When they get their first guitar, most teenagers want to just learn the songs of their favorite artists.
That was not quite the case with Corner Brook’s Mark Hoyles when he got his guitar more than two decades ago.
After a couple of years doing his duty on vocals, belting out Nirvana and Pennywise tunes with some friends, and then messing around with the bass for a bit, Hoyles finally got a six-string acoustic when he was around 17.
“I wasn’t really interested in learning songs too much,” he said of that moment. “I was just kind of making up songs and I’ve never really stopped doing that.”
Now 39 and a Grade 4 teacher at Elwood Elementary School in Deer Lake, Hoyles has steadily built up quite a portfolio of original music. He used to play them at solo acoustic shows, but has teamed up with bandmates in more recent years for gigs and to record his material.
He has recorded four albums through the annual RPM Challenge, which involves bands recording full-length albums within the four-week confines of the month of February.
His light-rock approach keeps things simple, unforced and fun, moulding tunes from unexpected moments of inspiration or piecing them together from the innumerable voice memos of musical tidbits on his phone.
“It’s hard to describe where it all comes from,” he said. “I play a lot at home and sometimes an idea will just pop up out of nowhere. Usually, it’s some chord progression or a melody that won’t go away and has to be developed into something.”
He conjures lyrics much the same way as the music.
The songs found on the RPM Challenge recordings are just sketches, said Hoyles. They get fleshed out further as he and his bandmates, The Proper Things, work through them during jams.
When it comes to playing live gigs, Hoyles doesn’t dictate what the set lists will be.
“I usually leave it up to them,” he said of everyone having a say in song selection for live performances by The Proper Things. “We’ll record a bunch of stuff, but I don’t really suggest what I want to play as a band. I let them say what they like and want to do and I’m good with any of it.”
In the long term, Hoyles would like The Proper Things to do a more professional recording of some of his songs. He figures it’s not only overdue, but would be a valuable asset for promoting the band should they ever take the show on the road to any degree.
While he hopes to someday do some recording that doesn’t have the temporal limitations of an RPM Challenge, Hoyles and the band are in the midst of preparing for an experience of a different kind right now.
The Proper Things will be among 14 acts from Newfoundland and Labrador participating in the Live at Heart NL music conference and festival happening on the Burin Peninsula next week.
Live at Heart NL is actually a five-day global event, based on the original Live at Heart event held each year in Sweden, and will also feature another 15 acts from around the world.
In addition to the music performances, there will be a series of music industry seminars and workshops between Oct. 10-14.
Besides taking in some shows and learning more about the industry, Hoyles is hoping to use the upcoming conference experience as a networking opportunity.
“Our approach for this is just to meet other bands and form some sort of connection between us and the other side of the island,” he said. “That would help make it easier for us, if we wanted to do some shows in St John’s, to have some people to play with.”
The Proper Things:
- Mark Hoyles: vocals, rhythm guitar
- Craig Caines: drums
- Rick Waterman: bass guitar
- Steve Caines: lead guitar
- Mark Smallwood: keyboards/synthesizer
The other Newfoundland and Labrador artists scheduled to perform at Live at Heart NL music conference on the Burin Peninsula from Oct. 10-14:
- The Proper Things (Corner Brook, NL) mrkhyls.bandcamp.com/album/what-odds
- Phil Power (Corner Brook, NL) philpowermusic.com
- Conway (Mount Pearl, NL) conwayfamily.ca
- Colin Harris (Pouch Cove, NL) reverbnation.com/colinharrisnl
- Kielley Koyote (St. John's NL) artistecard.com/kielleykoyote
- Quote the Raven (Conception Bay South, NL) quotetheravenofficial.com
- Waterfront Fire (St. John’s, NL) waterfrontfire.com
- The Daisy Cutters (St. John's, NL) facebook.com/thedaisycuttersnl
- Skidderpup (Grand Bank, NL) Skidderpup.com
- John Saunders (Burin, NL) facebook.com/John-Saunders-1454735764573258/
- Ally Noseworthy (St. John's, NL) https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC_Kuap_QBj9Tvvo_gVXXZCA
- Rachel Cousins (St. John's, NL) www.rachelcousinsmusic.com