A band that started in a Roseburg High School songwriting class is now a polished unit with a professional stage presence.
Hemlock Lane has come a long way from the group that stood around on stage between songs.
“It’s gone from long, awkward silences to being able to talk to the crowd. It’s a heck of a lot harder to talk to people than to sing to them,” said Natty Burmeister, lead singer and keyboardist for Hemlock Lane.
Since those early days three years ago, the quintet has been rattling off accomplishments.
They finished their second release, “The Hemlock Lane EP,” in April. They have a catalog of professionally recorded songs available through iTunes and Amazon and were recently the subject of a favorable write-up in The Seattle Weekly.
And now, with their most ambitious summer schedule yet ahead of them, they’re fine-tuning their set getting ready to headline the Rose Theatre at RHS on May 31 for a fundraiser.
Burmeister and two other members started playing music together in a songwriting class in the RHS drama department. They found harmony by adding edge to upbeat pop tones, forging a style of earnest, slightly trippy “progressive pop.”
The band lists The Killers, Young the Giant and Incubus as major influences.
“Our music is basically pop music,” said drummer Nate Hansen. “But there’s a lot of weird, strange stuff in there.”
Hemlock Lane also includes Isaac Brickner on lead guitar, Stephen Metsig on bass and John Queant on rhythm guitar. After spring commencement, Brickner and Burmeister will be the only members attending RHS next year, meaning the band is another step closer to a major crossroads.
“All of us have expressed an interest in going to college after high school,” Burmeister said. “We all consider that to be an important next step.”
The group is taking its opportunities seriously, he said, but trying to keep perspective.
“Even if we don’t make it big, these are some of the best times of my life.”
Members say that as well as bringing them closer together, touring last summer taught them self-sufficiency. Without a booking agent or a manager, they had to make their own contacts with venues and other bands, plan a string of gigs from Roseburg to Bainbridge Island, Wash., and back, and budget accordingly.
They had to practice patience when their van’s transmission fell out along the way, and their schedule was upended, Hansen said.
“It showed us we’re going to have to deal with things we didn’t plan on,” he said.
Among the set dates are Summerfest at Umpqua Community College on June 7, the Umpqua Valley Arts Festival on June 28 and at Ten Down Bowling on Graffiti Night on July 13.
This week the band is doing detail work on its set ahead of those summer shows. They continue to tweak their catalog, as well as their stage presence.
In late summer, the band will head to Southern California to play with groups they met their last time out on the road.
The Rose Theatre gig will be the band’s first hometown show in two months. They will be raising funds for the performing arts department that brought them together. Hansen said they’ll also debut new material and some new versions of songs from their first recording, “Colorado.”
That album was named after the destination of a former band member who left Roseburg to follow a girlfriend. The band itself is named for the location of their practice space, 721 Hemlock Lane, drummer Nate Hansen’s house.
“I wish we had a cool story about our name,” Hansen said. “It’s just where we play.”
• You can reach reporter Garrett Andrews at 541-957-4218 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.