Hem, the critically acclaimed Brooklyn-based folk band renown for its eclectic recordings and thrilling live performances, continues to surprise on its fifth full-length recording, "Twelfth Night," the group's original score for the highly-lauded summer Shakespeare production in Central Park's Delacorte Theater. The album, which features the band's original music with vocals from show's cast, including Anne Hathaway, Audra McDonald and Raúl Esparza, is set for an Oct. 27 release on Waveland/Nettwerk Records.
Hem worked closely with director Daniel Sullivan and the cast and crew of the Public Theater's Shakespeare in the Park to incorporate music fully into the production, including orchestral cues, Shakespearean-style traditional music, original Hem instrumentals and several full-blown songs.
"This was the first project where we were really serving someone else's vision," explains Dan Messé, Hem's co-founder, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. "Daniel Sullivan had a really clear vision of what he wanted. Anything that got in the way of the drama was getting cut."
The group ended up writing and composing much more than was included in the final show, so nearly half of the music on the album "Twelfth Night" was not heard during the show's performances. In fact, a duet that Messé wrote specifically for Hathaway and McDonald, using lyrics from Shakespeare's "The Tempest," was never even intended for the actual staging but is a highlight of the album.
"Those two voices together was too tempting to pass up," Messé says. "So even though its a moment that never happened on stage it really happens on our album."
Hem recorded the album in its Brooklyn studio, and included the musicians from the production - dubbed the Illyrian Marching Band - in the process. The band plans on incorporating some of the new material into its live shows as well, just as soon as it finishes recording the next album, already titled "Departure and Farewell," which will be released in Spring 2010.
"We've been working on it for two years, its our biggest and most ambitious album we've ever done," Messé says. "We've made a vow not to do anything else until its finished."