Hemi: Hard Hitting Heavy Metal From Chicago
Formed in 2003 by a group of longtime friends including vocalist Trent Zuberi and drummer Mike Cieplik, Hemi arose from the Midwestern USA city of Chicago and takes its name from the popular engine type.
A group of gearheads, the band originally ran with stages names such as ‘Johnny Le Mans’ and ‘Trent Stang,’ but eventually decided this was too silly for their style of music. As such, the band dropped the stage names and focused more on their style of heavy metal, which takes inspiration from the Big Four of thrash metal, Black Sabbath, and Manowar.
Given their unique sound throughout the years, the band has had much success in marketing their music to labels and radio stations. Unfortunately, the band has been mired by lineup changes, which has seen the band go through 10 individual members before finally locking down its lineup ten years after inception.
“It always happened right when something was about to hit. We’d record our material, get it out to the label, and then people left. It was always moments like that. We’d have some momentum going and people would leave,” says Zuberi . “We’re lucky that we somehow never died. I’ve seen a lot of bands with a lot more hype and momentum lose two members and never rebound.”
Despite losing so many members over the years and missing countless chances as a result, Hemi has powered on until their luck finally changes in 2013 with the recruitment of Tim Wilkens on guitar. It was with the introduction of Wilkens that the band began incorporating elements of melodic death metal and deathcore, for he’s greatly influenced by the likes of In Flames, Arch Enemy, After the Burial, and Sylosis, but also non-metal genres like hip hop.
“I listen to so much music. I’m always listening to new music every day, not just metal. I listen to as much hip hop as I do metal. I’m all over the place,” says Wilkens, who is now the band’s primary composer. “I just write riffs, throw them down, put on the phone, and make it all into a song. I don’t really have a method to it.”
“He’s much more eclectic than me and the drummer,” says Zuberi. “It’s a nice blend. He brings in the new, I bring the old.”
Even after their success with Wilkens’ entry into the band, Hemi has decided to remain a trio, even though their music is very dual guitar-centric. To remedy this situation they’ve recruited a live guitarist to fill in the ranks. This allows for the core band to remain a trio, thus easing the writing process while allowing for the band’s music to be played live as it was written.
Taking a slower than normal approach to writing their music, Hemi is a band that doesn’t want to crank out quick tunes. Instead, they’d rather write meaningful songs that will stand the test of time.
“We could sacrifice quality for speed but we’d rather not,” says Zuberi. “I do a lot of metaphors for feeling…emotions really. I’ll really turn it up a notch if there’s something I’m going through. I’ll write a story around it.”
Currently writing their next album, Hemi plans to release around eight tracks total. In the meantime, fans will soon be able to sink their teeth into their latest two track extended play ‘MotorHemi,’ which is a tribute to the late Lemmy Kilmister and features covers of two lesser known Motorhead tracks ‘Deaf Forever’ and ‘In the Black.’ To further whet your appetite, the band plans to take their recent live performance on 88.3 FM Chicago and release it as a special edition live album.
Currently staying low while their live guitarist settles down after recently getting married and honeymooning, the band is focused on most on writing their upcoming fourth album. Come fall, the band plans to venture out of Chicago on a tour towards Colorado and possibly Scotland. In the meantime, the band will be playing their favorite local clubs in the Chicago area.