Band making name for fledgling group, show set for Friday

Justin Brake
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Just six months since playing their first gig together a group of St. John's musicians are en route to the fore of the province's music scene.

Before folk and roots-rock indie outfit Matthew Hornell and The Diamond Minds even put out a record they were sharing stages with Elliott Brood, The Novaks and Hey Rosetta!.

Members of the folk and roots indie band Matthew Hornell and The Diamond Minds, featuring Hornell of Grand Falls-Windsor in addition to Jonathan Bungay, Paddy Byrne and Josh Borden will debut their self-titled album Friday at The Ship Pub. Submitted phot

Just six months since playing their first gig together a group of St. John's musicians are en route to the fore of the province's music scene.

Before folk and roots-rock indie outfit Matthew Hornell and The Diamond Minds even put out a record they were sharing stages with Elliott Brood, The Novaks and Hey Rosetta!.

They have also garnered significant attention from media and audiences around the province.

In December, Hornell, who hails from Grand Falls-Windsor, and bandmates Jonathan Bungay, Paddy Byrne, and Josh Borden, were voted Best New Band at local alternative weekly The Scope's Best of St. John's Awards and, a week or so later, named the Band to Watch For 2010 by The Newfoundland Herald.

On Friday they will celebrate the release of their highly anticipated self-titled debut at The Ship Pub in St. John's.

The band's music is marked by Hornell's honest and poetic lyrics, sometimes elegiac and often esoteric, and consistently infectious upbeat melodies the lead singer attributes to a vivacity rooted in the band's live performances.

Reminiscing about their first gig together last July at The Rose and Thistle, Hornell said there was something unique about the bond he and his bandmates shared with the crowd that night.

"It was a tight room and it was loud but it was also really intimate, so the audience was right up close, nowhere to run," he laughed.

"We had only practised a few times, but everyone liked the energy and it seems like we'd really beefed up the songs."

As a result, they have built the band's performances, and subsequently its new tunes, on the premise that if what is offered is received with that same level of enthusiasm, the band will receive the energy it needs to produce.

By fall they entered the studio to lay down tracks for the new record.

"It was certainly a humbling experience," Hornell said.

"We went in there all really excited, a little bit nervous because we recorded two months after Josh had joined us."

Leo Bruce of Henge Facilities recorded, mixed, mastered, and produced the record, Hornell said.

"It seemed he really believed in the project."

With guest performances by Chris Kirby, Sherry Ryan, Tom Power, Katie Baggs, Benjamin Rigby, Tiffany Hancock, Leslie Hewlett and Richard St. Onge, the album is well fortified throughout.

"Khaki Dodgers," a staple at the band's live shows, is the story of how Hornell's grandmother met and fell in love with her grandfather, who was brought to Buchans to play for for the mining town's senior men's hockey team in the 1950s.

"Nan used to sneak on the Bullet and her father wouldn't know about it," he says, explaining how she would travel from Millertown Junction to Buchans to see her future husband play hockey.

"Red Crescent" is a significant accomplishment. Its opening cello line, the haunting background vocals of Leslie Hewlett and Hornell's sombre tone all contribute to what many will likely recognize as a future staple in the band's repertoire.

It depicts a transition from being a "proud Newfoundlander" to accepting the prairies as a new home for a summer, Hornell explained.

"This one night we ... were all sitting in the back of this truck looking at the stars, and the moon was like a thumbnail crescent of red. And then falling in love with a place that you're not really sure if you should."

It was written over the course of two years, a time frame not typical of all his songs, he said.

"Easy on Me," a fan favourite of former folk ensemble Dead Language, which Hornell and Bungay formed in 2008 with Baggs and Rigby, was reworked as a dense and fast-paced but still danceable number for the album.

Unlike "Red Crescent," it was written in about four minutes, Hornell said.

With plans to tour the Atlantic provinces later this month, including a few showcase spots at the East Coast Music Awards in Cape Breton, The Diamond Minds are positioning themselves to be the next in a line of quality bands from the province to leave a mark on the Canadian indie music scene.

They will share the stage with Andrew James O'Brien and The Subtitles, and will be joined by the majority of those who made guest appearances on the album, at their CD release party Friday at The Ship.

The show gets underway at 11 p.m. and admission is $10 or $20 with CD.

Organizations: The Newfoundland Herald, The Ship Pub, Red Crescent

Geographic location: St. John's, Grand Falls-Windsor, Buchans Millertown Junction Cape Breton

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Recent comments

  • Tanya
    July 02, 2010 - 13:33

    Way to go Matty! We're very proud of you and can't wait to pick up our copy of your CD!

    T

  • Randy
    July 02, 2010 - 13:33

    Really proud of you Matthew. We always thought you were gifted. Can't wait to get your CD.

  • Daniel
    July 02, 2010 - 13:26

    I'll be there. Some proud of my boy!

  • Feener
    July 02, 2010 - 13:26

    Congrats Matthew and keep up the good work. I knew Springsteen would have an impact on you someday (ha)!
    Dave

  • Moo
    July 02, 2010 - 13:13

    Way to go Paddy and Band.
    Congrats.

  • Sherri
    July 02, 2010 - 13:12

    Whoot! This is awesome matty! I will surely be there to pick up my CD come Friday! Way to go!

  • Tanya
    July 01, 2010 - 20:22

    Way to go Matty! We're very proud of you and can't wait to pick up our copy of your CD!

    T

  • Randy
    July 01, 2010 - 20:22

    Really proud of you Matthew. We always thought you were gifted. Can't wait to get your CD.

  • Daniel
    July 01, 2010 - 20:13

    I'll be there. Some proud of my boy!

  • Feener
    July 01, 2010 - 20:13

    Congrats Matthew and keep up the good work. I knew Springsteen would have an impact on you someday (ha)!
    Dave

  • Moo
    July 01, 2010 - 19:52

    Way to go Paddy and Band.
    Congrats.

  • Sherri
    July 01, 2010 - 19:49

    Whoot! This is awesome matty! I will surely be there to pick up my CD come Friday! Way to go!