Hearing Trees’ debut EP

Laid-back poetry, ghostly vocals found throughout breakout record

Photo by Darron Field

The four-piece rock group Hearing Trees recently debuted their self-titled EP. The band is made up of Graham Hnatiuk singing vocals, Ava Glendinning on guitar, Joel Heidinger playing bass, and drummer Kyle Kunkel.

The band has a sound not heard often. While the majority of new rock music has become aggressive and heavy, Hearing Trees stands out with a laid-back sound while still maintaining a distinctly rock music feel.

Even when the bass is driving in “Room For You” and the drums beat out a quick rhythm, the guitar and voice both have a slower melody with longer notes, giving the song a perfect balance.

Hnatiuk wrote poetry for four years before Hearing Trees came together. His skill with words is particularly noticeable in “Kites,” where the song begins with spoken verse about a soldier’s experiences at war. The descriptive verse coupled with Hnatiuk’s vocal inflections shows the soldier’s distress at his current state of affairs.

Head in the Sand records founder Michael P Falk praised the band for their “marriage of good lyrics with creative rock songs.”

Truly thoughtful and personal lyrics are somewhat rare in popular music, and Hnatiuk’s mastery of language is something that sets this band apart.

All musicians have influences and will often build their sound with a few key artists in mind. For Hearing Trees it’s R.E.M., Matthew Good, and, most noticeably, the Tragically Hip.

When “Love Oblivion” starts, it’s immediately reminiscent of the light, acoustic sound that the Tragically Hip utilizes frequently, and when the vocals begin the first verse, the similarity becomes more apparent. The lead singers for the two bands sing in around the same range and both have a sharp quality to their low voices that is not easily matched.

The band breaks away from getting caught in the trap of sounding too much like their idols with the songs “Kites” and “Shipwrecker.”

Using spoken word poetry in “Kites” is a risky technique, as the poetry goes on for over a minute, and with the wrong tone to the voice it could quickly become boring and make the listener skip the track.

Thankfully, Hnatiuk provides a dynamic performance where the listener can really sympathize with the desperation in the soldier’s voice.

Then, we have “Shipwrecker,” which is unlike any of the songs on the album. It’s dark and ominous, with a haunting melody played skillfully on guitar by Glendinning, and echoes in the vocals during the chorus are almost ghostly.

Using techniques like these to emotionally draw in the listener, who then becomes active in the consumption of the art, is what makes this band unlike any other in recent memory. This rock group’s debut EP is worth a listen.

Purchase the Hearing Trees’ album on Bandcamp at hearingtrees.bandcamp.com/track/kites