Hemi 69
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Hemi 69

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The best kept secret in music

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"hemi 69"

Hemi 69


It’s a quiet Saturday afternoon at BeanTrees in
downtown St Catharines and the lead singer of
HEMI 69 is apologizing for the absence of
rhythm guitarist Bryan Gannon.
“He’s just not reliable for these kind of
things,” says Tim Oliver. “Our time is really
restricted by our jobs.”
We do have keyboardist Paul Devine, bassist
Justin West and, when not scarfing down
poutine between questions, drummer Steven
Grant. “Sorry about this,” says Grant. “I haven’t
eaten all day.”
Grant is HEMI 69’s fourth in a line of
drummers since the others “just couldn’t cut it,”
says Oliver.
“I’ve only been in (the band) for six months,”
says Grant. “The connection was my drum
teacher was dating (Devine’s) daughter.”
Whatever leftover time the group has is
usually spent practicing at the Thorold home
shared by Oliver and Devine. When not playng
gigs, the rest is spent at their at various
day-jobs which is where Oliver met their
manager, Jeff Kidd.
“He’s the manager of the Subway I work at
and, if he’s good enough to run Subway, he’s
good enough for us.”
Together since 2001, HEMI 69 began with
Oliver and Devine writing songs together and
grew into a band that commands attention.
“I started writing love songs in grade six,”
says Oliver with a laugh. “Really corny but you
wouldn’t know it hearing our stuff now.”
Listening to some of the group’s songs
available on their website, www.hemi69.com,
the music is anything but corny. Their song
“This Way” is a hard–rocking number
recommended for the next time you’re in need
of a soundtrack to accompany a hate–on.
But unlike many other bands who produce
what could be considered noise pollution,
HEMI 69’s hardened sound is refreshingly
colourful and dynamic thanks to the diverse
backgrounds of its members.
I bring more of the old Deep Purple/Pink
Floyd kind of stuff,” says Devine, of the group’s
guitar and keyboard–driven sound. “And this
guy (pointing to Oliver). He’s into the hard stuff.
He’s just frantic when he plays. It’s scary.”
Taking the lead vocal reins on some songs,
Devine says he is content to leave the centre
stage to Oliver. “I like to think of myself as the
world’s most powerful sideman.”
Not satisfied with their first attempt at
recording, HEMI 69 plans on doing a proper
freshman album at Machine Head Studios in
Toronto very soon. “The stuff you hear on our
website was done at a hip–hop studio,” says
Devine. “And I don’t think they had an ear for
our stuff.”
Studio time at Machine Head was first prize
in the Supernova battle of the bands—one of
many accomplishments HEMI 69 have
completed in their short time together, says
Devine.
“There was also the battle of the bands at
the Jordan Hotel where we got second place,”
says Oliver. “And we’re in the finals for the
Moose and Goose battle of the bands on July
16th.” The winner of the contest will receive a
cash prize of $1,500.
“The competition is tough,” says Grant, of the
Moose and Goose competition, “but we’re just
good as any band in there.”
A set of a “pretty wide cross–section of
material,” has earned the group a strong
following, says Devine. “Our crowd just keeps
getting better and better every time we play.”
This is no easy feat considering the St
Catharines' music scene is geared towards an
“Emo–scream sound,” says Oliver, which
leaves little room for a band like HEMI 69. “We
just don’t quite fit–in.
“Though in Toronto our stuff gets a huge
positive reaction from the crowds. They just
love it.”
Not giving up on the local scene, the band
says HEMI 69 will continue to etch its place in


- Pulse Niagara


Discography

Still working on that hot first release.

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Bio

Back in 2000, Tim Oliver had a guitar and some lyrics, but no band. Paul Devine was a keyboardist / songwriter with some modest 4-track recording equipment in a spare room in his apartment. They were brought together by Paul?s friend (and Tim?s sister) Jill and they decided to work together on a song-writing project. Tim brought a strong grunge influence (Alice In Chains and Pearl Jam) while Paul brought an old-school rock influence (Pink and Purple with a touch of Blues). When these two styles collided the sound of HEMI 69 crawled out of the wreckage.

At this point there were still no plans to put together a band. Every weekend Tim would make the trip from Flamborough to St. Catharines where they would experiment, write and record. Rehearsal time was severely limited, largely in difference to Paul?s neighbours who, for the most part, tended to ?put up with the noise?.

After about two years of this they decided to bring in other musicians to try the new songs out as an actual live band would them, as opposed to the numerous overdubs. Brian Gannon was brought in on rhythm guitar and Arron Heidebrecht on drums. Naturally, they also began jamming out some cover songs, just for fun. They soon realized that within the originals and covers they had a fairly respectable set list. The decision was made ? they would form a band.

As Paul, Tim and Brian are all Mopar muscle car enthusiasts they named the new band Hemi 69, in homage to the ultimate street machine.

Hemi 69 hit the bar circuit around the Niagara region, did a couple of gigs in Toronto and were generally well received.

But there were still adjustments to be made. Arron was replaced by Rob Maguire and Taysia Chambers took up bass duties. Due to an insurmountable difference in styles, Rob Maguire was eventually replaced by the bands ex Steve Grant. Taysia left to form her own band and Hemi 69 quickly replaced her with the very talented Justin West.

Their sound is unique, with a style that appeals to a wide range of rock tastes, in both their originals and covers. Both Paul and Tim do turns on lead vocals and with their contrasting styles, their range is expanded even further.