Hemi Hemingway (NZ)

PNKSLM Catalogue

2023 – Strangers Again (PNKSLM105) – Listen/buy
2021 – The Lonely Hunter EP (PNKSLM092) – Listen/buy


With the rock’n’roll panache of a dive bar matador and the emotional force of a knife in the guts, Hemi Hemingway makes music that thrills, spills and breaks hearts. The effortlessly slick New Zealand star has a connoisseur’s ear for the finest parts of musical history, sweeping 60s rock, 50s sheen and 80s romanticism into the present day, refurbishing and refashioning them into something new and fresh. At home in the spotlight, he’s a showman in the best troubadour traditions, but one with real depth, showcasing swagger and vulnerability in equal measure.
Having played around in other bands in the darker waters of the music scene for a number of years, Shaun Blackwell eventually took the plunge, and, with the help of a four-track recorder, launched a solo project. To do that, he stepped into the shoes of Hemi Hemingway, stage persona and Blackwell’s alter ego, the character that breathes life into the songs. Hemi introduced himself to the world with 2021’s The Lonely Hunter EP, six songs of lush, 60s-inspired classical pop. That EP was picked up by KEXP and led to a couple of sold-out London shows at the Moth Club and the Shacklewell Arms, and support slots for Kurt Vile and Night Beats. Now, with the release of his debut album, Strangers Again, he’s revealing whole new acres of what he can do.

A lot of Strangers Again is the sound of a starry-eyed dreamer, taking in the shock of meeting destiny head-on, and figuring out their place in the rough and tumble of life. It brings together candle-slow burning ballads, soaring, epic highway rock, and thunderous torch songs to soundtrack the sky falling in. But it’s much more than that, a thoughtful and heartfelt exploration of modern themes, of relating to a world that sometimes lifts you up, sometimes lets you down, and everything in-between. The record was written in London, where Hemi was living at the start of the writing process, and New Zealand, where he moved back to before the album was done. There’s something of both those places in the album, and an interplay between them, capturing both the tension of the urban environment, the wide openness of Te-Ika-a-Māui, and the complex feelings that come with returning to your roots.

It’s a record with the dramatic scope of an epic novel, taking in love, loss, and a Māori person’s place in a changing New Zealand, with Hemi’s magnetism holding things together in the eye of the storm. That package comes wrapped up in perfectly-crafted, leather-clad rock’n’roll ballads, a joyride through all his musical touchstones, an adventure through all that makes up Hemi Hemingway. It’s a testament to all Hemi brings to the table as an artist. He takes up themes at the emotional edge, like romance and heartbreak, and writes them with a depth and nuance that gives them new life. Add to that his razor-sharp songwriting and immaculate ear for a hook, and it makes for music that grips you on first listen, and never lets go.


Press: press@PNKSLM.com