INTERVIEW: Hemisphere

Hi guys, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?

Thanks, We’ve been great!  It’s been an interesting and challenging time, recording, and releasing the American Dreams album during these crises of the Covid-19 pandemic as well as the various issues related to Unity, Diversity and Equality in America.  We were initially slated to be in the studio for the album in April but due to Covid and the lock-down we did not get started until August on a compressed schedule. With health and safety at the ‘top-of-mind’, we really had to think out how it would all go.  Luckily, we were very pleased with the result, in part due to our engineer and mixer Peter Sprague, as well as flexibility by all the players and guest artists.  Also, we were really pleased that we could have the legendary Bernie Grundman master the album for us, a first for Hemisphere!

Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Transmission?

Well Transmission was really a special song for us, it has been around for a while and Mike McQuilken and I had originally written it to emphasize that so much information and opinions are formed thru media and now the social network.  If you really break it down, there is a different dynamic to stating an opinion on-line and having a real conversation with someone.  Whether it’s about a specific topic, or in some relationship it is so much healthier to have the conversation, than a one-way communication.  We can call get along if we are willing to communicate… and thus, the song ‘Transmission’.

Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?

As we talked about, the inspiration was out of the frustration of seeing so much conflict in the world that really does not need to be there.  Let’s start some real ‘Transmission’ folks and talk through our differences.  Let’s all work on minimizing the impact of offending each other with tweets, posts, and text!  It all starts with a conversation…

Any plans to release any sort of video for the track?

Absolutely, we have a video for the song that is a performance version that was shot here in San Diego, CA at Studio West.  We shot the whole album at that video session and there will be a streaming video of the whole album, as well as individual song releases over the coming months.  A few of the songs from the album (some of the deep cuts) will also get the ‘concept video. treatment, so look for those too!

The single comes off your new album American Dreams – what’s the story behind the title?

American Dreams was meant to re-launch Hemisphere, as it is our first release in quite a while.  We wanted to have a concept album that used a mash-up of styles, something that would be less easily categorized so the listener did not feel it belonged to any set genre or time.  We felt that we wanted to take the listener thru a journey, a walk-thru the American experience if you will, where every path is unique yet as Americans, we all have a common thread that binds us.  Now that the album is done, we have gotten ambitious, so we have decided to make the album part of a three-album set that will include the next album, ‘Unity’ and end with the album ‘Power to the People’.

How was the recording and writing process?

Well we started writing the album about 18 months ago, and as we talked about were ready to record in April.  Delaying till August was a bit frustrating, but the song ‘These are the Days’ came out of that time so I guess it was meant to be.  As far as recording, we did the rhythm tracks in three days live.  There are no click tracks and no sequencing on the album, everything was played live.  I’ve been quite the sequenced writer and performer in the past, but I wanted an organic album so it would be able to stand the test of time.

How did you go on balancing the rock with the Jazz on this album in particular?

It really wasn’t that hard.  In the 80’s, we were really pop-rock focused, driven by Mike McQuilken and me (Rob Shinno).  In later decades, we were more of a contemporary jazz and fusion band.  I guess we took our early experiences and put them in a time blender with our jazz heyday and voila, American Dreams we born!  It all felt very natural.

How did you go on balance and translate your visual ideas into the much sonic form and the other way around?

The sonic and visual are really a yin and yang for us.  Sometimes we have a sonic truth if you will, that we want to stick to that is the inspiration for a piece.  Sometimes there are strong visual aspects we want to use to drive the message across to the audience.  I’ve always considered myself a songwriter as well as a visual performance artist, so you do really get that in a Hemisphere show.  We want to create an immersive experience for folks to enjoy, something that will put them in a different world.

Where did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?

Personally, I often write very spontaneously.  When I was younger, I would sit there any say ‘now I need to write’ with a blank page in front of me and an instrument.  Now, I realize that the best ideas flow more organically, if I get an idea at 4am, I just jump out of bed and jot something down, or record something to myself in the car, or watching TV.  In fact, 90% of the material for American Dreams was inspired in that stream-of-conscious method.  Later, different band members will sit with me to refine the ideas, lyrically Don Bowman and I do all the writing.   

What else is happening next in Hemisphere’s world?

Well we want to be ready to perform live post-Covid!  We have the new album and a back catalog of songs to choose from.  In addition, about half of the songs for the next album ‘Unity’ are in the works, so unlike American Dreams I think we will test drive them live.  As we mentioned, stay tuned for our upcoming videos, and of course you can see any updates at hemisphereband.com

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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