Eric Christopher of Hospital Bracelet on Their New Album, "South Loop Summer" | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Monday, March 8th, 2021  

Eric Christopher of Hospital Bracelet on Their New Album, “South Loop Summer”

From Chicago and From Twitter

Feb 22, 2021 Web Exclusive
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Chicago emo outfit Hospital Bracelet is the type of perpetually relatable and perennially funny band that thrives in online spaces. Singer, songwriter, and guitarist Eric Christopher had only played a handful of shows in Chicago before dropping 2019's Neutrality Acoustic, earning the band a dedicated following in the online DIY scene. That initial interest was the catalyst for a transformation as Christopher (who uses the pronoun "they") linked up with bassist Arya Woody and drummer Manae Hammond. The band quickly evolved from a scrappy acoustic project to a rollicking emo trio for their new record, South Loop Summer.

Raised between Indiana, Louisiana, and Texas, Christopher split their time across the country before moving to Chicago for school. Chicago may have been the nominal home of the band, but, in many ways, Christopher finds the band’s home and community online. As they put it, “We’re from Chicago but we’re really on Twitter.” 

With a steady stream of hilarious Twitter takes and a growing Tik Tok presence, social media has undoubtedly been important for the band during COVID, blunting the trials of growing a band in a pandemic. Christopher explains, “Honestly I think that our presence has always been online. I think the pandemic screwed over a lot of bands that didn’t have online presences. Because now they’re forced into silence. When you’re trying to find an online following but you also can’t play or record it’s a lot harder.”

Though COVID pushed back their release schedule by almost a year, the band weathered it admirably, amassing hype all across the emo-obsessed corners of the internet. “It’s because of those bands and those people who supported me that we’re anything right now,” Christopher says. “That’s why it’s so weird to say we’re a Chicago band because, in all reality, my start wasn’t really in Chicago. I recorded the music here but it’s because of strangers on the internet that it did anything.” 

Neutrality Acoustic was a stark and solitary project, all heart-wrenching lyricism and simple acoustic guitar. Sometimes Christopher says they have to remind themselves that it’s still how most listeners know the band. “The only thing that people have heard from us who haven’t seen us live is an out of tune acoustic guitar. You’re not fucking ready for this!” they insist. Fortunately, the band brings the tunes to back up that confidence. 

South Loop Summer is quintessential Midwest emo, delivered with all of the crushing pathos, twinkling guitar riffs, and rushes of aggression that come with that label. The jump from acoustic music pays off well, giving Christopher’s writing more bite while keeping the disarming DIY charm of Neutrality Acoustic intact. Christopher’s expressive vocal performance on tracks like “Summer Friends” or “Feral Rat Anthem” jump and snarl, while “Sober Haha JK Unless” and “Sheetz vs. Wawa” have a desolate simplicity. It’s great stuff and Christopher knows it. They nearly shout in excitement, “All of these songs are bangers! I feel that this is one of the most diverse in sound emo albums that anyone has made in a long time. And I’m very proud of that.” 

Their excitement almost undersells how devastating their songwriting can be. Each track bears the marks of Christopher’s life and hard journey. They excavate their traumas with searing specificity, diving into sobriety, loss, religion, toxic friendships, and abusive relationships. They describe it as a diary or a biopic, an unflinching examination of Christopher’s trials between 2019 and now. “It’s painful,” they confess. “I think it was Hemingway who said ‘Writing is easy, you just have to sit in front of a typewriter and bleed.’ That’s what it is.” 

Thankfully, they’ve also found a measure of healing amidst the bleeding. As they explain, “Hospital Bracelet was not supposed to be a big band. It was supposed to be a one and done type project where I wrote all my feelings out on paper. It was just supposed to be this therapeutic experience. And then Neutrality blew up. And I felt this obligation to keep doing this because it’s very obvious that my own personal experiences are beneficial to other people when it comes through music.” There is a reason why it’s struck a chord with so many online. Both as a collective healing experience and for Eric Christopher personally, South Loop Summer is an emotive and cathartic rush, full of pain, humor, and comfort.

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