What happens when you fuse a host of musical styles with a little bit of island flavour? You get Hi Tide, a band which has maintained a firm foothold on the Cayman Islands music scene, thanks in part to its unique music style.
The two-piece band’s music is a heady combination of rock, country, Latin, reggae, soca and other island music styles thrown into the mix. There’s even a hint of the blues and soul. A bit confusing, you might say, but the band somehow manage to craft all these musical styles into catchy tunes that you simply can’t help but tap your feet along to.
‘We like to call our music acoustic Caribbean pop,’ said Sean Hennings, one of the band’s founding members. ‘I love pop and Caribbean music and Hi Tides is a combination of both,’ he added.
Sean, acoustic guitar and background vocals, formed the band back in 1994 with Shane Allenger, congas and lead vocals.
Having played together in bands since high school they knew exactly where each other’s musical talents lay and both were able to bring a different set of musical experiences to the band.
Prior to the formation of Hi Tide, Shane lived and worked in Nashville, Tennessee, where he performed regularly on TNN with many country greats such as Conway Twitty, Loretta Lynn and Randy Travis. Meanwhile Sean had been in Hollywood, California improving his drumming and music skills at the Musician Institute of Technology.
The combination of acoustic guitars, conga grooves and smooth sing-along lyrics and melodies is easy on the ears, and over the years has ensured a growing legion of loyal fans.
Their trademark logo – a pair of legs ankle deep in water, a doodle drawn by Sean -was the inspiration for the band’s name which came from the popular Caribbean saying ‘High Tide’, meaning pants that are cut high.
‘The name came about really quickly. It sounded quite catchy and we just shortened the ‘High’ to ‘Hi’,’ Sean explained.
It wasn’t long until the duo recruited new band members, Jonathon Jackson, a skilled songwriter, and bass player Steve O’Brien.
Upon forming, the band immediately set about putting together their first album, Change, released that year.
‘We really enjoyed recording our first album,’ Sean explained.
‘We took the album to the pop radio stations on island at that time – Z99 and Radio Cayman. We really did not know what to expect, but the response was very pleasing.
‘We got a lot of air-play which inspired us to really focus on becoming a recording band. We started to build up a loyal following by playing at such venues as the then Cayman Arms.’
Band members have come and gone but Sean and Shane have remained committed, deciding in 1997 to continue as a two-piece band and becoming full-time musicians.
‘Music and the band became our life,’ Sean explained.
‘Going solo has been our greatest success. There seems to be more of a need for smaller duos. As a big band the most work we got was about once a week. Now we can get work as a duo seven days a week if want.’
Since its formation the band has released seven albums. Some feature popular covers, from classic Christmas songs combined with a little island flavour the Hi Tide way, to the best of the 1960s, 70s and 80s, all with some Caribbean sounds thrown in. Others feature purely original songs, displaying the true talents of this musical duo.
The band’s most recent album, Open Invitation, released in 2004, is an explosion of soothing pop sounds with a tropical twist and has been as popular as its predecessors, gaining plenty of air-play on the island’s music stations.
They have even been offered a recording contract by record label BMG.
‘A scout heard, Love You More, a song on Open Invitation. It was really exciting, but we turned down the offer as we were not happy with the potential loss of artistic control,’ Sean said.
Both musicians contribute equally to the band’s own material. ‘Sometimes I’ll come up with a song, other times it will be Shane,’ Sean said. ‘I tend to write about social issues. Shane is often inspired by his own life experiences.’
The band performs regularly at many venues across Cayman, however, they frequently take time out to perform at music events throughout the year as well as working as support acts for the likes of Bon Jovi, Shabba, Garbage, Jimmy Cliff and The Jeff Healey Band.
Recently the band performed at the Cayman Islands Jazz Festival and the Cayman Islands Arts Festival, both of which attracted overseas visitors ensuring an international audience.
The band has represented the Cayman Islands at the Summer Concert Series in Boston, the Caribbean Tourism Convention in Aruba and the 1999 EARTH Awareness Festival in Florida. They have also toured in South Florida, Hawaii, France and the UK.
Keen not to rest on their past success, Sean frequently attends music conferences overseas, which he sees as an opportunity to learn about the business of music and make contacts in the industry.
Looking forward there is no rest for the ambitious pair. They are currently busy recording an eighth album and are also working on promoting their music overseas.
‘We are not looking to be superstars,’ Sean added. ‘We simply love music and that’s what we want to continue to do.’
Hi Tide performs at Deckers, Thursday to Saturday, 7.30pm to 10.30pm and Wednesdays at the Morritt’s Tortuga Club, East End, 7pm to 10pm. Visit the band’s website at www.hitidemusic.com.