June 2007

The Gnomes: This is Your Father's Rock & Roll

Author: Jimmy Leppert

Young artists, particularly musicians, remind us of the potential of living a life of a creative nature fully and unabashedly. Three local musicians, Kevin Early, Ryan Collins and Joey DiSilvestre, known as The Gnomes, lead just such a life.

Each of them brings a myriad of musical influences and experiences to their band. Kevin and Joey have lived on Hilton Head for some time and both attended Hilton Head High School. They became close friends in eighth grade and, as Kevin puts it (laughing), “Joey sounded good, and we just put a band together.” Kevin plays bass and sings back-up vocals. He has a calm demeanor, but his high level of energy is tangible in his speech and body language. Fortunately, this is just how he plays bass: with strength and precision. He looks to Led Zeppelin, Cream, Jimi Hendrix, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and funk for inspiration.

Joey is the lead singer and drummer. His quiet and deeply reflective nature shows his focus; when he does talk, the other members listen. He has that genuine reflective presence that women love and men want to have. His influences include John Bonham (Led Zeppelin), Robert Plant, Motown music, and David Ruffin (The Temptations).

Ryan Collins grew up in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania and moved to the island in 2004. Ryan is the most vocal member of the band; he is introspective, deep, and analytical. When he started playing guitar, he said, “It changed everything my life was. I gave up skateboarding to just sit and play guitar.” This faithful allegiance to music is quickly apparent in his playing. He acknowledges that he grew up “liking the simple stuff.” But according to Ryan, his musical taste evolved as his thinking advanced. “I understood the genius [of such bands as Led Zeppelin and the Beatles],” he said. He is one of the more talented guitar players in the region and is not afraid to show off his abilities.

The Gnomes fill a unique and needed niche on the music scene: they appreciate good music and play it well. Many of their performance songs are classic rock. They play Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, old-school Aerosmith, and many others with an authenticity seldom seen in such young musicians. Joey says their audiences are “real people who want real music.” Ryan adds with a chuckle, “They’re not coming because we’re hot.” This laid back approach and sense of humor conveys just how much fun they are having.

When talking about the band’s original songs, Joey adds, “It is easier because it’s your song, cooler because it’s your song.” Several originals are available for downloading on their website, www.thegnomeshhi.com. My favorite is Just a Glimpse.

“That’s my favorite to play,” echoed Joey.

Their originals speak of their musical appreciation and creative abilities. When the members of Led Zeppelin came up with Black Dog, they gave credit to Little Richard and Muddy Waters. The Gnomes continue this tradition by blending a variety of forms of their predecessors’ art and making it their own. According to Ryan, they will throw in “a little Spanish twist. “And if we’re really in tune, we go for a Johnny Cash riff, spur of the moment.” This connection between the three is conducive to an elevated form of improvisation. This is also apparent in their more modern influences of Les Claypool and other jam bands.

I had to ask what their favorite part about being on stage was.

Ryan: “Playing in front of people and the feeling at the end of a song when we are connected. My head’s down, tuning my guitar, listening to the crowd. It’s almost intimidating looking up at that appreciation.”

Kevin: “Feeling the crowd—having people enjoy what we play, and making a living out of it.”

With several upcoming shows on the island, you have to get out and see The Gnomes. You can also catch them at Rider’s, Wild Wings, and festivals around the island. The future? “We are evolving together in our own direction, said Ryan. “We’re on the route we want to be; we’re not rock stars—yet.” In this day of pop culture and homogenous art, The Gnomes offer the assurance that the next generation of musicians will remain loyal to their influences and progressive enough to create authentic art.

Upcoming shows:

June 2: Thunder Rally for Cancer Bike Run; AMVETS Post 70; 1832 Ribaut Rd, Port Royal, SC; 1-5 p.m.

June 9: Vic’s Tavern; Pineland Station, HHI; 9:30 p.m.-1 a.m.

June 13: Montego Bay; Park Plaza, HHI; 10 p.m.-1 a.m.

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