Smile Politely

John Hoeffleur’s new project, Green Boots, is a beauty

A person with a contemplative expression, wearing a black leather jacket with a red armband on the right sleeve. The background is dark, which emphasizes the individual's light complexion and the details of the leather jacket.
John Hoeffleur

John Hoeffleur – he of the beloved local band The Beauty Shop – thinks of creativity in an intriguing way, viewing the formation of art in terms of what one has at his or her disposal.

“You have three paper plates, ten pipe cleaners, and twenty-five paperclips,” said the 46-year-old local musician. “What can you make?”

As the guitarist, singer, and songwriter of the alt-country/Americana band The Beauty Shop, Hoeffleur considered his former band’s “limits” to be the formulaic genre it was in and minimal, acoustic-based instrumentation among the three members.

three individuals are seated around a wooden table in a room that appears to be a casual dining establishment. On the table, there is an ashtray and two cans of soda. The individual on the left is wearing a red sleeve with white stripes, the person in the middle is in a white t-shirt, and the person on the right has a dark green shirt with buttons.
Beauty Shop

With his new one-man project, Green Boots, Hoeffleur said the creative restrictions are different: only one person making the generally three-to-four-minute compositions, a dependence on technology, and a desire to mostly leave guitar out of the equation, even though he’s a stellar guitarist.

“New limits, new challenges, new sounds,” Hoeffleur said. “And for me, a new sense of satisfaction.”

Whereas Hoeffleur has favored a more organic way of making music in the past, he said Green Boots’ modern-sounding vibe is the result of “a lot of fancy software.” The technology aspect of his latest music, which veers from snappy Strokes-like pop rock to modern-sounding trop rock to lounge and bare-souled ballads, stands out. Hoeffleur said he is not an adept sound engineer and is still learning production techniques, but that’s being modest. His Green Boots songs are comfortably low-key, immediately tuneful, and well put together.

Since most of Green Boots’ sound comes from software, the instrumentation goes beyond the usual bass, guitar, and drums heard in standard rock and roll. Green Boots songs have “all manner of keys, synths, and string sections,” according to Hoeffleur, resulting in expanded instrumental textures.

Hoeffleur’s voice contains a deep resonance that calls to mind Richard Butler of the Psychedelic Furs, Julian Casablancas of The Strokes, and Brad Roberts of the Crash Test Dummies. Even a bit of Bono here and there.

“I aspire to deliver strange and beautiful music,” said Hoeffleur, who played bass on The Blackouts’ 2002 album, Everyday is a Sunday Evening

Beyond music, Hoeffleur likes to read, travel, and shop at garage sales and thrift stores. Here’s more from the talented musician.

Smile Politely: What inspired Green Boots?

John Hoeffleur: Compulsion, desire for transcendence? I’ve got to do something.

SP: How did you come up with the name Green Boots?

Hoeffleur: I wanted to pick a name that doesn’t really indicate what kind of music it is. I find Green Boots ambiguous.

SP: Tell me about the process of creating and recording songs all on your own.

Hoeffleur: Figuring out the workflow was one of the hardest aspects of getting this going. Mostly, I’m experimenting and then refining what catches my ear, which is part of the reason the output is kind of all over the place stylistically. Most of the Green Boots material I wrote using digital instruments. So naturally, what I come up with that way is different just by virtue of leaving the fretboard behind.

SP: What instrument do you like to play the most?

Hoeffleur: I identify as a guitarist primarily these days, but lately I have more fun when jamming with others when I play bass.

SP: What do you like about making music?

Hoeffleur: Self-expression! Everyone should have an avenue for it. As many as possible, even. It’s good for you.

SP: What musicians will you play with when Green Boots plays live shows?

Hoeffleur: Green Boots is entirely self-contained. If it were reliant on any other people, there’s no way I could get even half as much done; I don’t think this project could even be a thing. I can and often do put hours a day into it, all productive, all on my terms. I never have to accommodate the drummer’s other band or the bassist’s dart league. It’s one of the big upsides of being the auteur or whatever.

My feeling right now is I’d love to perform as much as possible this summer. The whole project is designed to be very nimble – I can carry all my gear in one trip. I can make money on gigs that would be cost-prohibitive for five dudes in a 13-miles-per-gallon van. But, I have very little enthusiasm for navigating the music business and gaming social media. I have this naive idea that if I just make the best music I can, it will garner attention for itself. I could use some help getting gigs out of town and generating some streams online, for sure [though].

SP: Some of your lyrics read like poetry. Do you write poems that sometimes become songs?

Hoeffleur: I’ll take that as a compliment – thank you! I do not write poems, though. I’m almost always fitting lyrics to an already-written melody, which dictates the meter. Once in a while I’ll have a theme or concept in mind when I start to write lyrics, but mostly I’ll get a phrase in place that sounds natural and is meaningful or nifty, and then I’ll expand on that for the rest of the lyrics to produce a cohesive song.

SP: The song “Soap” made me smile. What’s it about?

Hoeffleur: I think I swiped the idea from a stand-up comedian who hypothesized that the nature of soap as a material object is that it cannot be dirtied, that it embodies cleanliness. For the purposes of that song, I imagined soap as a metaphor for self-love and the concomitant ability, perhaps necessity, to cleanse or improve one’s self.

SP: Could The Beauty Shop ever get back together to play shows or make new music?

Hoeffleur: We could totally get back together to play shows and create music! There just has to be [an] incentive. People are free to start a GoFundMe or get us a gig at Lincoln Center [for the Performing Arts in Manhattan], but I just don’t feel any impetus myself. I think everyone else has better stuff to do too, frankly; none of us are, like, washing our psychological red Corvette in our middle-aged driveway every weekend.

John Hoeffleur is excited to play his Green Boots songs on March 20th at Anthem Bar, where he may also play a few unreleased tunes. You can learn more about John and Green Boots on their website, Facebook or Instagram, and you can hear Green Boots’ songs on Bandcamp.

Green Boots
302 N Neil St
W March 20th, 7:30 p.m.

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