One of Bermuda’s most world travelled groups is back for the summer season to put their mark on the local live entertainment scene.
Rupert, Stefan and Lauretta Hinds have been singing together since their childhood years, in a profession that has taken them around the world and back with performances that elevated them to the international stage.
The twin brothers met Lauretta Augustus, who is married to Stefan, through the church. And they’ve been performing on stage together ever since.
For the first time in many years, they’re back home for live performances at the Grotto Bay Beach Resort, The Reefs and Henry VIII Restaurant through to September.
Bermuda Real sat down with Hindsight, to talk about their professional careers, what it takes to make it on the international music scene and their views on the striking absence of live entertainment in Bermuda as a tourism destination.
Collectively, they agree that choosing to make a living on stage takes a lot of hard work, but the benefits are endless. Not many local entertainers can say they have been able to perform full-time and travel worldwide while doing it.
“There are about 203 nations on this earth and we’ve been to 170 of them to perform in 400 cities around the world,” said Stefan. But at the end of the day he said there’s still no place like home.
“Bermuda is still very beautiful – even stunning. But the night life here is virtually non-existent. That has always been a mystery to me and a complaint,” he said.
Now based in Conyers, Georgia, after spending ten years in Las Vegas and another five years in Atlanta before that, the group decided to return to Bermuda to spend quality time with family and friends for an extended period.
Asked why they decided to leave Bermuda so many years ago, Stefan’s wife Lauretta said: “We reached a point where we went as far as we could go here. And when we decided to leave our choices were either Atlanta or California.
“We worked in several clubs in Atlanta and soon found that we were spinning our wheels and not going anywhere. So we got an agent and started to do corporate work for conventions and private parties. We also worked in West Palm Beach in Florida at several big hotels, including the Ritz Carlton every New Year’s Eve.
“Our manager at that time said we should try to get work in Vegas, so we went there for a summer. The culture and musical community was something we had never experienced before. I found it helpful because there was no animosity and jealousy. And we worked with people like the Drifters, Earl Turner, Clint Holmes and Toni Tillman, who were all very good to us,” she said.
Soon after they left Bermuda for Atlanta in 1993 to continue to grow professionally, it wasn’t long before they started working on cruise ships, initially on seven-day cruises for two to three months a year.
Since then, they have moved on to extended cruises around the world to perform in countries from Taipei in the Republic of China, to Dubai on the Persian Gulf coast of the United Arab Emirates.
When they first started performing on the high seas, the cruise ships were much smaller than the mega cruise ships today. They were recruited by a scout looking for talent for Princess Cruises, who kept showing up at their shows. They also worked for the Norwegian Cruise Line for about five years on board ships built to carry 2,800 passengers, which they prefer for more intimate settings.
But the entertainment line up has changed tremendously over the years. “It’s not about quality anymore, everything went into the end product back then, now it’s a cattle call. It has diminished the quality to a party band set up by agents working for a commission,” Rupert said.
“When we worked on the Grand Princess in 1998, it was the biggest cruise ship in the world at that time. They built their entertainment area, called the Explorers Lounge based on our needs,” he added.
Personally, Lauretta said: “I don’t like the big ships, I find them to be less intimate.” Since their return to Bermuda on May 13th, they have been performing in more intimate settings at two hotel properties, three nights a week, and more recently at Henry’s.
“Hopefully, we will have more work pending, but we’re picking up specialty performances on the side as well. And we’ve received a warm welcome here, which is nice because it’s good to have old school music back with quality live music,” she said.
It didn’t take long for them to notice what Bermuda has to offer in terms of live local entertainment, particularly at night. Collectively, they agree it leaves much to be desired. More often than not, they said live entertainment in Bermuda today basically means a DJ with a sound system playing music – not live performances.
As for venues, particularly at local hotels, Rupert said: “If they can do without it, they would. Some don’t think they have to have live entertainment for their guests. Back in the day there was a lot of work and they were willing to pay for it. Now it’s a necessary evil – if the hotels could do away with entertainment altogether they would.”
Stefan agreed, and noted that most bands today perform on a part-time basis. “Most musicians here have full-time jobs to make a living,” he said. And then there’s the laid back attitude that prevails in Bermuda.
“What we have now are a few shows where we celebrate mediocrity. But that’s not us, we show up early, hit the stage on time, we break down all of our equipment after each performance and we always do it all professionally.
“We used to do two to three gigs a day but those days are long gone. And we always strive to be better than we can be. We can’t be complacent and we leave it all on stage because you’re only as good as your last gig,” he added.
Achieving that standard takes hard work and they work at it constantly. “Everybody doesn’t have the luxury of doing what we do full-time. Most people go to work for eight hours or more a day, we rehearse all day,” Rupert said.
Those rehearsals take place at least four to five days a week from about 11am to 7pm. “We take a one hour break but it’s a full days work,” said Lauretta. “It’s like clockwork, when we choose a song we know whose doing the top, middle and the bottom.”
By the time they get back on stage, Stefan said the work they put in shows in their polished end product. “It pays off because when you work for perfection people see the fruits of our labour.
“Perhaps it’s a sign of the times, at a time when some entertainers choose to be followers instead of innovators. It’s a sad state of affairs when you have so many talented people who are going to find it difficult to make it in live entertainment.
“We have never been part-time weekend warriors like most of the local entertainers here. And that’s not to say it’s a bad thing, but most entertainers here have to supplement music with full-time employment. We’re full-time and music is our income. But I believe the vendors here don’t want to see us as anything but part-time,” he said.
Overall, he said there’s very few venues set up for live entertainment in Bermuda today. “The concept they want to push in tourism is a package that shuts down at 5pm. We got jobs at two hotels this summer because of our past relationships with their management teams. But that changes, and so management at a lot of the other hotels don’t know who we are.”
On that note Rupert said: “There are people who have been at Southampton Princess for years who know who we are, but nobody puts in a good word for us. And I have to wonder why. We are the most travelled band in Bermuda’s entertainment history than all other local bands combined,” he said. “We’ve performed in front of crowds of 200,000 people like the 4th of July event in Atlanta’s Lenox Square, which was televised live. And we promote Bermuda wherever we go, we’re some of Bermuda’s best unsung heroes, and we’ve met Bermudians on cruises everywhere from Tampa to Copenhagen,” he added.
“We’ve had people come up to us to request songs who couldn’t speak fluent English. But when we sang the Michael Jackson songs they requested they knew every single word. That happened a lot when we were working on the Norwegian Star. Music is a universal language,” said Lauretta.
To this day, Stefan said their main goal is to “make people happy through music, create memories and to feel appreciated”. “It warms the heart because people don’t realize what goes into what we do – it’s a mindset,” he said.
And that mindset has carried them a long way from home since they formed as Electronic Symphony with the late Damio McCluen – a life-long friend who they still carry with them in spirit.
“Damio was with us when we performed in some big concerts here, like the Ashford and Simpson concert in 1989, and Luther Vandross up at the National Stadium in 1991. And people still talk about those shows to this day,” Stefan said.
As their lead male vocalist, Lauretta said: “He was my friend, he taught me so much and I carry him in spirit with me constantly.”
As a group, Rupert said: “I look to my right where he would be every time we go on stage. Damio is one of the purest performers Bermuda ever saw, and we miss him everyday. He was born for the stage.”
For as long as they perform together, Hindsight knows in their heart of hearts that Bermuda will never forget the sultry sounds, and the likes of Damio McCluen, which is another reason why they say it’s good to be back home performing again in Bermuda.