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New Producer Injects Life Into Honeymoon Suite Release

For a Canadian band who have virtually remained intact for the past 46 years, Honeymoon Suite’s latest album release, ‘Alive’ sounds remarkably fresh and current.

Still active on the concert circuit and receiving strong airplay for their new single, “Tell Me What You Want”. Original members, guitarist Derry Grehan, lead vocalist Johnnie Dee, bassist Gary Lalonde, drummer Dave Betts and the only non-original. keyboardist Peter Nunn have released eight new tracks plus a rework of two classics; their debut single “New Girl Now” and “Love Changes Everything” which sound as original as previous classics like ‘The Big Prize’ while delivering a current vibe that can only be captured with modern technology.

“We have producer Mike Krumpass to thank for that,” explains Grehan, over the phone from his Nashville residence. “Mike is much younger than us, he says he learned my guitar licks growing up as a kid. He knows our band inside out and it really helps when you are working with a producer who knows what the band is all about” Grehan noted.

“So after Mike and I traded e-mails, Johnnie and I flew down to Nashville to meet him and see how we got along. We started working on some demos together and everything sounded fresh. One thing I have always liked about Honeymoon Suite albums is that you have never got 10 tracks of the same thing. When you think back, we recorded “Burning In Love” and “Wave Babies” on the same album and with tracks like “Alive” and “Afraid To Fall”. we deliver the same variety”, Grehan noted

“Mike had a lot to do with re-energizing us,” Grehan continued. “When we did those demos and heard the sound coming back out of the speakers. we found that experience energizing.

Grehan explained that the songs had taken shape over the past three or four years and that the COVID epidemic actually aided his creativity”

Covid was a real drag for everybody but in a way it was good because we had a lot of the basic tracks finished but we had to sit with them for awhile, we sat there for 6 or 8 months with tracks that we cut which allowed me to go back to them with fresh ears and go oh we ned to fix this bridge here, or sort out this solo so it allowed for fine-tuning which made everything better. 

“On top of this, Mike moved to England and then back to Nashville and is now living in Toronto so the sessions got a bit scrambled  but we are all pleased with the end result,”

Grehan explained that the idea of including “New Girl Now” and “Love Changes Everything” came from their record label, Frontiers which insisted on the band recording a full album and also wanted to add some bonus tracks to increase the album’s sales potential. “So Mike suggested we re-work some of our classics and we’ve added “New Girl Now” and “Love Changes Everything” to the mix.

Re-recording “New Girl Now” which started the ball rolling for the band, was initially released in 1983 and proved to be a breakthrough event with the band winning Q-107’s Homegrown contest and convincing Warner Mus Canada’s A&R chief, Bob Roper to sign them to his label. Their debut album, released in the summer of that year also featured three more radio hits; “Burning In Love” Wave Babies” and “Stay In The Light” earning them a 1985 Juno Award as Top Canadian Group.

“We tried to re-record “New Girl Now” as authentically as possible,” Grehan reflected. “But with modern technology. That’s impossible, I had to re-learn my guitar solos.” He laughed

That initial success also led to a U.S deal with the band opening for Bryan Adams during his first tour of Northern United States in late December 1985. Their follow-up 1987 album release, produced by Bruce Fairbairn. ‘The Big Prize’ was an even greater success with four more major hits; “Bad Attitude”, “What Does It Take”, “Feel It Again and “All Along You Knew” enjoying great North American exposure plus a European tour with Saga. “Bad Attitude” would later be featured in a 1989 episode of Miami Vice.

Honeymoon Suite then seemed to have hit the jackpot in 1987 when they released “Lethal Weapon” which was the title track for the hit movie release starring Mel Gibson and Danny Glover resulting in Van Halen producer Ted Templeman to offer to record their third album; ‘Racing After Midnight’.

The momentum of these factors should have resulted in a strong U.S push for the record but a car accident to Johnnie Dee at L.A’s airport delayed the follow-up recording for about six months while he recovered from a severe leg injury and then the label’s choice of the album’s first single “Love Changes Everything” proved to be a disaster. British duo Climie Fisher released a totally different song but with the same title and we were able to hit U.S radio before Honeymoon Suite’s release. And a radio would never push two singles with the same title, Honeymoon Suite’s release was dead in the water.

“Don’t get me started on that” fumed Grehan. “It’s true that Ted Templeman was not as hands-on as he should have been. We wanted Bruce (Fairbairn) to produce the album but he wasn’t available and Warner wanted to capitalize on the momentum of Lethal Weapon, so selecting Ted Templeman seemed like a good choice at that time. Maybe Warner could have waited for six months to put our song out, maybe it was my fault for not writing a hit song like Bon Jovi’s “You Give Love A Bad Name”, but for whatever reason, that album just was not strong enough”.

The label released an obligatory ‘Singles’ greatest hits package but by the time the band got around to recording their 1991 release; ‘Monsters Under The Bed, Honeymoon Suite had been reduced to just three members;  Grehan, Dee and returning keyboardist Ray Coburn.

“We had to ride that whole miserable grunge period through the late 90’s and early 2020’s out but melodic music finally made a comeback and we got our original band back together with Peter Nunn replacing Coburn on keyboards

We are lucky to have retained our original fan base and they are bringing their kids to the shows and we are still getting a ton of radio airplay,” Grehan noted. “After 40-something years, if I can do this with HS I will continue to do it, I don’t want to do anything else”.

Noting the vast changes in social media technology, Grehan recognize that “Social Media is a different world it’s a world for young artists and you have to adapt and use it to your advantage. Music is free which kinda sucks yet with social media you can reach the whole world”

“Frontier Records insisted on a complete record (Album sales are still significant in Europe) and you never know when tracks are going to be used for commercials, movies and television shows..” he added. “Look what happened to that Kate Bush song.” In 2022, the TV show “Stranger Things” featured one of her compositions (“Running Up That Hill”) in their fourth season which found a new audience with the Z Generation and ended up topping the charts globally.

As for Honeymoon Suite, the band has noted a nostalgia renaissance and says markets like Europe are starting to open up for them thanks to social media exposure. “There are bands like Aerosmith and Billy Idol still touring who are older than us so there is no reason for us to stop now. As long as people want to keep coming and see us and we are still having fun, there is no reason to stop.”

Grehan concluded our chat by saying the band is already working on a follow up album and he is also set to release a solo instrumental album titled “Dirty Power”. So to paraphrase Monty Python; “Not Dead Yet”.

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