Volunteer Department is a fitting name for Oliver Hopkins’ ever-changing band.
“From the get-go, I just wanted to reconnect with old homies and make new friends along the way via music,” says Hopkins, who currently splits time between Indy and Nashville. “As of last month, I think there have been 24 members over the span of about two years. The fluidity of everyone’s involvement keeps me on my toes.”
Hopkins will continue this trend on Friday, Jan. 4 as Volunteer Department celebrates its first official release with a headlining show at HI-FI. Recorded at Indianapolis’ Postal Recording, Safe House K is a collection of eight reverberant tracks that Hopkins (vocals and guitar) recorded with the help of bassist Garrett Ney, vibraphonist Rob Funkhouser, and drummer Mike Preuschl. At the release show, fans can expect to see this lineup up on stage for a portion of the set, in addition to other various iterations of Volunteer Department.
Formerly the frontman of much-loved Indianapolis band Hotfox, Hopkins got into a habit of writing new material through Volunteer Department, as he would then ask musician friends to perform with him depending on their availability. “For a long time, I was writing material the week of the show, gathering people to play, and then tweaking the songs to suit the strengths of the unit assembled,” he says. “I enjoyed the challenge.” After recording some demos on his own and with friend Corey Sauer, Hopkins eventually decided to get a more official release together, calling on Ney, Funkhouser, and Preuschl for help.
“The songs from Safe House K came together once Garrett, Rob, and I started playing shows together regularly,” Hopkins says. “Once I swapped out the second guitar for the vibraphone and added Mike on drums, it felt like we had something worth investing in.”
All with rich music backgrounds of their own, Ney (VV Torso, Faux Paw), Funkhouser (solo percussion), and Preuschl (Hotfox, Thunders) provided Hopkins with the constructive criticism needed to craft studio versions of his loose blueprints. “Your game is elevated when you work with people who are good at what they do,” Hopkins says. “Working with them afforded me the ability to do more with my guitar and voice than with anyone else to date.”
Vinyl copies of Safe House K will be available for purchase at Friday’s release show, via Bandcamp, or at a local record store near you. On the horizon, we can expect plenty more from Hopkins and his musical associates.
“Volunteer Department will be releasing music consistently from now until the day I fall asleep forever,” he says. “I like writing music too much to not do it. It helps to organize my mind.”