Kevin Hearn & Thinbuckle
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Kevin Hearn & Thinbuckle

Toronto, Ontario, Canada | Established. Jan 01, 1995 | INDIE | AFM

Toronto, Ontario, Canada | INDIE | AFM
Established on Jan, 1995
Band Alternative Rock




"Review and Interview for Cloud Maintenance"

When Kevin Hearn of the Barenaked Ladies found himself in New York auditioning for Lou Reed in 2009, he got nervous. To kill time, he ducked into an art gallery and found the inspiration for his fifth solo disc.

“I’m sort of a sci-fi nerd, and when I saw this painting of two astronauts that was futuristic and scientific, but also dreamlike and childish, I sort of fell in love,” Hearn, 42, says over tea at the Full of Beans coffee shop near his home off Dundas Street in Toronto’s west end. “I think the songs on this record reflect that painting. There’s happy songs, but there’s also some characters who are lost on it, or lonely.”

2012 Cultural Preview: Music
Hearn’s album is entitled Cloud Maintenance, and it was written while Steven Page was still a member of his group. The songs are jaunty, but there’s regret mixed in with the whimsy; a reflection of the time before the Barenaked Ladies effectively broke up.
“Things weren’t feeling good; the rot had set in,” says Hearn, who, unlike his BNL cohorts, maintains a relationship with Page, most recently performing with him at the funeral for NDP leader Jack Layton this August at Toronto’s Roy Thomson Hall. “It was tough, but it was also good. We had to deal with what was happening and we did, but I always had this little record to listen to on my headphones. It was a nice place to go.”

Hearn is currently a member of three different rock bands. He nailed that New York audition for Reed, and has since become the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer’s band leader, writing the set lists and, occasionally, convincing Reed to play Walk on the Wild Side for an encore. He also has his own group, Kevin Hearn and Thin Buckle, and continues to play guitar and piano for the Barenaked Ladies (who are about to start writing a new record). - National Post

"The Miracle Mile Review July 6 2006"

It's been some eight years since Barenaked Ladies keyboardist Kevin Hearn kicked leukemia - an ordeal that informed his sobering 2001 solo effort, 'H-Wing', with his own band Thin Buckle - but as is often the case with life-threatening/altering experiences, the reverberations are felt long after. On the fantastical 'Miracle Mile', Hearn refers to The Flaming Lips school of existential-crisis management, both in the celestial synth/symphonic arrangements and in the curious examination of the precarious balance between science and faith. For Hearn, all the world is not a stage, but a hospital, a strange place where first dates are consummated amid the sterility of a laboratory on the stellar, vocoderized soft-rock epic "Map of the Human Genome", and even expressions of unbridled joy are delivered in the language of disease ("The Good Times Virus"). But his is a sick ward where being a patient is a virtue. SB - Eye Weekly

"The Miracle Mile Review July 21 2006"

Only a man who beat cancer and endures long road tours with his wacky Barenaked Ladies bandmates finds solace in the chaos of Los Angeles. That is the city where Toronto singer-songwriter and BNL keyboardist Kevin Hearn wrote 11 songs of his marvelous fourth album. On a record that is clever, melodically eloquent and often catchy, Hearn finds humane uses for a decommissioned war machine ("Lancaster Bomber"). On the hopeful "Map of the Human Genome", medical science is humanized, much in the same way the disc's subtle electronica is warmly employed. "Southbound" is soft-mood Beck; on the country-touched single "Here For You", Hearn is the considerate partner. Among disruption, Hearn finds harmony. - Brad Wheeler - The Globe & Mail

"The Miracle Mile Review July 20 2006"

Kevin Hearn has already written most of an album, 2001's H-Wing, while being treated for leukemia at Toronto's Princess Margaret Hospital. But his subsequent recovery has not prevented the Barenaked Ladies' keyboard player from revisiting the experience in fruitfully creative ways. "Map of the Human Genome," an entirely entrancing song about the study of chromosomes in a hospital research laboratory, has to rank as an unlikely candidate for this summer's hidden pop gem. Like much of the rest of The Miracle Mile, Hearn's fourth album with side project Thin Buckle, the song is beautifully arranged, blending acoustic guitar, electronic burbles and muted vocal effects. Elsewhere, Hearn channels Art Garfunkel on his own attempt to bridge troubled waters, "Rescue Us," while lacing the title track with harp and strings. Magical. VW - The Toronto Star

"The Miracle Mile Review July 20 2006"

It's a shame that Kevin Hearn can't quit his day job. The multi-instrumentalist spends most of his time in the Barenaked Ladies backing up Steven Page and Ed Robertson when he should be pushing his solo career. Hearn's fourth record, and best yet, is an intimate affair full of sensitive melodies and soft-spoken vocals that bring to mind Paul Simon in his prime. But the lyrics, which discuss his successful battle with cancer, are what listeners will enjoy the most. On The Good Times Virus, Hearn uses humour to tackle a serious subject, while Map Of The Human Genome, the record's standout track, deals with the singer-songwriter's first visit to the doctor. Throw in a cameo by Ron Sexsmith and a string arrangement by Van Dyke Parks and this isn't just one of Hearn's best, but one of the best records of the year. Kevin Hearn plays August 9 at the Drake. - NOW Magazine

"The John Shelton Ivany Top 21 #189"

Nightlight is Hearn's third solo album, and yet another opportunity for him to explore musical destinations of his own choosng. A sonically beautiful and captivating album, it features the musical contributions of Thin Buckle, which is composed of Derek Orford (guitar), Chris Gartner (bass) and Great Bob Scott (drums). The 16 page booklet accompanying the album includes unique and colorful drwaings by Kevin himself. Recorded in 2002 following some incredibly trying times, the album's songs are poignant and hopeful. As Kevin says about them: "They all contain an element of reflection on a life experience, a little stroll though the rough part of the memory lane district." This venerated rock pianist is a reliable factory of amiable hybrids. He connects good-natured blues stomping, sentimental melody and classical allusions, all rendered in busy but authoritative virtuosity. - John Shelton Ivany

"Night of the living Kev"

Kevin Hearn has a rich musical life. As the keyboardist for Bareknaked Ladies, he plays to arenas full of fans, tours the world with friends, and contributes parts, solos, arrangement ideas (and lately, full songs) to the band. When he's not doing that, Hearn gets to write, play and record as the frontman of his own fine band, ThinBuckle, who've just released their third album, Night Light.
Of course, it involves some adjustment. For example, Night Light was recorded back in the autumn of 2002, but is only coming out now. "I had to start writing for the new Barenaked Ldies record then, and I couldn't really divide my attention and be fair to both parties," Hearn says. "So I left Night Light on the back burner. With BNL, it was great to collarorate with the rest of the guys. But I really enjoy this project and it's a different dynamic, where I can work a song from the ground up, take it where I want."
That would be a gentle, lilting place much of the time, both in Hearn's soft voice and in the vaguely African-tinged guitar on songs like "Night Light" and "Where Did You Go?" Says Hearn, "I'm definitely influenced by that kind of highlife guitar style. I was trying to write in more open tunings. I learned guitar playing bluegrass and classical, so I'm very much into finger-picking rather than power-chord strumming."
The songs on Night Light are fascinating, detailed little gems, many permeated by a sense of loss conjured up via memory. The people in these songs are abandoned ("Where Did You Go?"), surviving abandonment ("Ball of Twine"), missing a pilfered guitar ("Lost & Stolen") or witnessing a loss of innocence ("Invite Me In"), among other things.
"I think the last five years were quite a rollercoaster for me," says Hearn, who suffered a near-fatal struggle with leukemia in 1998, ultimately documenting the experience on the second ThinBuckle album, H-Wing (2001). "It's interesting to see what happens to relationships through a health crisis. I think there was some genuine sadness when I would write [the songs for NightLight], and confusion. I think through my writing I was feeling that, exploring that, expressing it. But then there's songs like "Night Light", which is about the good side of things. As bad as things get, there's always hope at the end of the day."
In fact, H-Wing ultimately led to a connection with one of Hearn's musical heroes, Lou Reed, who was so impressed with the album that he's now recorded a vocal track (over the telephone) for one of Hearn's songs. "He's become a good champion [of my music]," says Hearn. "He told me that I went to place that most people don't go, and reported back about it. And that it was important.
"Who knows?" says Hearn. "Maybe I'll even get to play with Lou and fulfill a lifetime dream."
by Howard Druckman - eye Weekly

"Kevin Hearn & Thin Buckle - H-Wing"

H-Wing is the isolation ward of the Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto where Barenaked Ladies keyboardist Kevin hearn spent a month battling leukemia, and where much of this album was conceived. Aptly, then, may of his fragile but lush pop compositions deal with the experience. H-Wing is surprisingly upbeat, however, wistful but not dark. "I have decided to stay.../And take on the shadow/That darkens the day," he sings in "Mouth of a Shadow" and "This is a Beginning/This is not the ending" in "A Beginning." Hearn's tentative, sweet voice sometimes calls to mind Kermit the Frog, but it's perfectly suited to the hopeful tone and the lyrics that capture morphine dreams and children's imaginations rolled into one. The songs are given a dreamy, pastoral sheen by the backing players, who include Rheostatic Martin Tielli and the Look People's Bob Scott.
by Jill Wilson - Uptown

"Kevin Hearn & Thin Buckle - H-Wing"

Emerging cancer-free, Kevin Hearn has treamed up with former Look People bandmates great Bob Scott (drums) and Chris Gartner (bass), Rheostatics singer-guitarist Martin Tielli, and multi-instrumentalist Derek Aardy Orford. The resulting band, Thin Buckle, add twang and oddball funk and jazz touches to Hearn's maudlin vocals. Hearn's quirky lyrics range from humourous asides - he feels like "Nick Rhodes without his gel" on "Driftwood" - to direct confrontations with his illness. While others would drown certain lyrics to melodramatic song arrangements, Hearn and company opt instead for minimal instrumentation, letting the words carry their own power. It's this spartan aesthetic that makes H-Wing such an engaging listen.
DK - Chart Magazine

"Making music on a wing and a prayer - The Llfe and times of a barenaked lady"

By his own account, Kevin Hearn was taking way too many bad drugs while writing the songs for his recent solo album, H-Wing, He was also spending most of his time in bed, wondering if he would die before he could finish the record.

Hearn, who plays keyboards and guitar with the Barenaked Ladies, was no self-destructive pop star, all his drugs were prescribed, by doctors trying to beat the leukemia that nearly killed him.

They succeeded, and so did he. H - Wing is a gently insightful collection of pop songs about a month in the purgatory of a cancer ward.

"I didn't want it to be too heavy for people," said Hearn, whose low-keyed presence matches the soft, vulnerable sound of his singing voice. "I put a lot of my fears and anxieties into these songs, but I also wanted to reflect the fact that humor is so important."

Even with the worst of the chemical demons rampaging through his body, Hearn somehow found something cheering in the experience. The Good One, the album's deceptively peaceful opening song, describes how a few words and a moment of human contact lightened a particularly brutal episode of chemotherapy, "While I just lay there waiting to turn into Mr. Hyde."

Hearn's nightmare started in late 1998, just as the Barenakeds were hitting the top of the North American pop charts with their single, One Week. As tonight's CBC-TV Life & Times documentary about the Barenakeds points out, the sharp divergence in fortunes gave the relentlessly light-hearted band a lot less to joke about.

"As we went off on the biggest tour ever, Kevin went into the hospital to die," drummer Tyler Stewart tells the camera, with a look on his face that still registers a shadow of disbelief. The band sent regular emails from the road which "really made me know I was missed and valued," Hearn said.

His illness is in remission now, thanks largely to a transplant of bone marrow from his brother. But his view of life and relationships has changed permanently.

"Some people can stand the intensity of a health crisis, and some, can’t." he said. Like others who have endured such a crisis, he was sometimes surprised to discover who fell into which camp.

He also has a much keener sense of the passage of time, and the finite nature of opportunity. He's committed to the Barenakeds, and loved playing on Letterman and selling out the Madison Square Gardens and the Royal Albert Hall. But like any full-time job, touring and recording with the band eats up a lot of living.

" I often wonder if I'm doing the right thing, if I'm making the best use of my time," he said. He flinches at the comparison, but admits that the dominance of Steven Page and Ed Robertson as creators of the Barenakeds' material sometimes leaves him playing George Harrison to their Lennon & McCartney,

"I think they're great songwriters, and I like working on their songs with them," he said, "I wish I could express myself within the band more, but up to now that hasn't been a priority for anyone."

Hearn was recruited in 1995, after the departure of Andy Creeggan. The band was looking for someone who could fill in Page's and Robertson's songs with instrumental hooks, melodic solos and expressive colours.

"Ed always jokes, 'Okay, Kevin, now it's time for you to go into the studio and give the song exactly what it needs,' " Hearn said. He's very much a background figure in the CBC film, until the narrative turns to his illness.

H-Wing was recorded while he was still under heavy medical care. He said he was lucky that he and the members of Thin Buckle, his backing band, knew each other's style so well from years of previous experience.

"I had a pretty complicated recovery, and almost died a couple of times after the transplant," he said, "I was by no means healthy when I made the record. I was in and out of the hospital, taking a lot of bad drugs, including steroids. I became very puffy, and I could barely play by the end."

You'd never know that, listening to the record. Hearn's meditations on pain and fate sound like those of someone who has drifted clear of being too much affected by either. The album has a feeling of timelessness, and not just because he's writing about universal themes. He deliberately tried to replicate the suspended world of the overmedicated.

"Let's float here together, one last time / In the sweet peroxide ..." he sings in Death Bed Love Letter. Swimming pools, fog and bits of driftwood carry Hearn through reflections on himself and his experience that often have the droll simplicity and solemnity of childlike visions.

His best review to date came in a short note from one of his pop idols, Lou Reed, who he got to know through common acquaintances. He recites it like a memory that won't ever fade.

"He said 'You've made a beautiful record, Kevin, and you must have balls of steel.'" Hearn can't help crumpling with laughter at that last part.

He recently took the songs of H-Wing on the road with the Rheostatics, whose lead singer Martin Tielli also performs in Thin Buckle. It felt good, and he wants to do more while the Barenakeds take a year off from touring.

Writing new songs is another matter, It's harder now than it was in the hospital, even though there was no telling then whether he'd live to perform any of the tunes he was picking out on his guitar.

"Writing those songs was easy, because it was all there, and it was so extreme," he said. Returning to normal life, it turns out, can be almost as hard as leaving it.



Recordings by Kevin Hearn and Thinbuckle :

Cloud Maintenance - 2011

Havana Winter -  2009 

The Miracle Mile - 2006
Nightlight - 2004
H-Wing - 2001
Mothball Mint - 1997

Garth Hudson's tribute to the Band - 2010 

Kevin also appears on all Barenaked Ladies' recordings ( as musician and as a songwriter)from 1995 - present .

Kevin appears with Lou Reed on the cd/dvd Lou reed Live at Lollapalozza  2011 



Current highlights:

  - Kevin acted as musical director for Lou Reed's band from 2007 until Lou's final tour in 2012. 

- He  just completed a successful year of touring to support the Barenaked Ladies' latest record  called " Grinning Streak". Kevin has been a member of the band since 1995. 

-   Kevin is currently mixing a brand new Kevin Hearn and ThinBuckle record ( No. 7) , produced by Grammy award winning producer Gavin Brown. 

-  Kevin and Thinbuckle have upcoming shows, acting as the band for keyboard genius Garth Husdon, of THE BAND. 

   - Kevin will be singing a handful of THE BAND classics, as well as playing a few of his own songs with Garth.  

 -  In the autumn of 2013 , Kevin  co- produced four songs for/with Emily Haines from the band Metric.       

- Kevin appears with Lou on the DVD release : Lou Reed Live at Lollapalooza.

- In May 2008, Barenaked ladies released SNACKTIME!, their first CD and accompanying book for children. The book and album feature Kevin's child-like and humorously twisted artwork. It won a JUNO award for best children's record of the year. 

- In 2011, Kevin toured the US as pianist with Laurie Anderson.

- Kevin appears as a guest on the latest recordings by Broken Social Scene, Ron Sexsmith, Tragically Hip, The Cranberries,Garth Hudson ,and Andy Kim.  

Band Members