TTH and the Mysterious Seymour Stein

It was in Brighton, England during The Great Escape festival. Hundreds of bands were buzzing around the city, all of them trying their hardest to stand out, to maybe catch a break and ‘make it’ – whatever that even means anymore. The city was alive. Music pleasingly filled the air on every inch of the cobblestone streets at all hours of the night, the English Channel hugged the miles of picturesque coastline that went on for what seemed like forever. The bar was called “The Prince Albert”. As soon as we stepped in a familiar scent breezed through the room, spawning a flood of remembrance. It’s a scent that only a handful of bars in the world have. It’s the smell of history, of a timeless venue; of different generations, their sounds and ideals. It’s thirty years of the walls and floors soaking up sweat and beer and spilled whiskey, the blood dripped from fights and the lusting fragrance of hormones still sifting lasciviously in the air. It’s the musty smell of mold, cheap floor cleaner, the old wooden beams and broken guitar strings; the puke, tears, joy, laughter, epiphanies, revelations, and the ghosts of a thousand bands past and their infinite burning parade of songs and stories. It’s the most beautiful smell you could ever imagine, it says everything you could ever want it to say and takes you through the strides of a beautiful history. And in the end, when the ghosts of rock and roll surround you and willingly fill you in on all their secrets, it makes you a part of it, too – you’re a part of the history. It was there that it happened.

We did sound-check, sat around for a bit with a few pals and waited to go on. The bar owner, Billy – an excessively intense, say what’s on his mind kind of guy – approached us. “I don’t mean to alarm you, but...” he said in that fantastic British accent they all have. He leaned forward and grabbed us both by the shoulders, a life’s worth of anticipation hinging on his next words. “SEYMOUR F#$KING STEIN IS HERE!”

“Oh really?” Bruce and I answered simultaneously. Billy’s eyes were glowing, his face exuded all the contentment a man would ever need. He pranced away like a child off to bed on Christmas Eve.

“Who’s Seymour Stein?” I asked Bruce. “I was gonna ask ya the same thing,” he responded.

With a packed bar and the mysterious Seymour Stein lurking somewhere in the crowd, we started our set. The show couldn’t have gone any better. It was our last gig in the UK and we wanted to sweat out every last drop of energy left in us. The room was full, the applause seemed fit for royalty, everything went the way you always hope it does. Afterwards, it seemed as though everyone in the bar wanted to buy us a drink. Beer, whiskey, shots and whatever else found our hands and stomachs. There was no possible way we could consume the entirety of it. We wished we could teleport over all our alcoholic Cape Breton pals to help us put a dent in it. Our friends from Finland, who we met the day before, were there. They told us about their plans to bring us to their country, how beautiful the women were there. We sat off in the corner discussing plans with our new allies, adrenalin from the show still in us, enthusiasm for the future filling our faces with smiles.

The door burst open and Billy rushed through. “There you are you bloody f@*king idiots!” he yelled in his think British brogue. “SEYMOUR F@#KING STEIN IS WAITING UPSTAIRS TO MEET YOU!” “Is he?” I asked. “GET UP THERE...NOW!” He roared.

Judging from the urgency in Billy’s voice, we figured we should probably go meet this mysterious Seymour Stein. We politely told our Finnish friends we’d be back shortly and excused ourselves from the table. We had no idea who Seymour Stein was, but from the way things were going, it sounded like he was at least more important than a pack of Maple Leaf hot-dogs.

We followed Billy up the stairs as he ranted. “I was looking all over the god damned bar for the last forty-five minutes to find you fools,” he scolded. We apologized profusely, as Canadians do in most situations, especially when getting yelled at.

We reached the top of the stairs and Billy pointed down a hallway. “There he is,” he whispered. A man stood by himself leaning against the wall with a cane in hand. He was bald with a little bit of white hair still holding on. He was old, probably older than any tree I’ve ever seen - maybe older than any tree on the planet. And then I realized. I realized Billy’s excitement, the reason for the excessive exuberance.

“Bilbo...” Bruce uttered quietly to himself.

Seymour Stein was the guy who played the old (very old) version of Bilbo Baggins in The Lord of The Rings trilogy. We were coming face to face with a man who stood side by side on the silver screen with the likes of Rudy and Elijah Wood! ‘Holy sweet Jesus’ I thought to myself. Billy pushed us towards him like a friend at a teen dance urging on a nervous buddy to talk to a girl he likes.

“Uhhh... how’s she goin’, Seymour?” I asked. “Wonderful,” he responded.

I shook his hand softly, as softly as I could so not to break his age old, ancient and weathered Hobbit fingers. We introduced ourselves, told him we were from Nova Scotia. He said that he loved Halifax, that every time he’s there he orders lobster when he eats out. Before then I never met anyone who could afford to order a lobster at a restaurant, but hey, this was Bilbo Baggins, he could probably afford dessert, too!!!

“I just wanted to stick around to meet you and say that I really enjoyed your show. You have a really full sound and a lot of energy,” he said.

That was pretty cool to hear, especially coming from the mouth of Bilbo Baggins. “Thanks so much, sir,” we told him.

He asked if he could have a copy of our album and said that he was very interested in hearing it. We gave him a copy and he thanked us. He was very kind, as Hobbits typically are. I wondered if maybe he was still in touch with AEROSMITH’S DAUGHTER, the pretty Elven Princess with the big lips from the Lord of the Rings trilogy. That would be cool if he let her hear it! And maybe she could pass it on to her father, AEROSMITH HIMSELF, who could maybe get us a slot opening for his band, AEROSMITH. My mind was abuzz.

We chatted for a little bit and talked about standard things that you’d say to a famous and incredibly old Hobbit. He eventually said that he had to get going. We shook hands, softly, and walked him to the door. He waddled off into the night, cane held tightly in one hand and CD in other – who knew what adventures he’d find, what quests through magical lands he’d embark on?

We walked downstairs, impossibly large grins on our faces. Neither of us could believe we just got to hang out with a big celebrity like Bilbo Baggins. Harrison Ford once accidently stepped on my cousins foot at a bar and JFK asked my grandmother out on a date, but I personally haven’t had many run ins with a celebrity as big as Bilbo.

We felt pretty good: we just met Bilbo Baggins, we played a great show to a great crowd, we were in England and had a table full of drinks in front of us. Not too shabby, wha? We sat back down. “Look up what other movies he was in,” I asked Bruce. Bruce, being the technological wizard that he is, whipped out his state of the art smart phone, tapped into the bar’s Wifi source and began surfing the net with such mastery and grace that you’d swear he was a young Gandalf the Grey, soon to be the leader of The Fellowship of the Ring.

“Uhh... it looks like he didn’t play Bilbo at all!” Bruce said, dejected. What did he mean? How was this possible? My heart sank. “But...but...” I stuttered

Bruce showed me the screen. Although older than any tree I’ve ever encountered, although friendly as a real life Hobbit, Seymour Stein was not the man who played Bilbo Baggins. Seymour Stein was in fact one of the most important and influential people in the entire music industry. He was the Vice President of Warner Bros Records, the President of Sire Records and had been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He discovered and signed Madonna, The Ramones, The Talking Heads, Depeche Mode, The Smiths and a whole pile of other world famous bands, so we discovered.

“Huh... never woulda guessed that,” I said to Bruce. “Nice fella though, eh?” Bruce replied. “Couldn’t get any nicer.”

And so it was in Brighton, England, at a bar called The Prince Albert that Seymour Stein, the guy who signed The Ramones, Madonna, The talking heads, and a long list of some of the world’s most famous bands, stuck around for 45 minutes to meet us two Cape Bretoners who thought he was Bilbo Baggins. The people you meet sometimes, eh?

 
 

Here's a picture of Bilbo Baggins on the left and Seymour Stein on the right. I know we're stupid, but we weren't that far off, right!?

Madonna's Parents
Madonna's Parents

Also, In case you were wondering, this is what Madonna's Parents look like:

2014 Year in Review: The Best of the Best

Hello good friends. As 2014 comes to a close, it’s time to look back at the year that was. We’ve been incredibly fortunate to have a successful year and want to thank each and every one of you for all the support along the way. You’ve listened to our music, came to our shows, watched our videos, gave us places to sleep, made us delicious meals and provided great company. In the last year we released our record in Europe, played in Iceland, Germany, Austria, Scotland and all across Canada. We won 5 Music Nova Scotia Awards and 2 East Coast Music Awards, and played with a lot of great bands from around the world. To sum it all up, we want to hand out some awards of our own to some very deserving recipients. Nicest Person in the World

Question: In what circumstances does an opening band end up with 15-year-old Scotch in one hand and incredibly delicious “Caramel Explosion” Fudge in the other? Answer: When playing with Matt Andersen.

In addition to being one of the most talented performers on the planet, the incomparable Matt Andersen is also one of the nicest fellas around. He gave us Scotch, Fudge, Sandwiches, fresh Carrot sticks, and let me play his sweet acoustic guitar. He instantly makes you feel like you've known him your whole life. Small town New Brunswick kindness certainly hasn't left Mr. Andersen since becoming one of the most well known artists in Canada. Props to that, Matt, you certainly deserve this one! Runners Up: Bruce's Mom, Kailash Satyarthi, Mike's Mom, Kevin Vickers

Best New Best Friends

Best New Best Friends
Best New Best Friends

Here's a picture of us and "The Killers" backstage after we played together in PEI. In the background, the mountainous desert terrain of Charlottetown quietly peers over our newfound friendship.

Best New Fan

Best New Fan
Best New Fan

She knew all the words to "Berlin Wall"

Best German Group Choreographed Dance Sequence to a Town Heroes Song While Wearing Pink

Good times!
Good times!

Their routine for "New York City" was unreal

Best Flight

We were lucky enough to get on the Inaugural flight for Europe Airpost out of Halifax. There was food on the plane, it landed safely, and, to top it all off, at the end of the flight we were awarded with a Diploma. I dropped out of university after 2 years in order to pursue music. Now, if music happens to fail me, I have this prestigious Diploma from Europe Airpost to fall back on.

Happy Bruce
Happy Bruce

Below, Bruce can't contain his excitement after arriving in Glasgow and receiving his Diploma.

Best Show We Played

Seahorse Tavern
Seahorse Tavern

We played some pretty incredible shows this year. From playing with our Best New Best Friends “The Killers” in PEI, opening for "The New Pornographers" at the Canadian Beach Volley Ball Championship, to our showcase at Iceland Airwaves. But, we’re going to stick close to home and give this award to our final show at The Seahorse Tavern on Argyle Street. Can’t ask for much more than a sold out room, a billion friends, crowd-surfing, two of our favourite bands opening - Floodland and Scrapes - and the entire bar singing along to our songs - all at our favourite venue in the city a few days before it closes. GOOD TIMES!

Best Band We Saw

Playing festivals and shows in various places in the world gives us the opportunity to see a lot of bands. In Vienna, we got to see talented Swedish sisters, First Aid Kit. Their harmonies, catchy pop songs, musicianship and funny banter between songs blew the entire crowd away. Check them out if you haven't yet! Honourable mention: Hector Bizerk - a Scottish Hip Hop group with one of the best drummers around Go Go Berlin- like Kings of Leon when they were cool

Facebook Status of the Year

This honour goes to our friend and the talented drummer of "Alert the Medic", Dale Wilson. With his post: "I think Access Nova Scotia is the least accessible place in Nova Scotia", he takes the cake for Facebook Status of the Year. Have you ever been to Access Nova Scotia? Truer words have never been spoken. NEVER!

Best Cat on the Beach

Stevie on the Beach
Stevie on the Beach

This guy! His name is Stevie! Hi Stevie!

Best Guest Performer

Mayor Mike Givin' er
Mayor Mike Givin' er

At the opening for the new Halifax Central Library, mayor Mike Savage joined us on stage to belt out some classics. Below you can see Mr. Savage "owning the moment" as he lets the music surge through him and sings the classic Rage Against the Machine song, “Killing in the Name Of”. His version of "Love Rollercoaster" by RHCP was also spot on.

Some Local Songs From 2014 You Should Listen To: Telephones - Mo Kenney (Written by Mardeen) The Weight of it All- Kim Harris Up the Mountain- The Stanfields Burned in Effigy- The Motorleague South America- The Meds Climbing Up the Walls- Carleton Stone Twice as Nice- The Mike Bochoff Band Towns- Pretty Archie Strong One- Gloryhound

Happy New Year, pals! We're doing preproduction for our new album and will be recording it next month. We can't wait for everything in 2015. Much love to y'all. TTH

Town Heroes load up on Music Nova Scotia Awards

TownHeroeswin
TownHeroeswin

(excerpt from THE CHRONICLE HERALD article)

True to their name, the Town Heroes triumphed at the Music Nova Scotia Awards Sunday inTruro.

The Cape Breton duo of Mike Ryan and Bruce Gillis picked up five crystal trophies at the Music Nova Scotia Music and Industry Awards Brunch at the Holiday Inn Truro for their second album Sunday Movies. Their honours include the fan-voted entertainer of the year, as well as group and rock recording of the year for Sunday Movies, video of the year for Holdin’ Up Grants (directed by Dillon Garland) and digital artist of the year.

“We’re doing pretty well for a couple of idiots,” grinned Ryan, who was glad both of their moms had made the trip down from Cape Breton for the event.

“We want to thank our parents who inspired us to work hard and do our best. We just want to represent Cape Breton and Nova Scotia wherever we go.

“This is the best day of our lives so far.”

It turned out to be a good day overall for the band’s label and management company GroundSwell Music, which saw several other awards go to its artists. Singer-songwriter Carleton Stone, who had five nominations, saw his Howie Beck and Jason Collett-produced album Draws Blood named recording and pop recording of the year, while the Stanfields picked up folk recording of the year for its unplugged album For King and Country.

GroundSwell itself earned a pair of industry awards; founder and Rawlins Cross member Ian McKinnon was named manager and industry professional of the year.

Here is a link to the full article.

Photo by David Hodges