Stipe went on to form R.E.M. and Hopper joined him in the experimental music group Tanzplagen along with Stipe's sister Lynda, and other local musicians. After the group folded the female Stipe and Hopper formed Oh-OK, whose line-up would later include Matthew Sweet and David McNair. That project ended in 1984 and Hopper briefly belonged to a band named Holiday, who released their only EP in 1987. In 1989, Morris was a recent transplant to Atlanta from West Palm Beach, Florida—where she played a few shows as the guitarist for The Pockets.
The two were introduced by a mutual acquaintance and became fast friends; they began songwriting when the first met. The duo had a difficult time finding collaborators to form a complete band (as Hopper described it, "We had to beg people to come and play with us.") They ended up recruiting bassist Tim Lee and McNair on drums in March 1990. Lee left the band after a brief tenure and was replaced by Shannon Mulvaney, whom Morris met at a record store. The musicians named themselves Homemade Sister after a line from Baby Doll and released their first single—"Rip the Wreck"/"Merry"— on Safety Net Records in 1990, receiving airplay from Atlanta college radio stations WREK and WRAS during the early 1990s.
Displeased with their name, they were briefly rechristened Swell, before they found out a San Francisco band had the same name and then Swell Dopa. They finally settled on coining the name Magnapop and frequently played in Atlanta at such music venues as The Masquerade, The Point, and Variety Playhouse. In 1990—while named Swell—they made their public debut at a show in Athens that Michael Stipe attended. He approached the band afterward and offered to produce some demos for them in John Keane's Athens studio in December. Their first high-profile show was at the July 1991 New York New Music Seminar along with three other bands that were introduced by Stipe.
At that event, Morris gave a demo tape to Tom Engelshoven and John van Luyn of the Dutch Muziekkrant OOR. They proceeded to pass the tape to a promoter in The Netherlands who gave them some club dates as well as a spot at the side stage of the 1991 Rotterdam Festival. After the positive response they received, they were promoted to the main stage the next day. In The Netherlands, they were signed to Play It Again Sam Records, who released the Sugarland EP and Magnapop demo album in 1992.
Their self-titled first album included four of the 1990 Stipe demos, and was released on Caroline Records in the United States. A music video for the single "Merry" was shot and aired in Europe. Their first commercial recording other than their independent single would be their 1992 cover version of "Pleasant Valley Sunday" for Here No Evil – A Tribute to The Monkees. They also contributed tracks to other various artist tribute albums, including "Ear" (a different recording from the one on Mangapop) for Delicacy & Nourishment – Lyrics by Ernest Noyes Brookings Vol. 3 in 1992 and 1993's recording of "Every Grain of Sand" for Outlaws Blues Volume Two – A Tribute to Bob Dylan with violinist Mamie Fike.
The band also recorded the Kiss My Mouth EP with Ted Niceley and released it in Europe. Around this time, the band was so fraught from booking recording sessions, that they briefly considered breaking up. They would establish their fan base in the early 1990s through touring and the festival circuit—particularly in Benelux, where they first broke through to the mainstream. It was only after they had established a fan base in Europe and gotten positive press in the United Kingdom that they first became recognized in the United States, including their native Atlanta. By the end of 1992, they were getting positive write-ups in American press, including The New York Times.
They made appearances at Rocking Kolonia Festival in Maastricht in 1992, Pukkelpop in 1992, Transmusicales in 1992, A Campingflight to Lowlands Paradise in 1993, and Reading and Leeds Festivals in 1993. They also recorded a John Peel session on September 2, 1993 and a Black Session on February 25, 1994. Bob Mould of Hüsker Dü had seen the band at a show in New York City's CBGB as well as in Rotterdam—he called the latter show their "turning point" and invited the band to tour with his new band, Sugar, in Europe and the United States in 1992–1993. The band requested that Sugar bassist and fellow Athens musician David Barbe to produce their major label debut album. When he refused, Mould offered to record with the band, taking them to August 1993, Pedernales Recording Studio, in Austin, Texas in August 1993.
Hot Boxing was released by Play It Again Sam in Europe and Priority Records domestically on July 5, 1994. The album produced two singles: "Slowly, Slowly", which spent seven weeks on the charts, peaking on September 10, 1994 at 25 on the U.S. Modern Rock Tracks and "Lay It Down", which topped the 1993 De Afrekening poll. The band toured the United States supporting The Lemonheads in 1993 and played at the 1994 Phoenix Festival and Marktrock to promote the album and created music videos for "Lay It Down", "Slowly, Slowly", and "Texas". The promotional EP Big Bright Cherry included three tracks from these recording sessions as well as three self-produced songs. In 1995, the McNair and the band parted ways, with neither party giving a definitive rationale.
Hopper explained "We had a hard time recording Hot Boxing, because our drummer had a lot of things in the way... Nobody wants to hurt anyone, or to cut them out, but it was just like four adults getting a divorce, and their child is the band." She has alternately explained the split due to "alternative lifestyles" between McNair and the rest of the group. The remaining trio recruited session drummer Josh Freese and engineers Sandy Solomon and Bernie Zwass to record a cover of Tom Waits' "Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis" at Plus Four Recordings Studios, in Sherman Oaks, California in June 1995 for the compilation album Step Right Up: The Songs of Tom Waits. Freese would join them in November–December of that year in Los Angeles, California to record Rubbing Doesn't Help.
Mould was preoccupied, so the band relocated to Los Angeles and production duties went to Geza X at his home studio in attempt to make a more "eclectic" album that would represent the diversity of their songwriting. The album would produced the singles "Open the Door" and "This Family" (the former also had a music video), as well as the EP Fire All Your Guns at Once. The band immediately set out to tour in promotion. Los Angeles musician Mark Posgay auditioned for the band in 1995 and became the permanent drummer. In July of that year, Magnapop supported R.E.M.
on their Monster World Tour and continued playing in the United States and Europe, including an appearance at X-Fest in 1996. They also played their first dates in Australia and Japan in 1996 and hosted 120 Minutes on July 7. In late 1996, bassist Mulvaney left the group, citing problems of distance—Hopper and Morris had relocated permanently to Los Angeles—as well as a desire to focus on his family. He continued playing bass guitar and stand-up bass with Atlanta groups The Hots, The Lugosis, and Anna Kramer & The Lost Cause.
Greg Urbaitis replaced him as the band continued to play live shows through 1997. Posgay quit that summer and he was replaced by former Lifter drummer Johnny Rozas, but this line-up was short-lived as the band was informed while on tour that their record label ceased to exist and they did not have any funding for future touring or recording. Compounding matters further, they were still under contract to not use the name "Magnapop" for seven more years. Hopper and Morris continued to play a few acoustic live shows as a duo into 1999, occasionally with accompaniment (such as Los Angeles bassist Billy Warburton and drummer Lance Crow) and attempted to record an EP for Vital Cog with a drum machine as backing, but ended up putting Magnapop on an indefinite hiatus. During this time, Morris also moved to Seattle, where she recorded a 2002 single with drummer Curtis Hall as The New Candidates.
Hopper, Morris, and a group of Seattle musicians also demoed some Hopper/Morris songs during this period. Hall would also drum with Hopper, Morris, and Mulvaney for a few Magnapop shows in 2002–2003. The band reformed in 2003 with bassist Scott Rowe and drummer Brian Fletcher to tour the European festival circuit and record an album. In The Netherlands, Hopper would also perform vocals on R.E.M.'s cover of "Favorite Writer" on June 21 and 22. The following May, they reformed to enter Zero Return Studios in Atlanta with drummer Curt Wells as producer for their first album in almost a decade.
On January 25, 2005, Magnapop released Mouthfeel on Amy Ray's record label Daemon Records and supported it with a tour through the United States. By 2005, Fletcher had left the group, and drummer Chad Williams had been recruited to replace him on the subsequent tour to promote Mouthfeel that included an appearance at South by Southwest. One of these performances was recorded for the band's first live album—Magnapop Live at Maxwell's 03/09/2005—which they released independently through online music distributors including eMusic, the iTunes Store, and Rhapsody. In May 2006, the band completed a tour of Belgium and The Netherlands and returned to Atlanta to begin work on the followup to Mouthfeel.
They continued touring Europe in 2007 and completed writing and recording for a new album sometime prior to 2008, with the album slated to be released in summer 2009. These sessions recorded with Brian Paulson would be released as Chase Park on September 4, 2009, through digital distributors through the vanity label The Kraft Records. Between touring with Magnapop, bassist Scott Rowe also performed in Luigi with former Magnapop drummer Brian Fletcher (2003–2008) as well as Bad Magic Number with current drummer Williams. The former has released two albums—2003's Vamonos and Found on the Forest Floor in 2005. "Open the Door" has been covered by Eels for the single "Flyswatter"—it would later be collected on Useless Trinkets: B-Sides, Soundtracks, Rarities and Unreleased 1996–2006. They performed the song several times on their Electro-Shock Blues Show tour in support of Electro-Shock Blues.
Karaoke versions of the song were released by Stingray Digital through the iTunes Store on January 15, 2008. "Favorite Writer" was covered by R.E.M. on their "Bad Day" single in 2003 as well as the 2003 tour to promote In Time: The Best of R.E.M. 1988–2003. Juliana Hatfield wrote "Ruthless" in honor of the band's guitarist after the two had a conversation about Camille Paglia while touring in 1992 ("We're all gushin', but I swear we really mean it, man/We're all sucking up to Ruthie.") It appeared as a B-side on the Juliana Hatfield Three singles "Spin the Bottle" and "My Sister".
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