All you need are ears.
Like for all of us, the pandemic presented Montreal-based multi-instrumentalist Dom Hemalas aka Elegance On a Nudist Beach, with more questions than answers. Locked in his basement and isolated from the outside, he chose a path of positivity rather than wallow; Hemalas threw himself into his music, recorded songs written past and present, and relished the burden of playing all parts.
Three years later, his self-titled and fully self-created LP “Elegance On a Nudist Beach” is a reality.
Hemalas is responsible for the entirety of the album’s songwriting, vocals, instrumentals, mixing, and mastering. That includes the lead single from the Lebanese Canadian musician’s project, “Without a Shadow of a Doubt.”
On the fifth song of the 10-track album, Hemalas delivers a cryptic tale of time, anguish, and fear over a psychedelic instrumental rife with flavor.
“And why don’t you take a pause?
From all those strings in your heart
And I know it’s me, yeah I’ve noticed too
From the start… Ooohhhh…”
It took Hemalas three years to produce the project – which was released online on Aug. 14 – since the start of recording, but that’s not when the concept began. Undertaking such a task had been on his mind since adolescence – a combined urgency from a Crohn’s disease diagnosis seven years ago, an invasive surgery four years ago, and a COVID infection while at his most vulnerable in 2020 pushed him to fulfill his long-lost goal of a solo album.
In fact, Hemalas had planned this for so long that the album’s name was decided years before while he was touring with his previous band, Heroes & Villains.
“The title was an inside joke that came up on the nudist beach in Toronto,” Hemalas explained. “I was standing there wearing my blazer when everyone around wasn’t wearing anything. I declared right then and there, ‘If one day I get to record my solo album, it’ll be called Elegance On a Nudist Beach.’”
His friends agreed, and they snapped some pictures of him displaying his elegance on the nudist beach. The album cover comes from a photo taken of Hemalas on that day.
Doing it all by himself was a big deal to Hemalas, but there was a time when he thought about looking for outside help to finish the album.
“After stumbling on the title from George Martin’s book, ‘All You Need Is Ears,’ I felt fuelled with the faith I could pull it off,” the artist said.
It wasn’t an easy process, but Hemalas worked with what he had. His basement was his main studio, though later in the pandemic, he utilized his jam space in the east end of Montreal to record late at night, when necessary.
“The learning curve was huge – from production to songwriting to becoming more proficient on the bass and piano,” Hemalas explained. “Most of the songs were about 70 percent there early on, but once they were up for recording, occasional riffs or a whole new section had to be come up with on the spot.”
Earlier this year, Hemalas had the idea of forming a band to perform his project in front of a live audience. That meant putting together a band – he could record it all himself, but a live performance is another beast.
“After many hours putting this LP together with a lot of attention to detail, the idea of only releasing it online wasn’t fathomable,” Hemalas said.
The multi-instrumentalist has been active in the Montreal music scene for close to 20 years. If you stay in any local music scene for that long, you’re bound to know a great musician or two. Fortunately for Hemalas’s sake, he knows more than two.
Hemalas assigned the role of lead singer and guitarist to himself, then enlisted the help of Dave Lines (keyboard/piano), John Gurnsey (bass), Chuck Doucet (lead guitar), and Yoann Gasniere (drums) to solidify the crew.