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Five Ohio State students make up feel-good Columbus music group, The Hemlocks

The hemlock is a poisonous species of plant and also the name of a local Columbus band that describes its music as “feel-good” indie-rock.

Ironic? They think so.

“The Hemlocks is just kind of an arbitrary name,” said Andrew Hartman, the groups’ drummer. “It sounded pretty cool. It’s kind of ironic because the hemlock is a poisonous tree, but our music doesn’t really reflect that at all, it’s pretty feel-good, lift-you-up kind of music.”

The group started playing together around two and a half years ago, when Austin Mackey, who plays guitar and sings vocals, approached four other students at Ohio State with the idea of starting a band.

Courtesy of The Hemlocks

Courtesy of The Hemlocks

“I had some music written, as did Kyle (McNicholas, who also plays guitar and sings vocals), so we started playing those things,” said Mackey.

“We jammed one time, and it felt really good,” said McNicholas. “At the time, my sister was living at a local Columbus venue, The Airplane Room, and they would put house shows on, and they asked us to play a show. That’s when we started thinking we could actually be a band.”

After its first live performance, the group changed its name from “Over 9,000,” a reference to the animated television show “Dragon Ball Z,” which they said was, to a certain extent, a self-inflicted embarrassment to motivate ideas for a better name.

“Over 9,000 was just a temporary name, it was actually a little embarrassing,” said Kyle Kerley, a trumpet player and vocalist for the group. “The name was there just so we could find the motivation to get a new one. Nick (Kotz, bass and keyboard), actually came up with the name ‘anal napalm,’ but we shut that down pretty quick.”

The group consists of five OSU undergraduates, whose majors range from nursing to music, and describe its style as a combination of their diverse backgrounds.

“I have a friend, one friend, who said we’re kind of a combination between creepy and poppy,” said Kerley. “So we’re an indie-rock band that kind of messes around with sounds. I guess the basis of our music is rock-oriented, but we all have very different influences and backgrounds, and we try to grab all that and bring it together.”

Although the graduation date for a number of the groups’ members is in 2013, the Ohio natives said they plan on continuing the band for at least one more year, as long as its members stay in the Columbus area.

“I think the band will exist for at least one more year,” said McNicholas. “We’ll just kind of see where it goes, I think all of us anticipate playing music forever. As long as we’re all in the same area, it’ll still be a thing.”

Their first, self-titled album was free and released on June 1, 2012.

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