Shawn Hewitt & The National Strike!
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Shawn Hewitt & The National Strike!

Band Rock Avant-garde


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The best kept secret in music


"Shawn Hewitt & The National Strike Takes Top Prize"

TORONTO (September 21, 2004): The votes have been counted and Toronto, Ontario's SHAWN HEWITT & THE NATIONAL STRIKE has been chosen by the attendees of the 2004 North by Northeast Music Festival and Conference as the winner of the 2004 NXNE/Universal "Fan Choice" Award, held annually as part of the NXNE Festival.

The Fan Choice Award (formerly known as the NXNE Best Unsigned Band Contest) is chosen by the public each year from the unsigned acts showcasing at the North By Northeast Music Festival. Fans are encouraged to fill out a ballot or vote online at various independent music stores in Toronto and make their selection for the performer(s) that stood out above the rest on stage. Shawn Hewitt & The National Strike was chosen from over 300 Canadian acts that performed at this year's NXNE festival, which was held June 9th to 12th, 2004 in downtown Toronto.

" I feel honoured and privileged to receive this gift from festival goers/music fans. This journey just got a little more interesting..." - Shawn Hewitt

As winner of this fan-chosen award Shawn Hewitt will receive a prize package that he and his band (led Jones) could put to good use. First and foremost, they will receive $5000 worth of recording time. Their session will then be turned into a CD, which will be manufactured and distributed by Universal Music Canada to all music stores across Canada. Universal and MapleMusic/Umbrella Music will augment this with graphic design, marketing, promotion and help with the band's presence on the web. Once the contest period is over, all remaining CD's will be returned to the band with a cheque for any CD's that have sold.

"This contest has come a long way and has benefited everyone involved. We're looking forward to working with the talented, Shawn Hewitt and The National Strike." said David "Click" Cox, Universal Music's A&R Representative.

NXNE's Managing Director Andy McLean says "Huge Congratulations to Shawn Hewitt. Everyone at NXNE is thrilled that he won the Fan Choice Award at our 10th anniversary festival. The street buzz was amazing as Shawn and his band The National Strike, tore up the stage at The 360 this year. We'll be watching for continued success from him in the future." - NXNE

"SHAWN HEWITT Brilliant Scarborough upstart takes afro-kraut to new heights"

Don't feel too bad if you haven't heard of Shawn Hewitt yet. He's only been playing under his own name for a year, he doesn't have an album out, his new band's only played two shows with him (just one in Toronto) and he has no big-name connections.You'll be hearing about him soon. Why? Because he doesn't sound like anybody else, he takes risks and he makes music that's intellectually stimulating and possesses that elusive element known as soul.

Combining asymmetrical abstract-math rhythms with tortured soul singing, Hewitt calls his unique sound Afro-Kraut, a fusion of Afrobeat and Krautrock. This almost describes what he's getting at, but it isn't completely accurate.

"Afro-Kraut was just a play on words to help me not be pigeonholed into that whole neo-soul thing that's going on," Hewitt explains in between a sound check and a solo show.

"I'm really interested in the rhythm, the hypnotic feel and the odd time signatures. I like searching for melodies within rhythm. Some people are a little confused when they stumble across the Web site. They expect me to be playing R&B or hiphop or reggae. It's weird being a young black guy playing music, because everyone assumes you make one of three genres."

Many talented Toronto musicians happily do impressions of sounds from another time and place. Sometimes they do it well, but too often there's a sense that they aren't being completely honest about their own roots and influences. Hewitt's done his time playing in straightforward bands, following the formula of a given genre, but he realized he had to forget all that and become deliberately naive again.

"In this town a lot of people are trying to recreate what's happening down south or across the pond. I wouldn't say I sat down and tried to build a new sound. It just sort of came out.

"I played in a couple of other bands, and the last one was a rock-soul kind of thing. It was neat, but I didn't feel there was any room for growth or that the music was saying anything as art.

"The whole neo-soul thing is fine and people wear some cool clothes, but it's not the 70s, for god's sake. We're in the 21st century now. There need to be new rhythms bubbling up from the underground."

About a year ago, Hewitt started playing solo shows. He switches between electric piano, organ and guitar and has an uncanny ability to silence a room with a glance or a smile. He often inserts extended pauses between sections of his sprawling, epic songs, yet manages to let the crowd know the song isn't over with a look or a carefully calculated gesture.

In March, he unveiled his new, still unnamed band. The Inflated Tears, a Roland Kirk reference, is one of its current working names.

Their first performance left the audience unnerved because the group was way too focused and tight to be playing its first show. They've only been rehearsing since January. The crew includes Austen Valentine on bass, djembe and keyboards, Will Culbert on drums, Laurie Kugler and Elizabeth Samson ("L2") on trumpet and alto sax respectively and Jones, who's responsible for guitar, keyboard and the Zappa-like conducting madness.

Hewitt's happy about how quickly the band has come together. "It's like seeing my kids go to university and getting their master's each time they play a song," he says. He often refers to his songs as his "kids" during the interview.

On one level, his music can be appreciated purely for its formal qualities, but there's also a strong backbone of emotionally resonant songwriting. He grew up loving traditional soul music, and Hewitt is still enamoured of the song. He isn't simply making difficult music for the sake of it. His lyrics aren't straightforward pop songs, but while culture and politics are sometimes his subjects, they aren't didactic political rants either.

"I think everything is political and that this is what breeds passion. Every day, there's a fight for our minds and wallets. My songs are part of this passionate struggle. I hope it doesn't sound cheesy, but I look at the rhythms of life as well. For example, I might be on the bus listening to a mother screaming at her kid, and there's a melody hidden in there. It's not that I think of the actual melody of her voice, but it helps joggle loose what I'm trying to say."

Hewitt, who lives in Scarborough, spends a lot of time on the bus. It seems odd that someone would choose to live out there, but Hewitt explains that it does have its advantages.

"I grew up in rough 'n' tough Scarborough, now known as SARSborough. I'm living there again now as I plot the introduction of this army I'm in the process of building.

"I lived downtown for a while, but with all the distractions and all the scenes, it's hard not to get sucked in. To develop myself as a person and artist I needed to take myself out of that and try to see who I am. Scarborough is where Toronto grows its really scruffy goatee. There's a goldmine of song material out here."

- Now Magazine

"Five for the 0'5"

Tired of looking back at the year that was? Let's talk future. Here's a quintet of Toronto indie upstarts (or Toronto-area acts we'd like to adopt as our own) from whom we expect great things in 2005. The bandwagon boards here.

Shawn Hewitt: 2004 was good to this avant-soul experimentalist: an appearance at eye's CMW showcase last March, a triumphant turn at NXNE in June (netting him the festival's Fan's Choice award) and a December string of LA dates opening for spoken-word preacher Saul Williams. Finally, Hewitt's announced firm plans to harness his elastic voice onto disc, with the spring release of his debut six-song EP, The Soft Society, part of which will be recorded with the aforementioned Mr. Blurton. - Eye Weekly

"Shawn Hewitt Immensely Excited About moving forward"

Monday February 28, 2005

Shawn Hewitt

Shawn Hewitt won’t be Toronto’s best-kept secret for much longer. The ambitious, ingenious purveyor of Afro-kraut/ Neu!-soul/ any-other-genre-tag-made-up-explicitly for Hewitt’s awesome blend of funk, trance-rock and classic soul has finally finished his debut EP and it promises to be a doozie.

Produced by Ian Blurton, who must be approaching some kind of world record for number of albums produced within a specified geographic area, the six song disc will be titled The Soft Society and is tentatively scheduled to drop on May 1. No one is more stoked than the gangly, engaging Hewitt, who says of himself and his band The National Strike, "We’re excited. We’re really, really excited. We’re really excited, we’re really excited."

That's excited.

"Right now we’re in the mixing phase, going through the mixes and making sure it’s the best it can be," says Hewitt of the disc, which was recorded at Blurton’s storied Chemical Sound studio. "It’s like taking a really great snapshot of the past two years, and when you look at the picture when it finally develops, you can see what the future looks like."

At first glance, Blurton — who tends to do his best work with the louder, more hirsute cave rock set — might seem like an odd choice for Hewitt. But the 28-year-old songwriter says he and the producer connected the first time they met.

"A lot of people have asked, ‘Why Ian?’" says Hewitt. "But when I first met him, we had a conversation about music. And him being a music lover like myself and like the guys in the band [the single-named Jones and Aidan], we just connected with a lot of the bands that we talked about — Can, Donny Hathaway. Just running the whole gamut. So basically it all started from us having a music conversation, and him understanding and connecting with us on different things musically."

Hewitt delights in talking about his long-anticipated introduction to the masses and particularly likes referring to what he thinks are the disc’s two foremost traits: adventurousness and accessibility — terms he prefers to any vague genre or style terms.

"It’s like those two are having an intense love affair," he says of the descriptors. "But mostly I’m gonna let the music do the talking — let the pundits do their, ‘Hey, it’s like this and like that,’ and just sit back and keep growing and progressing."

Hewitt will pave the way for The Soft Society’s release with a big show at this year’s CMW festival. This might be the last chance you get to see him before he blows up to K-OS proportions, so you’d best see him now. He’s ambivalent about fame, but passionate about getting his music to as many people as possible.

"I’d be foolish if I said I didn’t want to see any successes come from this," he says. "But what’s more important is just progressing as a 28-year-old North American, trying to figure out what this thing is all about. It’s all about connecting with people. A year from now, it’d be great to see success coming from connecting with people."
- Chart Magazine

"NXNE 2004 Report Card"

Shawn Hewitt And The National Strike
Hometown: Toronto, ON
Venue: The 360
Date: June 10, 2004
Reporter: David Missio
Composition A little bit of pop, a little bit of soul, Shawn Hewitt and TNS have a free flowing cinematic jazz sound that makes you want to pump your fist victoriously or simply close your eyes and groove to the wall of sound he can create.

Achievement of Rock 'n' Roll Expectations

80-100: Band exceeds skill and knowledge expectations. Rocked us so hard we peed our pants.

70-79: Band achieves required skills and knowledge. Meets rock 'n' roll standard.

60-69: Demonstrates some skills. Approaches rock 'n' roll standard.

50-59: Band demonstrates some required skills and knowledge in a limited way.

Below 50: Band has not demonstrated required skills or knowledge.

Grade: 85

World Domination Status:
Progressing well towards world domination
Progressing with some difficulty towards world domination
No chance in hell for world domination

When the entire audience screams for an encore as though they had just seen a major headlining act, you know things are going well.

Learning Skills:
E=Excellent, G=Good, S=Satisfactory, N=Sad Really

Oral And Visual Communication

Eye Contact: E Strengths/Weaknesses/Next Step:
Pronounciation: G Hewitt looked at us all, one at a time, smiling and singing for each individual in the room. His connection with the audience was palpable as he roamed the stage, using every inch of space as his own. For their part, TNS was an amazing backing band, complete with lead guitarist cum conductor, they were rocking and moving to every song, every bit into the music as the audience was.
Stage Presence: E
Stage Banter: E
Image: E
Appearance: G
Use Of Stage: E

Musical Analysis

Level Of Participation: E Strengths/Weaknesses/Next Step:
Problem Solving: G With songs having a full range of instrumentation, from droning keys and horns, to an explosive full band sound, TNS gave Hewitt the ability to take a break and please the crowd with too-cool dance moves and his sweet voiced lyrics.
Teamwork: E
Work Habits: E
Organization: G
Audience Participation: E
Sound: E
Composition: E
Songs: E

Other Skills And Areas Of Interest

Charisma: E Strengths/Weaknesses/Next Step:
Problem Solving: G A few minor tech problems aside, this band was comfortable being the highlight of the night at only 10 p.m.
Teamwork: E
Sexiness: E
Haircut: G
Indie Rock Footwear: G
Nods To Disposible Fashion: G
Cool Equipment: E
Level Of Inebriation: G
Actual Ability: E

- Chart Attack

"NXNE 2004 Thursday night round-up"

Wandered into the 360 next for rising phenom Shawn Hewitt's angular funk-rock-soul explosion with super-solid backing band The National Stripe. Holy shit, the dude was on. The crowd was uniformly transfixed by Hewitt's intense stare, hand claps, turbo-charged keyboard licks and liquid soul vocals. Effortlessly tossed-off lines like "Stephen Harper, you foolish man," during the cryptically titled Amazons in the Attic suggested Hewitt has more than just killer instrumental chops behind him -- he's got music with a mission and a passionate critique. As SS Cardiac cutie Jessie Stein commented, "That guy's gonna be a huge rock star."

Sarah Liss - Now Toronto

"Dawn of Shawn"

dawn of shawn

Usually, this column focuses on music relating to dance club culture, or at least electronic music. Once in a while, though, I stumble across something too good to exclude just for the lack of beats.

Early Thursday evening at the Cameron House, young singer/songwriter Shawn Hewitt blew away the audience with an incredibly captivating performance.

Starting off solo on the Rhodes electric piano, he silenced the room with a unique fusion of economical, repetitive keyboard playing and raw, soulful singing. For the most part it was Hewitt by himself onstage. Luckily, he has great presence, oscillating between playful, aggressive and earnest in a natural, uncontrived way. Then he switched to acoustic guitar, which he used in a similarly minimalist style.

You could call this folk music, but only because he's playing solo and unornamented. He describes what he's doing as Afro-Kraut, a blend of the minimalism of Kraut rock with the desperate soul of Afrobeat. Of course, without a band to back him up yet, that description isn't entirely accurate, but you can hear what he's getting at.

The show-stopping moment came partway through when he stepped over to his organ and played a chugging instrumental that exploded into a Sun-Ra-inspired free jazz freak-out.

Benjamin Boles - Now Toronto

"The Swell of our own (A look at which locals will loom large in 2004)"

Other ones to watch

Shawn Hewitt
Scarborough native son Hewitt rose from under the radar this year, opening for the likes of The Dears and K-Os and earning a rep for his peculiar prog-soul hybrid. Hewitt can't yet divulge details about his debut album, other than he's working on it.

Stuart Berman - Eye Weekly


Shawn Hewitt
Shawn Hewitt is a superstar in waiting. And we're not talking about minor indie celebrity either; this guy deserves a shot at mainstream supremacy. He's charismatic, his songs are smart and his voice is leagues above anything the mainstream world has been feeding us lately. Sure, there's a lot of Stevie Wonder in there but Hewitt injects some grit into his soulful croon, flawlessly matching it with Rhodes-driven, prog savvy epics. Though his songwriting may be a little out there for the average mega-label, the presence of Sony head honcho Denise Donlan at his NXNE show could be an indication that Hewitt's talent could overshadow the need for standard pop songs. If a major label can throw money at a hack like Remy Shand, hopefully a real soul man like Hewitt will get the attention he deserves very soon. NH
- Exclaim Magazine


Down With The Ship (demo version)
appears on the Do Right Music compilation "Required Listening"

The Soft Society" Released Spring 2005


Feeling a bit camera shy


Afro-Kraut, Neu!-Soul, and just plain jaw dropping, have all been used to describe the sound of Shawn Hewitt. A sound that has teeth and a heroic heart.

Propelled by cinematic songs and staggering live shows the momentum continued to grow in 2003. According to Toronto's NOW Magazine, this is the "Dawn of Shawn".

Work then quickly began on what is known as the "UN" demo sessions. What emerged was a snapshot of trying to capture and nurture a sound. Thus, giving a small glimpse of what is to come. The demos were very rough. Spirit could have been derailed but it was clear that the raw soul and energy that existed in them had both a story to tell and a story to begin. A cover story in, NOW Magazine (May 8-14) emerged in the spring of 2003, spurring a sold out showcase at Toronto's historic Cameron House. Boasting local celebrities, curious hipsters, and a 2 hour lineup that barred even media and record company elite .

Within the months that followed, melt down's were avoided as resolve and strength were harnessed, building new alliances in the process. This was signified by memorable shows in support of (Astralwerks recording artist) K-OS, The Dears (MapleMusic recording artists), and inspiring performances as part of the 2004 EYE Weekly Canadian Music Week Showcase
and the now legendary Black Corners NXNE Showcase. A show so legendary that garnered Hewitt the Fans Choice Award for the festival's best unsigned artist.
It has become clear that with growing anticipation, the journey of Shawn Hewitt is poised to explode to a triumphant height.

Currently, work is in progress on a debut release.

::Something Magical is Brewing::