Volume 94, Issue 66

Friday, January 19, 2001


Hennessey brings AM radio back to life

Plasticine - not just for kids

Hennessey brings AM radio back to life

Gazette File Photo
WHERE'S THE REST OF MY FACE? The kids from Hennessy experience some fragmentation issues...

By Jeff Warren
Gazette Staff.

Inspiration can be found in the most interesting places.

For Canadian pop band Hennessey, their story is one of art imitating art. The band's name ceremoniously refers to Herb Hennessey, the unique character symbolizing a life less than ordinary in Ernest Buckler's novel, The Mountain and the Valley. Clearly, one character's eccentricity is another band's philosophy. As lead vocalist Pamela Brennan explains, literature can be an endless fountain of musical inspiration.

"Rory [Dyck, vocalist and guitarist] is the chief songwriter in the band and an English graduate, so he's a big reader. Most of the songs on our first album, Dig It Up, were based on different novels he had read and characters he had taken from everything from Shakespeare to Daniel Richler."

Shades of literary inspiration can also be found on Hennessey's latest album, Life on AM Radio, but in a somewhat less obvious form. While some of the album's lyrics read like a T.S. Eliot poem, Brennan insists that real life was the motivation this time around.

"The songs on the new album have been more centred around real characters, human life experiences and people we have met, more so than the literary references," she says.

The music on Life on AM Radio is, for Brennan, also more real, a fact she contributes to the musical roles shared between her and Dyck. "We both come from different influences," she explains. "I listen to a lot of Motown and '60s pop, while Rory is a big Beatles fan."

Gazette File Photo
OH, HERE IT IS! Problem solved. hennessey gets ready to rock the house tonight at The Spoke

Brennan continues, boasting gaily, "I think when Rory gets stuck with something, he turns to me and I come up with a pop sensibility, melody wise. I think it helps a lot to have the two different influences come out in our music."

Hennessey's music, successful because of its mind-tickling guitar melodies, also relies heavily on Brennan's sweet, simple vocal style. "We definitely approached this album with vocals in mind," Brennan admits. "Our first album was certainly more rock and I think the vocals were buried beneath the drive of the songs. This time we put the vocals right up front, therefore making sure we had singable melodies. We're going in a new direction, making more radio-friendly, pop-oriented music."

For Brennan, this new direction seems to be the right one. "It took us a couple of years to figure out what kind of music we wanted to play. This new album is cohesive and we are going to try and stick with this sound," she says. "We just want people to be able to hear the music and for that to happen, it can't be too convoluted to make it to the air waves."

Having Hennessey's music make it to the airwaves is something Brennan has thought about for a long time – ever since the days of AM radio, in fact. "I listened to radio so much when I was a kid that it obviously spawned my desire to pursue a musical career," she says.

Of course, once radio had sunk its teeth into Brennan, she knew she was done. As she explains, "I used to tape AM radio on my brand new cassette player and I would listen to my tapes over and over again and then I would make new tapes out of them. To turn on AM radio now, just to hear the frequency and the voices, brings back all these great memories of when we were innocent and the music was pure and went straight to the heart."

Like author Buckler's wonderful character, the memory of AM radio is a defining inspirational moment in Hennessey's story. "A few years ago we took a break and went to Cuba to hang out," Brennan reminisces. "We spent a great week in the sun with an AM radio on somebody's boat. Just the feeling we got from it was a cool feeling and we hope the album feels that way too."

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