Many know of Jon Hynes from his time in a popular St. John’s band from the recent past called Trailer Camp. Some local bands, like Pet Vet, are keeping them alive in cover songs. Trailer Camp only disbanded a few years ago, when Jon moved to Ottawa.
He’s since been a busy multi-instrumentalist playing and/or touring with some great bands like Gentleman Reg, The Hidden Cameras, and Evening Hymns. He’s also toured with Hey Rosetta as a bassist and Donovan Woods as a guitarist. Which is to say that since he’s left Newfoundland, he’s been a jack of all instruments for other people’s music, albeit with a solo EP to his own name. Until today.
Jon’s solid debut solo LP, Watchful Creatures, dropped today, and it’s a great album to kick-off your slow-to-start summer: it skirts many genres, making each his own, and never dipping heavily enough into either to sound familiar – this album has a distinct sound, and a good one.
There’s a sparseness in many of the stand-out songs, like “The Later Ones” and “Forever, Kathleen” that build a lush soundscape you’ll sink right into. Catchy flirtations with pop, like “Lay Down and Dry” vary tempo and pace to keep things interesting. James Bunton (Ohbijou, Diamond Rings) produced the album, and really brought Jon’s best musical traits alive, “methodically,” over a two-year period.
Here’s track 5, “Opinion Piece,” that features gang vocals from many familiar locals: Romesh Thavanathan, Rajiv Thavanathan, Adam Hogan, Tim Baker, Steve Maloney, Chris Donnelly, Robbie Brett, and Allan Byrne.
The story behind how all these voices came together for the song is, in Jon’s words, a product of amazing timing. “I was finishing the mixing on the song in Ottawa when I had the idea of getting a choir to sing the last line of the song, ‘you had a lie for everyone.’”
He knew it’d make the song, but he needed a way to execute it ASAP, because of a timeline. He was texting with his friend Adam Hogan of Hey Rosetta. “Adam casually said ‘yeah, we have a fun night planned. We’re recording gang vocals on some Secret Connection songs.’ Well holy shit! A studio full of friends getting ready to sing gang vocals? Hot damn! I called him immediately and asked if they would take a breather from SC tunes and lay down a few tracks on my song.”
Within less than twenty-four hours Romesh had the tracks back to Jon. “I was tickled pink. Not only did I get my choir but it was also done by some of my nearest and dearest friends singing their hearts out on a cold slushy night in St. John’s. It was very humbling.”
The song itself doesn’t have such friendly origins. It was written after Hynes was mugged. “I was tackled down, football style, and held in a submission hold, essentially, until I gave up my phone. It could have been a lot worse, but I left the scene unharmed.”
He says he was shaken by the whole thing for a few months. “The whole violation thing was prevalent at first but then I started to look at it from the perspective of the jumpers. I knew there was a song in there somewhere so I started writing.”
It was originally recorded as a heavy rock song, “but after sitting on it for a while I felt it was too aggressive. So I reworked the song until I came up with the version on Watchful Creatures. I’m really proud of it.”
Pick up a copy of Watchful Creatures at Fred’s. It’s also on Bandcamp and iTunes in digital form.
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