Lara Hope and The Ark-Tones: Rocking Through the Pandemic with the Rockabilly Rebels from Upstate New York

How this talented husband-and-wife-led band are making Kingston the modern-day capital of New York Rock

Lara Hope! (Art: Ron Hart)

Press play to hear a narrated version of this story, presented by AudioHopper.

Here to Tell the Tale, the third album from Lara Hope and The Ark-Tones, opens with a pedal to the metal rocker, “Let’s Go!” It’s a bracing jolt of energy, a rockabilly shuffle that sets the tone for the rest of the album.

“The Art of Asking” features Hope and a female do-wop chorus telling you the time is right to grab the joys of life and never let go. The band supplies a stomping R&B groove, as Hope’s vocals deliver a knock out punch. The set includes the jumping rockabilly of “12 Minutes of Hot Water, ” the honky-tonk jive of “Some Advice” and the jazzy swing of “Knocked Out.” Surf music, Spaghetti Western soundtracks, country twang and other eclectic sounds color the arrangements and keep the album’s energy high.

The band – Hope on guitar and lead vocals, her bass player hubby Matt Goldpaugh, lead guitarist Eddie Rion and drummer Jeremy Boniello – recorded and produced the record in 2019. They planned to release it and start a national tour last March, on the day the national lockdown was announced.  


VIDEO: Lara Hope and the Ark-Tones Album Release Party livestream

“It could have been worse,” Hope said, from the upstate New York home she shares with Goldpaugh. “We’d moved in to a new home and were about to leave on a tour when things shut down. We had time to settle in and enjoy our new house. We were alone, without the band, for the first few months, so we wrote and recorded a pandemic album as the Old Hope Duo. It’s called Songs In The Key Of Quarantine. It’s available on our website and all download services.”

“We also started doing a live stream concert every week. In the beginning, it was just Matt and I. As things lightened up a bit, our guitar player Eddie (Rion) joined us. We rehearsed masked and, during the stream, I’d stand 20 feet in front and them and sing unmasked. Now that we’re all vaccinated, we can play unmasked.”

As things slowly go back to what passes for normal, The Ark-Tones are ready to promote Here To Tell The Tale. “The title is almost a presentiment,” Hope says. “I found myself saying the phrase in conversations about things that were happening in my life, trying to prove a point. I did some things that worked out, and some that didn’t, but I learned from them all and I’m here to tell the tale. A lot of the songs are about living life to the fullest and having your own tale to tell. Covid drove those feelings home even more. Now, we want to make up for lost time. We all have a new appreciation for the arts and getting out and having real, in person experiences. 

Lara Hope and the Ark-Tones Here To Tell The Tale, Sower Records 2021

“We recorded last year, with a new engineer, Scott Petito at NRS Studios. We invited in a bunch of guests to add fiddle, piano, sax and backing vocals. Our drummer, Jeremy, has a home studio, so we demoed and fleshed out a lot of the stuff. Working on the tunes together, inspiration pops up at the strangest times. Sometime we spend weeks working on an arrangement.” 

Hope said the album has a lot of fast songs, just what we need to hear right now. “Our last album had too many mid-tempo songs. I wanted to take it up a notch. My intent is never to write a fast song, or slow song, but in the last couple of years, the faster songs are what comes out.

“It’s been a difficult year. Jeremy is a welder. He worked throughout the pandemic, but Matt and I play music full time. We lost all of our gigs and went on unemployment. We reached out to our fans and told them if they felt like supporting us, they could buy our merch on the website. That helped us get through the first month or so. 


VIDEO: Lara Hope & the Ark-Tones Trio live 2021

“We’re all really proud of this album. The other day, I was joking that I felt like I’ve finally given birth to a musical child. It took three years to write and record. It’s such a release to finally have it out. In the depths of the quarantine, it was the first time in a decade I wasn’t on the computer all day, doing promotion and Facebook posts and sending out pleas for gigs. It was a nice opportunity to take a breath. I was a bit apprehensive about getting back into it, but now that we’re back on track, the fear is gone. It feels right. I feel like new life has been breathed into the shows, and the band in general.”

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j. poet

j. poet has been writing about music for most of his adult life. He has contributed to the San Francisco Chronicle, East Bay Express, Harp, Paste,,, American Profile, Creem, Relix, Downbeat, Folk Roots, New Noise and more national and international publications and websites than he can remember. He wrote most of the Musichound Guide to World Music (Visible Ink, 2000) and had two stories in Best Rock Writing 2014 (That Devil Music). He has interviewed a wide spectrum of artists including Leonard Cohen, Merle Haggard and Godzilla. He lives in San Francisco. 

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