From Newfoundland to Montreal, parents Thomson and Hamel keep the music alive.
Tint of Ink has been trying to interview Matthew J. Thomson and Danielle R. Hamel for way too long.
If you ever have the chance to check out their music (it’s free online)- do it. It’s a masterpiece. They are nothing like anything you’ve heard before, yet so appealing. Their songs will enlighten emotions you didn’t even realize you had. Hold on to your hats and have a listen, you’ll understand why I was so desperate for an interview.
Bumping into the musicians at a kid’s birthday party was the perfect opportunity to secure a spot with the busy parents of two.
Unfortunately, juggling their own kids’ schedules and then my daughter’s wonky sleep patterns- it became rescheduled more than I would like to admit.
Then one very late night, Thomson and Hamel finally managed to get the eldest son to bed and took a phone interview with their youngest on his mother’s lap. I asked questions while staring at a monitor of my three year old and I could hear their youngest, Lachlan cooing throughout their answers.
This is the life of a parent and these two try to balance parenting while also remaining dedicated to their music.
Before naptimes, pureed food and breastfeeding- music was much more accessible and easier to perform, but they manage nowadays and it comes from many years of playing together.
Back in 2002, Hamel visited Gander one weekend with a friend of hers, where Thomson is from. Hamel was living in Glovertown at the time.
“My friend knew Matthew and she whispered in my ear ‘he’s the hottest guy in Gander,’” said Danielle.
In which Thomson jokingly said to me, “which I was.”
It was a chance meeting at a record store in Central that brought the two together. Thomson pursued Hamel a few times and she finally accepted his offer.
They started working together a few years later, Hamel singing on a few of Thomson’s early records.
“I think he was just excited to have a girl to sing back up,” said Hamel.
Journey through Montreal
The first band the two had together was called The Corduroys. They lived in Montreal just after high school graduation and their friend Justin Avery moved there as well, and joined the band as a drummer. All they needed was a bass player.
“We were playing around in Montreal as a three piece, until one day this British guy walked up to us in a bar and said that we were pretty good but we needed a bass player and we said sure because he was really cool sounding. Turns out he was a wicked bass player. His name is Ryan Reed, we are still good friends with him,” recalled Thomson.
The married couple have a long history and have played with many people and moved to a few different areas within the country.
They hit up the Montreal scene now referred to as Open Fields, once Reed had joined the band.
“The Corduroys was very kind of poppy, high school rock, where as Open Fields were a bit more alt rock, noisier with louder guitars and stuff,” said Thomson.
Eventually Reed moved away and the band was in search for a bass player again. They put up ads and found it difficult receiving interest online. But one guy stood out.
Louis Charest who used to work at a radio station at Univeristé de Montréal was impressionable because every band from his set list but one, was in Thomson’s record collection.
Charest almost never had a chance when he showed up with a specific instrument.
“It’s funny because Justin and I said we would never be in a band with someone with a five string bass- he showed up with one,” laughed Thomson. “He is probably one of the best musicians I have ever played with. I really miss the guy.”
The band was moving along, doing shows and working together. Hamel and Thomson dating the whole time, their music being a part of the ride.
“We were writing everything, we were arranging it as a band. I would come up with ideas, Danielle would come up with melodies and we both came up with lyrics,” remembered Thomson. “That was our Montreal days and then I released my first solo album at the end of Montreal, and then our band broke up. We both felt like we were stuck in a rut in Montreal. We loved playing there and it was a lot of fun but after a while our jobs weren’t getting any better.”
All the memories are being embraced over the interview and every once and awhile Lachlan reminds us all that he is there with a faint noise. Just chilling with his mom, letting them reminisce.
Both Thomson and Hamel have educations with musical backgrounds that cannot be set aside with a head shake.
They decided to return to school, Hamel had completed her undergrad degree in Integrative Music from Concordia University and then pursued her Masters in Popular Music at University of Western Ontario located in London.
Thomson completed his undergrad in Electroacoustics and Sound Recording at Concordia University as well. He then followed Hamel to London to complete a graduate diploma in audio post production at Fanshawe College.
While in London, Thomson released a few solo albums that Hamel sang on and they recorded a Christmas album they sent home, it being their first time off the island during the holidays.
Along came a baby
Then Thurston came into the picture. A baby boy that would make his parents record in a whole new manner. With him came new ways to play music and new challenges to book shows. But that little boy got Hamel and Thomson home on the rock and happy to be here because they wanted to be close to family again.
“When we were home in February, we did the RPM challenge and recorded an album in one month and that was when Thurston was 8 months old and it turned out really well and we were really happy with it,” said Thomson. “That was the first officially release of Matthew J. Thomson and Danielle R. Hamel, which is a bit of a mouthful and it pretty much should have been that the whole time.”
Now with two kids in tow- you gotta ask, how do they do it?
“There has been times, when Thurston always wanted me to play with him, so he would be screaming at me, pulling me away from the piano. We would just have to practice with them in the house as best as we could,” said the mom of two. “The last show we were going to play, we practiced this summer. We were mostly doing quiet songs, it was so much trouble to practice, I had Lachlan in the baby carrier playing piano and little ear protectors on and after all that work, and it got cancelled.”
Hamel and Thomson recall times when one of them recorded, while the other hid in the closet with one of the kids and occupies him.
“We stopped being so picky about sound, if someone is running upstairs,” laughed Hamel. The constant pitter patter on the upper floor of their home cannot be avoided.
This is a passion they both have to put the energy into, even if the kids can make the process a bit longer- they can dance to the music their parents are playing and learn a thing or two about producing cool sound.
“This past year I have been a lot less proactive towards the music because of the kids but I have also been getting a craving, an itch and making me want to do it again,” said Thomson. “Even though it’s not something that we make very much money off of, it’s something I really love doing and I feel like it’s important to do. If we don’t have an album released within two years of each other, I feel like I have wasted a lot of time.”
His wife couldn’t agree more.
“It’s something that can make you feel like you’re still sane, still have some sort of outside interest. Something you can feel accomplished about,” said the musician.
Thomson was given a Music NL grant and hopes to complete a new album this year, while both him and Hamel are hoping to do the RPM challenge in February.
You can check them both out when they perform at the Levee on February 21.
For the best sound you have ever heard check out Matthew J. Thomson and Danielle R. Hamel’s bandcamp and youtube pages: