Friday, July 10, 2009

The Hemlocks: 1991 - 1994

By the beginning of 1991, Fraser and I were both gone from Starvation Army. I was given an abrupt pink slip; Fraser either quit or was fired, the story varies depending on who you talk to. So while the "new" SA was touring Europe with Green Day, Fraser and I started this project. Originally it was to have been a band, but apparently a classified ad stating, "ex-Starvation Army members looking for musicians" does not cause people to flock to your doorstep.

After 6 months of songwriting and frustration at not finding a bass player and drummer, we were ready to pack it in and call it a day. Fraser made plans to move to Laredo, Texas, of all places. I enrolled full-time at CSU, in an attempt to put my music career dreams in the dust bin where they most likely belonged.

All well and good, except Robert Griffin happened to be putting together a compilation CD right then. I decided we needed to be on it, as a final farewell to the Cleveland music scene. No band? No problem! We went into Mars recording studio armed with an acoustic guitar and a couple of lyric sheets, and recorded four songs. The two below appeared on "Hotel Cleveland, Vol. 3," on Scat Records. The other two songs we recorded, "Little Miss Hell" and "Prince of the Suburbs" seem to have gone missing from my musical library, so unfortunately I can not post them.

Fraser Sims - vocals
Tom Miller - guitar, tambourine

Heaven (version 1)
Wedding Day (version 1)

That should have been the end of the story, except Fraser moved back to Cleveland in 1993, and against our better judgment, we decided to give it a go one more time. After knocking the rust off our act by playing an acoustic show at the Literary Cafe, we put together the band lineup that is featured below. These 4 songs were recorded in a barn outside of Wooster, Ohio in the dead of winter 1994. It was cold and the owner/engineer was somewhat of a dick, but hey, it was only 10 bucks and hour.

Fraser Sims - lead vocals
Benjamin Daniels - bass
John Paturnak - drums
Tom Miller - guitars, backing vocals

Wedding Day (version 2)
My Alibi
10 Blocks
Sixes and Sevens

Not long after this, we played a show at the Grog Shop, and not long after that Fraser quit. For better or worse, these songs end up being the last music Mr. Sims has recorded to date. Listening to them now, it's easy to pick up on the sense of frustration in the lyrics: bad relationships, bad break-ups and associations reaching a dead end. Except, of course, reaching a dead end also means turning around and setting a new course. Time to move on. Regrets? Possibly, but does it really matter?

So now it's 2009 and I have decided to pull two more relics out of my closet and dust them off. The songs below are new "remixes." "Heaven (version 2)" is the Mars studio acoustic track; "Perfect Abandon" is a guitar and vocal-only rehearsal tape from 1993. I thought it would be fun to "finish" them by adding the bass and drums that have been missing all these years. Whether they are improved or desecrated is a moot point.

Fraser Sims - lead vocals
Tom Miller - guitars, drums, bass

Heaven (version 2)
Perfect Abandon

All songs copyright 1991, 1993, 1994 by Miller/Sims except "10 Blocks" which is copyright 1994 by Miller/Sims/Daniels. Thanks to Paul Slava for the image. Flyer by Rebble.

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