What the poets are doing

Hearing Trees incorporate poetry into its Tragically Hip-influenced sound


Despite just forming in February 2013, Winnipeg indie rock quartet Hearing Trees has already played around 14 shows and is in pre-production for its debut EP, which will be produced by Les Jupes frontman and Head in the Sand record label head Michael Petkau Falk.

“I’d been trying to start a band for years and then it finally happened,” vocalist/guitarist Graham Hnatiuk says. “I’d been playing at open mics, doing a lot of art stuff all over the place, looking for people. I started to think there was no one who wanted to make indie rock in Winnipeg because everyone wants to do lots of other stuff.”

Hnatiuk says he was finally able to solidify the current line-up of bassist Joel Heidinger, drummer Kyle Kunkel and guitarist Ava Glendinning last June.

“My influences are very different from the rest of the band,” Hnatiuk says. “I’m really influenced by Canadian rock, bands like the Tragically Hip. But, at the end of the day, we just all wanted to make music and we all wanted to perform and do the band thing. That won out over our individual egos.” 

While this might be Hnatiuk’s first time writing lyrics for a band, the 27-year-old used to run a political blog called Progressive Winnipeg and also publishes a poetry blog called Prose From 204 (prosefrom204.tumblr.com), which sometimes makes its way into the music.

“A lot of poetry doesn’t fit into the music necessarily, but I do try and find a way to get it in there,” he says. “Not sure if we can do this at the Uniter Fiver show since it’s only 25 minutes, but we’ve done improv music poetry sections during past shows. It’s an interesting experiment and it’s something we can get away with now, especially because no one knows who we are.”

Hearing Trees has also been drawing attention for creating Suite 421, a makeshift venue it founded over the summer.

“We had trouble getting gigs. I didn’t really know anybody and that was a real uphill battle at first so we said ‘Screw it, let’s just build our own stage.’ So we did and we kind of tripped it out,” Hnatiuk says. “I’m really into art as well, so I invited other artists to put their art on the wall. So far it’s been very successful and we try to do a show once a month.” 

Right now the band has just released a few demos on its Manitoba Music profile, but last month the group spent a day recording a song at the Mid-Ocean School of Media Arts and hopes to release the Petkau Falk-produced EP sometime this spring.

“I literally cold emailed [Petkau Falk] and he agreed to work with us,” Hnatiuk says. “We knew we needed a producer so I spent a day on Rdio [a music subscription service] listening to everything local and contacted Mike because the Les Jupes EP [Negative Space] that was released in September has the sort of feeling that we’re going for.”

Part of the series: The Uniter Fiver

Published in Volume 68, Number 16 of The Uniter (January 15, 2014)

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