Timing is everything. Just ask Honeymoon Suite guitarist Derry Grehan.
Of course, in the music business, timing is nothing without memorable songs. Luckily, the Ontario group has had had their share of those, too, in the almost 30 years since their debut record.
Led by vocalist Johnnie Dee, Honeymoon Suite was originally formed as a cover band in 1981. After the group Derry was part of at the time imploded, he reached out to his agent to see if he knew of any acts from the Southern Ontario region that might be looking for a guitarist.
Derry was in luck and began playing with Dee in Honeymoon Suite, finding an instant musical chemistry with the singer. While performing as a cover act, the group was also ambitiously determined to make a name for themselves writing original material.
The group submitted an early version of their hard-rocking hit “New Girl Now” to Toronto-area rock station Q107’s Homegrown Contest and walked away the grand prize winners. A record deal followed not long after.
Honeymoon Suite was realizing their dreams, and the timing couldn’t have been better.
In the early 1980s, as MTV in the United States and Muchmusic in Canada began playing music videos, the then newest medium for groups to promote themselves, Honeymoon Suite seized the opportunity to make a big splash. And splash they did.
The group’s debut single and video, “New Girl Now,” went straight into heavy rotation on Muchmusic while also earning a significant amount of airplay south of the border.
Subsequent singles from their 1984 self-titled debut record “Burning In Love,” “Wave Babies” and “Stay In The Light” only helped to sustain the momentum behind their debut.
“It was fantastic to have had four hit singles off our debut record,” Derry tells The Times & Transcript from a Southern Ontario tour stop early last week. “We were very fortunate. It seemed as though we were playing bars in Northern Ontario and six months later, we were on a bus touring America, opening for Jethro Tull.”
Derry says the role that MTV and Muchmusic played in helping break the band cannot be underestimated. The significant airplay that their videos received help accelerate the group’s road to success.
“Without those videos, I feel it definitely would have taken much longer to break the band,” he says. “It was perfect timing for the band. We jumped on the video train when the format was in its relative infancy. It was a revolutionary thing at the time because by the time you arrived at any given town or city, people knew the songs but also knew the image of the band.”
Honeymoon Suite was no one-album wonder, however. The pressure of following up the platinum success of their debut record did weigh on the band, but the group more than capably rose to the challenge with 1986’s The Big Prize and 1988’s Racing After Midnight, their respective second and third albums.
“We were definitely feeling the pressure for the second record because no one expected the success we saw with our debut. We got really lucky with our debut but beared down and wrote some great tracks for The Big Prize,” Derry says.
“With Racing After Midnight, our keyboardist Ray Coburn had left the band, and so the album took on more of a harder edge. We brought the guitar front and centre.”
By the time that 1989’s The Singles hit store shelves, Honeymoon Suite sold close to one million records in Canada.
Though no fault of theirs, the ’90s were not as kind to Honeymoon Suite as the previous decade had been.
It was 1991 when Nirvana, a then-relatively unknown band from the northwest of the United States, released their landmark record Nevermind. Melodic, hard-edged rock as we knew it was effectively killed off by the rise of the grunge music phenomenon.
The changing tide of music in the ’90s didn’t put the brakes on Honeymoon Suite’s career, though. Between 1991 and 2008, the group released a total of six records, including two live efforts.
“Nirvana hitting was definitely a game changer,” Derry says. “The ’80s were over in more than just the literal sense. Their rise effectively killed melodic rock bands like Honeymoon Suite. But that is the way the business goes. There are always going to be ups and downs. It’s how you weather those changes that matter.
“We love playing music and are very fortunate that we have been able to retain our fans all these years. It has always been my opinion that good music will stand the test of time.
“Here we are (beginning) 2014 and we are still out there doing it. We are very lucky.”
What: Honeymoon Suite and Helix
When:Saturday, Jan. 11, 8 p.m.
Where: Casino New Brunswick, 21 Casino Dr., Moncton
Tickets start at $19.99 plus taxes and service charges. Advance tickets are available at the Casino Gift Shop, by phone at 1-866-943-8849 and online at casinonb.ca
Article published in the January 6, 2013 edition of the Times & Transcript