“The Biggest Thing Is Playing Music That I Enjoy”- Lutheran’s Franko Hopkins
Updated: May 11
By Will Yannacoulias
Photos by Aaron Brown Photography
December 2019 my partner and I found ourselves without children or plans on a Saturday night and decided, on a whim, to drive to Saskatoon and catch a metal show at Amigos. Wasted Heretics were celebrating their release party and the bar was packed full of good looking kids in their twenties with cool hair, nice teeth and spooky outfits. The show was excellent but the opener made a huge impression on me; a pair of wild eyed, frizzy haired characters in dirty jeans and faded t-shirts melted faces as they tore through a thirty minute set of fast, furious relentless black metal, cursing, swearing and sarcastically blaspheming their stage banter between songs. We didn't know anyone that night but thankfully a table of gritty metal bros sitting right by the bathroom took us under their wing; guys in frayed battle vests and unkempt beards who ordered two beers at a time and cheered with joy every time the band onstage growled something offensive. As the openers surrendered the spotlight one of our hosts yelled into my ear, "I FUCKIN' LOVE LUTHERAN!!!" and at that moment, so did I.
A few weeks ago Lutheran and Phased Out announced that they were playing in Prince Albert and I seized the opportunity to chat with vocalist/guitarist Franko Hopkins. Along with drummer Graham Templeman, Lutheran have been playing, writing and recording as a two piece band since 2016. Two piece bands are unusual but not unheard of, and I was curious how they got together and if being a duo was intentional or if it was just the way things developed. "I've known Graham for years" Hopkins explained, "from back when I was playing in Autaric and he was playing in Sparky. Playing as a two-piece is actually his idea, he said let's keep it simple, cut out all the extra guys, no bullshit. It's a lot easier having two of us; two opinions, two schedules."
Creative duos seem to fall into two camps; some will record with two instruments exactly as the songs would be performed, and other times the two members might play bass as a third instrument, record lead and rhythm guitars simultaneously, or multitrack vocals. I asked Hopkins if the Lutheran we see onstage is the same band we hear on the recordings and he assured me that, for the most part, yes. "On our first release (2017's Murder And Satanic Worship) I recorded two guitars, but Bible Camp we recorded live off the floor and I recorded my vocals afterwards. In my opinion it's not proper to record it with a bunch of extra tracks and then only have one guitar and drums when you perform it live."
I also wanted to talk with Hopkins about Lutheran's sound; with chugging complex riffs, multiple changes, highly structured songs, speed and unpolished rawness, the duo seem to be drawing on the best elements of their death metal and black metal influences. I suggested the European black metal sound being an unlikely influence for a couple of guys in the prairies, but Hopkins was quick to share that black metal has long had a North American scene. "Growing up, the first black metal bands I heard were all European, but I later realized that there were great black metal bands from the US and Canada as well. Absu from Texas are a huge influence on me, and my old band played a bunch of shows with Woods of Ypres from Ontario who were an influence as well. It's a hand-in-hand thing, blackened death metal they call it. Those have always been my biggest influences, taking the extreme from both sides."
Lutheran's social media has been teasing recordings of new material, and I couldn't resist asking about the new songs. "We have it all recorded and done" Hopkins revealed excitedly, "we're just on to mixing and mastering soon. We've been taking a long time with this, the game plan is to make this the most disgusting thing you've ever listened to! We've done something new, experimenting with layering Christian hymns over riffs. It's really dissonant; it's maybe gonna hurt a lot of people's ears and maybe no-one is gonna like it, but that's kinda what I want!"
There's a growth in Lutheran's sound between Murder And Satanic Worship and Bible Camp, as the songs become more arranged and complex and the production cleaner. I wanted to know what direction people could expect Lutheran's upcoming release to take, and Hopkins promised all the satisfying complex changes in shorter, more effective songs. "The first EP was me and Graham feeling each other out, getting used to each other. Bible Camp was us getting a style going and realizing what works really good for us. The third album, which we're calling Sheathe Yourself In The Skin Of God, is a little more straightforward, shorter songs that will punch you in the face. More raw, straight to the point. There's still going to be all the changes and shit like that though; we don't call them time changes or tempo changes, Graham coined the term 'feel change', you're changing the feel of the song. The biggest thing for me is playing music that i enjoy, and that Graham and I are happy playing"
Lutheran's next show is an all ages split with Phased Out on April 15th at The Spice Trail Lounge in Prince Albert. Both Hopkins and I grew up attending and playing all ages shows and we shared a few memories and stories in anticipation of the next one. "We used to play a lot of great shows in Prince Albert when I was younger" he recalled, "we'd play downtown or under the grandstands, kids were so stoked, the crowd was always wild. In Saskatoon I've played one all ages show in all these years, it's not really a thing here so I'm stoked because we'll actually get get to play our music for a younger crowd."
Tickets for Lutheran's next show, in Prince Albert on Saturday April 15th, are available now. Their first two releases, Murder And Satanic Worship and Bible Camp, are available on Bandcamp. Their third release Sheathe Yourself In The Skin Of God is due for release this spring.