When the members of Shanneyganock take to the stage at its first Up the Pond concert at Quidi Vidi Lake Tuesday, fans will notice there’s less of them.
Well, less of one of them, at least.
Longtime singer and accordion/mandolin/bouzouki player Mark Hiscock has lost more than 70 pounds since February, with no plans to stop his new health routine any time soon.
“It was from too many years of living too good, plus I’m not getting any younger,” Hiscock explained.
Hiscock, who said he’s always been husky, even as a child, said his weight often affected his musical performance. He’d lose his breath easily while singing, find it difficult to stand up for entire shows, and be so absolutely knackered once a gig was finished, he’d go straight to bed rather than hang out with the guys.
“Mark has missed a lot of what’s happened in this band because he’s had to go home to bed,” said bandmate Chris Andrews.
“He works hard, a lot harder than others, and he’d be completely destroyed after a show. It was taking a toll on him.”
Something clicked for Hiscock earlier this year when he went to get life insurance and was denied.
“They said, ‘We can’t accept you. You’ve got to lose 40 pounds and then re-apply,’” Hiscock said. “I thought, I know people who smoke to the hilt and they have life insurance.”
Hiscock signed up for Weight Watchers and once he started eating as per their point system, the weight started coming off. He’s made little changes, like trading fries for salad and whole eggs for just egg whites, but otherwise generally hasn’t cut out any specific foods; he just eats less of them. Thanks to a Weight Watchers app on his iPhone, Hiscock can find out the points value of any food before he decides what to eat — something that’s particularly useful when the band is on the road, with beer and pub food coming at them from all angles.
“Whoever thought that a piece of steak could be that big,” Hiscock said, laughing, looking at the palm of his hand.
Hiscock, who said he couldn’t walk the length of the harbourfront before without feeling short-winded, walks at least five kilometres a day. If the weather’s bad, he exercises indoors using his Wii. So far, he’s gone from a size 54 to 44 waist in pants, and can fit into size XL shirts.
“I was 20 years old when I last fit into that size,” Hiscock said, chuckling.
When it comes to performing, Hiscock finds he has more energy. Though his voice hasn’t changed due to his weight loss, his lung capacity has increased and his voice is therefore stronger, he said.
He hasn’t yet met his weight goal — and has no set deadline to do so — but has already inspired others to choose a healthier lifestyle, including fans on Facebook, some of whom wish him luck before each weigh-in, and have followed his lead in committing to losing weight themselves.
“I don’t ever want to go back,” Hiscock said. “Knowing where I was and where I can be, I never want to be like that again. It makes you feel great; it’s an accomplishment.”
Andrew said the rest of Shanneyganock is proud of Hiscock.
“It’s been nothing but positive, for all of us,” he said.
Together for about 16 years, Shanneyganock started out playing traditional Newfoundland music and original ballads and shanties in local pubs. These days, they’ve got eight albums, five MusicNL awards and a 2008 East Coast Music Award under their (shrinking) belts. They’ve just returned home from a tour of Alberta.
Shanneyganock has hosted a Christmas show at the Delta Hotel in St. John’s for the past six years, but this is the first time for Up the Pond, which will see them performing a pre-regatta show Tuesday evening for ages 19 and older, with special guests Spirit of the West and local rock band Traces in the parking lot on the north side of the lake, across from the Royal Canadian Legion.
“This is something we’ve talked about doing for years, and we’re not holding back on anything,” Andrews explained. “There’ll be big sound, big lights and really good bar prices.”
The band is planning to give a portion of the proceeds to the Royal St. John’s Regatta Committee and the Kinsmen, and is also making the event a fundraiser for the Community Food Sharing Network. Concert-goers are asked to bring a non perishable food item, and the total collection will be matched by Shanneyganock after the show.
Though it meant a lot of work — including organizing the closure of The Boulevard and renting portapotties — Hiscock and Andrews are excited for the event, and hope it will catch on.
“I’m positive it will be an annual thing,” Andrews said.
Up the Pond will happen rain or shine, with gates opening at 5 p.m. Tickets are available at the Mile One Centre box office or by calling 576-7657, or online at www.admission.com.