorite shows of 2022 and listeners across the state have skipped along with Jumprope at shows in Galveston, San Antonio, Corpus Christi and Austin. Gibson said all those late-night porch sessions have given the band a solid foundation for its live sets.

“We’re at the point where we’re trying to do this band right versus being in a bunch of other punk bands for like five years and just kind of playing out until we all get sick of each other. We’re trying to be strategic in this band and give it a good go,” she said.

That means playing Houston, but only every six weeks or so to not oversaturate the scene with Jumprope. They’re working on videos for tracks from the album. They’ll play some unofficial South By shows this spring and have June 1 circled on the calendar. That night they’ll open for Golden Dawn Arkestra as part of Discovery Green’s UHD Thursday Night Concert Series.

Ahead of all those plans there’s the album release this weekend. Goodgirl, The Poserz, It Just Doesn’t Matter, Pinkie Promise and Sergio Trevino are all on the bill.

“It was super important for us that we had a mixed genre bill, so we have a kind of metal band and we have a punk pop band, we have an acoustic folk set. We have these teenagers, Pinky Promise, that are playing, they’re just super cool and doing things right,” Gibson said. “Goodgirl is kind of our heavy hitter because they’ve been kind of popping it out. It was just important to have as many genres as possible and not to pigeonhole ourselves into the indie scene or the math rock scene because I don’t think we really fit into a for sure genre. I think we want to keep it that way.”

“Plus, a lot of them are also friends,” Gibson added. “It’s nice to share the stage with a bunch of friends, too and get a different crowd for everybody out. Houston’s got a really interesting music scene right now and I think we want to showcase a bunch of different aspects of it.”

We take a brief tangent to discuss how robust the local music scene is with Gibson, who’s long observed it as a musician and a music fan.

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Jumprope's debut EP releases Saturday, February 25
Album cover art
“You need a car to exist in Houston, so there’s not really a district for the Houston music scene. It’s not like you can go see a show and walk down the street and see something else. I think by proxy it makes it kind of cliquish. You know the punk show’s gonna be in this area, you know the singer-songwriter stuff’s gonna be in that area, you know where the indie shows are gonna be,” she said.

“But, I think when the pandemic hit and unfortunately with some venues closing down, having to restructure everything, I think people were desperate to get out of their house and go crazy, which they’re doing. It’s awesome.”

It’s also helpful for a band like Jumprope, born during the lockdown and now benefitting from live shows filled with eager, once housebound music fans. Gibson said the pre-pandemic years Jumprope’s members devoted to different projects also give them something solid upon which to build.

“Being in a band is a lot like being in a relationship and I think in a relationship the best thing to have is communication, (being) as transparent as possible. And I think now that we’re all older and ideally more mature than being buck wild in our early twenties, I think we’re just really talking through every aspect that we’re going through,” she said. “Because of that we’re able to be on the same page about everything and kind of trust ourselves with each other on a larger scale so moving forward we can keep within our values but also continue to stay motivated to do better and bigger things.

“We’ve already all been good friends for a while but I think the fact that we’re all on the same page and trying to be on the same page communicating with each other is a world of difference from any other project I’ve ever been in,” Gibson added. “We don’t really have any expectations with this project so seeing the positivity coming from it and what we can actually do with it, it’s been very inspiring for us to be on the same page and do it well. And do it right. ‘Cause why not?”

Jumprope’s EP release event is set for 5 p.m. Saturday, February 25 at Equal Parts Brewing, 3118 Harrisburg. The all-ages, free event includes sets from Sergio Trevino, Pinkie Promise, It Just Doesn’t Matter, The Poserz, Goodgirl and Jumprope.
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Jesse’s been writing for the Houston Press since 2013. His work has appeared elsewhere, notably on the desk of the English teacher of his high school girlfriend, Tish. The teacher recognized Jesse’s writing and gave Tish a failing grade for the essay. Tish and Jesse celebrated their 33rd anniversary as a couple in October.