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Interview with Dom Hemalas
What got you into music, and if you had not gotten into music what would you be doing today?
I’ve been brought up in a musical household. My dad exposed me and my brothers to all sorts of sounds from day one. He listened to a lot of classical music. He was also very keen on bands that shaped my childhood, such as Pink Floyd, Dire Straits, Supertramp, Traffic, Elton John and many more. Later, my older brothers also showed me music as I was growing up that would have an impact on me. You could say I started my life by listening to music constantly. The transition of actually playing it happened during my secondary school back in Lebanon when I met my best friend who was (and still is) an incredible musician*. He had been playing guitar for just a few years but was already without a shadow of a doubt extremely gifted. Hanging out in school corridors and staircases while he played guitar, I would accompany him on percussion such as shakers and tambourines which was a lot of fun. Looking back, it feels like being a drummer was cast upon me by destiny and when I turned fourteen I dared asking my mum for a drumkit for my fourteenth birthday. If that path hadn’t presented itself to me, I most likely would have been involved in acting, movie making or another art form.
*Check out Charif Megarbane & his latest release “Marzipan”
What do you like to do when you are not playing music and how does that influence your creativity?
I’m a huge movie and tv fan. That’s one big influence that contributes to fuelling my creative tank; then it’s a matter of doing good use of it. Then of course there’s everyday life, especially romantic relationships that don’t only influence creativity but will unstoppably make their way to the creative boardroom of music making within me. On a lighter note, I’ve always loved comics. I sometimes also go through biographies of people I like. The last one was Dave Grohl’s recent book “The Storyteller”; it was even better as an audio book with Dave Grohl narrating it.
How long have you been making music?
39 years old – 14 years old = 25 years. A quarter of a century has a nicer ring to it!
Where are you based out of and how did that influence your music?
I’m based in Montreal. I got the opportunity to visit before moving there. I fell in love with this city and knew that if I could I’d pursue my university years there. Being here allowed me to embark on a journey that’s been full of awesome musical experiences. Mind you I was here to study business, but music was my later day and night mistress. This tradition carried on when I held a more “regular” job from nine to five until I could rejoice in what I loved doing most. Being here is full of all the ingredients needed for my music; namely being far from my family & important friends inspiration wise. Also, the very diverse cultural pool of people here is makes exploring and diving into all sorts of musical genres and sounds possible. The only thing keeping you from that is not walking out of your house.
Tell me about your most memorable shows, if you haven’t played live what is your vision for a live show?
Around the mid 2000’s we were playing Toronto with Heroes & Villains. I was on drums. I don’t remember the venue, but it was a hip joint. There was a vibe going on with the band and people had heard of us. The place was packed! It was an incredible experience. Everyone was dancing & even bouncing to the music. We did a cover of “I Want You Back” from the Jackson 5, and at some point I thought I saw the floor & ceiling slightly bend to the pulse of everyone bouncing to the rhythm! It felt like a huge responsibility was on my shoulders at that moment!
I’ve played with a lot of different bands throughout the years, and in general there are really good shows in all of them, as well as the more ordinary ones. A lot of that isn’t fully under our control. It depends who’s in the crowd, if it’s the right scene, and hopefully if it’s not a full moon! No really, the people there will have a big impact of whether or not the gig was a success; to me anyway.
I’ll be honest, at first I misunderstood the question and wrote about some of the favourite shows I went to. So here’s some bonus material for you avid readers!
One of the first shows I witnessed was Sigur Rós in 2002 at The Metropolis in Montreal. I was standing front and center literally just a few feet away from Jónsi, their amazing lead singer. What a great experience it was. Being at a show and feeling the sonic waves hit you cannot be replicated virtually. I was watching their stage setup carefully; it seemed ceremonial. Everything was carefully laid out on a huge carpet. They had little candles all over which made it super eerie. Their performance was incredible. I was blown away by their drummer who played so laid back yet so solid; Jónsi’s vocal prowess of course. It was a true magical and unique experience.
I saw The Strokes here in Montreal at the Cepsum around 2007 when they had just released First Impressions Of Earth. It was in a gymnasium converted into a venue. It was jam packed, and the crowd was tight like sardines. There was a mosh pit that reverberated through the whole crowd! The songs were a delight to hear in person after years of having enjoyed the first 3 LP’s. It was a simple setup, in a highly-resonating venue; in short, perfect for a kick-ass rock n’ roll show, and it was.
In 2010 I got to check out The Flaming Lips at the Metropolis in Montreal. This one was really incredibly moving to me. The Soft Bulletin and Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots are albums I love to this day and that take me back to an emotional bit of my life. Witnessing them live was really memorable. The music was even better live, and the way they strechted out the songs and made them intro a trip was great. And of course their live stunts totally fit (Wayne walking on the crowd in his giant bubble all the while singing!) and all the shiny glitter and big balloons hovering and bouncing over the crowd was mind-blowing.
Having played live thankfully more than a few times, the experiences I just shared are inspiring examples of what I aspire my band to be like!
What is your favorite venue to play at, and do you have any places you want to play that you have not already?
Casa Del Popolo in Montreal is way up there. That’s where we did our album launch late August 2023. It’s a room that’s got not only good acoustics and sound equipment, it’s also got this inexplicable mojo. I’m not one to like something by following a trend, but this place place has a stature as a cool legendary indie venue. The sound people are friendly, super competent and the staff is chill. They also have a lovely backstage that’s below the stage, with couches and a rock n’ roll vibe. The perfect place to hang out before hitting the stage.
When I lay out the “plan” to being on the road of “Making it”, I usually tell my bandmates “I’d like us to play the Casa Del Popolos of North-America!”. I don’t have specific venues in mind, but I’d love to play wherever people want this kind of sound. We’d meet likeminded and sounding bands while playing these hip venues. Also, I’d love to have the opportunity to play all the local festivals, like M for Montreal, Pop Montreal, Osheaga one day, as well as all the other fests in the rest of Canada and the US. We’re open for music!
If you could play any show with any lineup, who would be on the ticket?
I’ve asked myself that question many times, though not necessarily with all the bands I’m about to mention on the same bill. If Elegance On a Nudist Beach (EOANB) could play any show, the lineup appearing on the ticket would be: The Flaming Lips, Guided by Voices, The Brian Jonestown Massacre, Tame Impala, Sigur Rós, Sauf les Drones.
I’m trying to keep it realistic, otherwise retired and no longer active bands would be on the bill for sure.
What is some advice that you would give to someone who is just getting into making music and some advice that you would give to your younger self?
I’d recommend getting to play with people as much as possible. Playing music is really like a language. I know it’s easier said than done, but don’t be shy about starting out and playing with people. Go to jam nights and open mics in town! That’s a crucial stage where a lot of people give up early on. They lock themselves in, practicing over and over without results that can nurture their self-belief which in turn allows one to actually connect and communicate with other musicians. Playing live will do that! At the very least find another person to jam with.
Also, I’d say It’s important to record yourself with your phone at every opportunity, whether it be a low key jam on your own, with a friend or a whole band. Hearing yourself through a recording is the best way to improve. Be realistic with what your hear, but be kind and see it as an opportunity to better yourself!
If I could give my younger self some of the essence of the experience I’ve acquired, it would be: “It’s ok to say no once in a while, and focusing on yourself a little bit more. It’s ok to put your projects as a priority rather than taking on any project simply to evade your own. Be proud and don’t be too hard on yourself. Stay humble yet be confident. You got this.”
Of your songs which one means the most to you and why?
I might have a soft spot for Local Madman. I like that Beach Boy-esque vibe and in a way I think it’s an homage to them, though I hadn’t purposely intended to do that when writing it.
Which songs are your favorite to play and which get requested the most?
I really enjoy playing all the repertoire of course, but performing Local Madman is up there, The Shore Thing because of the riff. As far as which ones get requested more often are Without a Shadow of a Doubt, You Are My Nash and perhaps Girl On a Trampoline.
What is your creative process, and what inspires you to write your music?
My creative process? It’s a big question that I’m not sure I have the answer to at this point. Who knows, maybe it’s best to never truly know. As far as what inspires me to write my music, it’s definitely life events that hit harder than the everyday routine. It could be inspired by a romantic relationship, a friendship, a particular observation in life. Other music obviously fuels my own desire to create! And you know what, maybe routine and the non-eventful stuff can surface at times.
Do you have messages that you like to get across in your music, if so please tell me about them?
I like to believe I express uplifting messages in my songs. Of course, there’ll be interrogations about life’s mysteries in an existentialist way. There are a lot of introspective thoughts and pondering goin’ on there.
What are your plans for the future, and do you have anything that you want to spotlight that is coming up?
Now that the album’s been launched, we enter what I like to call phase 2. That includes getting the band on the road in specific destinations and try to get noticed. We’re aiming to get into some cool music festivals across Canada, and if there’s a chance in the US too! In the very near future, I’m playing a couple of gigs solo on acoustic guitar. In case this gets published on time, I’ll be live on the air K103.7 FM, Kahnawake’s awesome radio, Monday September 25th from 6pm to 7pm. It will be an interview and I’ll play a couple of tunes on the air. Stay tuned for future gigs as a band!
How can your fans best keep up to date with you, any socials you want people to check out?
We’re very active on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100091505203969
& Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/eleganceonanudistbeach/
Thank you so much and ‘hope to see you at a show soon. Please feel free to write, we’ll respond. Cheers!