An Interview with Hope Tala

While opening for Alina Baraz, we sat down with Hope Tala for a great conversation on Nov. 4, on their San Diego stop of the Alone With You tour

Bringing such a down-to-earth yet exciting energy to the stage, it is apparent that every part of Hope Tala’s music is truly a reflection of herself. Opening for Alina Baraz, whose tour travels throughout the U.S. until February, Hope Tala played songs that ranged her entire discography on the tour’s stop in San Diego last Thursday, Nov. 4. From slower ballads, like her song “Drugstore” that swayed the audience, to bossa nova beats like “Lovestained,” her set carried ethereal energy. Although Tala was only accompanied by a keyboardist and a guitarist, she filled the space with her presence, dancing and skipping across the stage during songs. The audience appeared to feed off this energy. Many of those in front seemed to melt as she reached for their hands while she sang. It was surprising to see how humble Hope Tala was, both on and off stage.

“Thank you for coming to see Alina Baraz,” Hope Tala said during her opening performance. “We’re just here to keep you entertained while you wait,” not realizing what a huge portion of the crowd was solely there to see her. During her interview, she continued to be so kind and thoughtful with each of her answers. It was easy to see that she pours herself into her projects and what genuine energy surrounds her. Opening up about her music and her experiences in the world so far, Hope Tala shared with me everything from her inspirations to how fans have impacted her. 

Photo Credit: Talya Levy

“So you have an English literature degree, do you have any authors or poets that you like to take inspiration from for your songs?”

  • I have quite a few. I think my all-time favorite poet is Sylvia Plath and I definitely take a lot of inspiration from her poetry, particularly her collection Ariel. I really like the way she writes about the body and corporeal themes which I like to take into my own stuff. Shakespeare is a writer that I have always really looked up to, and Zadie Smith as well. There are loads but those are 3 big ones to me. 

“When you first found out you were going on tour with Alina Baraz, what was your first reaction?”

  • I was so incredibly excited for a few reasons. First of all, I’ve listened to her since I was 14. I’ve loved her music for a really long time and in that sense, as a fan, it was amazing. Her most recent album put out last year is just one of my favorite albums and I love it so I was really excited. Also, I’ve never been on tour before, so that was amazing to think about. Particularly coming to the U.S. was exciting because I haven’t seen much of it besides L.A. and New York. It’s been wonderful to see new places and travel around and just meet loads of new people and play shows. Particularly due to recent events and the pandemic and everything, being able to play shows is amazing. Just excitement, joy, happiness, all of the above.

“I don’t know much about the music industry but what was the process of planning to go on tour like?

  • It was lots of rehearsals, me and the band. It took me a while to figure out what I wanted the setlist to be. That was a really fun process for me because obviously, I’ve released EPs that are all in order but it’s fun for me to rummage around and reorder things and work out what went well together from different projects. Lots of trying to prep and vocal warmups and drinking tea and making sure I am healthy and prepared in that sense. And mentally healthy too. So there’s a lot that goes into it, a lot of people that work and I’m very grateful in that sense. 

“When you finish creating a song, who is the first person that you go to?

  • Probably either my close friends, like Tulula, or my parents. I play my parents loads of stuff when I first make it because I really trust their musical opinion since I got my musical nature from them. The person whose opinion I really really trust is my brother but he has decided that he doesn’t want to listen to my music anymore before it comes out because he wants to be excited with his friends. So I can’t go to him anymore but I’d like to. I also go to my team because I really trust all of them. I’m lucky to have them. 

“It seems like you make every word in your songs have some sort of significance or symbolism to them. Is there significance to the name Hope Tala?”

  • Well, the first part of it is my first name, so that’s significant to me. The name Tala is interesting because my real middle name is Natasha. I really love that name but I never related to it that much. My mom took it from her favorite book “War and Peace.” One day I was looking up nicknames for Natasha and I saw Tala and I thought, “That’s such a cool name. Let me take that.” Because the name Natasha comes from the Russian name Natalia and I thought “Let me just poach it.”

“What is one aspect of your music that you think is unique to you and without it in a song, it wouldn’t be yours?”

  • I think for me what’s most important is chords. Having very specific chord progressions. I’m very particular about that. And also guitar. I play a lot of guitar and I mean I’m not the best at it at all but I love playing it and I think that it adds such a texture to my music. It wouldn’t feel like my music if it didn’t have guitar, specific chord progressions, and lyricism that feels unique to me. I like a lot of major and minor 7th chords, major and minor 9ths. It just has to sound right, almost a bit magical.  

“A lot of your songs are about emotional topics, like heartbreak or frustration. Do you think that these typically uncomfortable situations you’ve been in have helped not just you but also your music grow?”

  • Yeah, I think those types of things are really so formative for everyone. I think in my life and my experience, those kinds of big crazy emotions are the ones that I draw inspiration from in the end, even if they’re negative, even if they’re difficult. I try to keep a good balance between heartbreak, frustration, all those sad and negative things compared to all my happy music, like my songs ‘Crazy’, ‘Lovestained’ and just happy love songs. I think for me, life is just all about love, even if it’s not romantic love. I’ve been writing a lot of songs recently that are more about friendship and family. I think that drawing from love, whether it’s heartbreak, the happy beginning, or frustration, is always going to be the most inspirational and interesting to me. 

“So you originally put your music onto Soundcloud in the attempts to get the attention of a girl that you liked. First of all, did it work?”

  • It did work, temporarily. That’s the keyword – temporarily. Then it stopped working. It was cool though because once it stopped working I realized that I actually really love making music just for myself. So, that was actually a blessing in disguise because I realized that I could make music for me.

“Also relating to that last question, it is so amazing to be getting some more representation of the LGBTQ+ community in the music industry. Has there ever been part of your identity that you’ve at first been hesitant to talk about in your songs?”

  • Definitely being queer. I think that it was such a driving force for me to start making music in the first place but also something that I was scared of. And really through my teenage years, I remember discovering Kehlani when I was 14 or 15 and she was one of the few artists, there were others, but she was one of the few around at the time that was singing about queerness. It was so important to me as a queer person so it made me think ‘Well if I ever make music I want to make sure that it is loud and proud’. But it is also scary to put yourself out there like that in a world like ours where, obviously it is becoming more accepting and there’s been so many amazing things happening for marginalized people, but it still is a harsh world. It was a bit of both but it has been so worth it. It is so wonderful to just feel free. I think what I’ve realized over the past couple of years is that I would never want to close anything off from my music. I always want to make sure that I’m being honest in my music and nothing matters more than that. I would never keep something secret or not write about something because I’m scared of the consequences. It’s been very liberating and freeing. I feel very grateful that I’ve had that experience and not a more negative one. 

“Watching videos of you so far on the tour, you have been playing to huge numbers of people. Is it scary at all? Do you get nervous?

  • I get absolutely terrified. We played L.A. last night and, granted, as the opening act, not everyone is necessarily there, but it was so many more people than I ever played to. I was terrified to go on stage but I have always carried the ethos that you just have to push yourself outside your comfort zone. That might not be going on stage and singing for everyone but I think just pushing yourself a bit outside your comfort zone, outside of your box, every so often is so important. As humans, we need challenge and we need change. I noticed how much performing has helped me be a better and more confident person. It helped me realize how amazing and fun and wonderful life is. We’re all here together on this rock that we’re living on.

“What do you feel is your most intimate and vulnerable project or song?

  • There’s a song that hasn’t come out yet that I think is my most emotionally vulnerable song. But of the projects that have come out, probably my 2nd EP ‘Sensitive Soul’. I mean it’s called ‘Sensitive Soul’, so it’s all about being emotional. If I were to say a specific song that’s the most vulnerable, I would have to say “D.T.M.’ off that EP or maybe ‘Drugstore’ off the next EP ‘Girl Eats Sun’

“You’ve been quoted saying, ‘Why have a life if you’re not going to do something crazy and make a difference in the world?’ Have you always felt like you were going to make a difference or was there more of a specific moment that made you realize that?”

  • I think that I’ve always been a fairly driven, ambitious person. I’ve always wanted to make sure that I leave something behind me. I always live every day to the fullest. My motto is ‘If you get hit by a bus tomorrow, just do what you want to do and reach for the stars.’ I think until my late teens I didn’t know how I was going to do that. I wanted to be a lawyer or work for a charity but then I realized that what I love to do is music. I realized I was able to help people with music, which I don’t think I’d ever really thought before. But definitely, music helps me so much through difficult periods. I remember back when I only had songs on SoundCloud and only 200 Instagram followers, I was barely making music, this woman messaged me on Instagram and had said she and her family were going through a really hard time. My music had really helped them through that day. As soon as I read that, I was like “Wow, I could really do this and help people.” And since then I realized “Let me just do this.” Not only that, but music is also really fun. It took me a while to find what my vessel was to get to that phrase but music was it.

Written by: Talya Levy

SDSU MBB Needs to Play Better

Recap of the 66-53 win over UC Riverside on Nov. 9

SDSU MBB returned to Viejas Arena on Tuesday to face off against UC Riverside. The Aztecs looked to show their dominance after a sort of disappointing win against St. Katherine.

Any win is good, especially if it’s starting off the season 1-0. But for the Aztecs, these are not the wins that they should be ecstatic about. The Aztecs won by 13 against UCR but a double-digit win doesn’t tell the whole story.

The two teams were close throughout the entire game even being tied 13-13 with 11:38 left to go in the first half. Offensively besides Seniors Matt Bradley and Trey Pulliam, the Aztecs could barely buy a basket. Only two players for the Aztecs scored in double digits, Bradley 23 and Pulliam 15.

The team shot just 2-11 from deep and 18-29 from the line. Although the Aztecs won the rebound battle 34-26 it wasn’t pretty. Without Nathan Mensah on the court, the rebounding was sloppy and lackadaisical. 

Again, Sophomore Lamont Butler struggled in 16 minutes scoring just five points. Although Butler started in the preseason versus St. Katherine, Senior Adam Seiko started versus UCR. In 29 minutes Seiko scored zero points, had one assist and one turnover.

A bright spot for the team was Chad Baker-Mazara. In 16 minutes, he brought energy, energy, and more energy. Baker-Mazara had a crowd-raising block and knocked down three free throws early in the game.

After another game in Viejas Arena, the Aztecs still don’t look like a top 25 team in the nation. They struggle to shoot the three-ball and outside of Mensah, Bradley, and Pulliam they struggle to score the ball. Bradley is going to have to score the ball at a high rate if they want to have a chance in a competitive game. 

Once again, if the Aztecs want to be a top 25 team in the nation, THEY NEED TO PLAY BETTER! Next up will be a good matchup against an always competitive BYU team.

Full game recap: 

Written by: Carson Cook

Concert Review: Soccer Mommy at San Diego’s Music Box

Reviewed and photographed by Maya Tomasik

I had never heard of Soccer Mommy before attending her show at Music Box, here in San Diego. I discovered that I did have a few of her songs saved on my Spotify but, ultimately, her stage name didn’t stick to me before appreciating her live performance. 

Photo Credit: Maya Tomasik

Swiss-born singer-songwriter Sophia (Sophie) Allison, sounded so soft and dreamy on stage. I respect her honest and expressive lyrics, and her transitions between songs were incredibly smooth.

Photo Credit: Maya Tomasik

The band had the whole crowd swaying but, I still felt like something was missing. They sound like a melancholic indie dream, and maybe I’m just not into that type of music anymore. Other than that, I also felt like Sophie could’ve brought a bit more energy to the venue. I didn’t hear much from her and she seemed a bit rigid that night. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the show and Music Box.

Photo Credit: Maya Tomasik

It was my first time attending a show at Music Box and I’m so happy to have spent my night there. It’s a three-story venue with many tables and seating areas. They also have two outdoor areas you can mingle at without having to leave the venue entirely.  I am now in love with this venue and can’t wait to attend more shows there.

Written by: Maya Tomasik

The Return: SDSU Basketball

SDSU Men’s basketball is finally back. The smell of popcorn, the cheers of fans, and a nearly half-full stadium were present in the first game of the year.

The last time fans were in the building, SDSU was a top 25 team in the nation and was led by, now Raptors guard, Malachi Flynn. 

The Aztecs faced off against St. Katherine, an NAIA school located in San Marcos. The scrimmage was the second of two for the Aztecs, the first being a closed-door scrimmage against UCLA, who in March of this year went all the way to the Final Four. 

Early in the game Senior Trey Pulliam started off hot, knocking down two mid-range jumpers working in the pick n roll with Nathan Mensah. Keshad Johnson received the first start of his career and grabbed six rebounds and scored four points in the first half.

Senior Nathan Mensah came out aggressive shooting the mid-range shot with confidence, scoring six points on 3-6 shooting. Newcomer Matt Bradley from Cal struggled to work his way in early but caught fire scoring eight points late in the first half. 

SDSU continued to push the pace against a St. Katherine’s team who in the first 13 attempts scored just two field goals. At half the Aztecs lead 34-14.

Going to half with a 20 point lead the Aztecs looked to expand that lead but struggled defensively. After scoring only 14 points in the first half the Aztecs allowed 30 second-half points to a team that had struggled to put the ball in the basket for 20 minutes. 

The second half was a balanced effort between Bradley and Mensah in which Bradley scored seven points, leading to a game-high of 15 and Mensah corralled every rebound in sight, putting him at a game-high of 11. 

The team struggled throughout the game from beyond the arc shooting just 19% from long range. Sophomore Lamont Butler struggled from the field scoring only three points in 20+ minutes and took a hard fall late in the game.

There were positives in the 21 point victory but the Aztecs defense in the second half was lackluster and sloppy. If the Aztecs want to win the conference and compete deep into March Madness they must look at their free-throw shooting, three-point shooting, and defensive miscues

Next up is a formidable opponent in UC Riverside on Nov. 9 at Viejas Arena which, on that day, the team will raise its 2021 Mountain West Conference Champion and the 2021 Mountain West Tournament Championship banners into the rafters. SDSU has a lot to work on but it is early and with Coach Brian Dutcher at the helm, the Aztecs will work hard to progress throughout the season.

Written by: Carson Cook