BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — The unique backgrounds and styles of Opal Kelly and Evan Diem are what help their band, gem+i (pronounced ‘Gemini’), find its sound. The band sits at the crossroads of musical genres, with influences from synth-pop and indie rock artists.
“There’s very little crossover in the lyrical style of the people we are influenced by,” Diem said. “It’s a really interesting collaborative process and a little bit of a songwriting challenge. … It’s a fun thing where it’s like, ‘I respect you enough as a musician and lyricist that I need to trust you.'”
The pair had followed each other on Twitter for some time before deciding they wanted to make music together. They started with a cover of Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Body Language,” which later turned into the band’s first EP, “I Feel Fine Now.” The EP also features a second Jepsen cover, “Let’s Get Lost,” as well as an interlude inspired by telephone hold music, and two original songs, one written by each member of gem+i.
“We’ve got the two Carly Rae Jepsen covers, which is our take on Carly Rae Jepsen, which is pretty indicative of our style, and then the two songs we wrote together, which is more indicative of our style,” Kelly said. “And then there’s the in-between, which is the hold music that we wrote, inspired by me waiting on a hold line for like three hours trying to get a COVID vaccine.”
Kelly said that it really does sound like it could be used as hold music (it does). Diem said he’d love for someone to take gem+i up on that and pay to use “Hold Please” as hold music.
Diem, originally from Connecticut, now lives in Syracuse. The pair typically meets up at Diem’s home studio to make music, however, he and Kelly have recorded individually from their own cities before, while working to meet the deadline for a trans rights charity compilation.
“We’ll visit for a weekend or five days or something like that and usually probably spend … six to eight hours over a weekend just putting more stuff together,” Diem said.
The band has not played a live show in person yet, though the pair has done one live song together, during one of Diem’s Zoom concerts.
“The tough part is we would have to perform in a style that’s different to how the music sounds,” Diem said. “It would be significantly more stripped down.”
He added that he would really like to play out, but it is about finding the right opportunities, in addition to having more music to be able to play.
“If any local venues or people hear our music and they want us to play something for them, put us in your calendar, call us up in one year and we will be ready,” Kelly said, later stating that they would love to play Buffalo’s Mohawk Place.
“Call us as soon as possible, we’ll figure it out,” Diem offered.
The band also provided insight into how their name came to be.
“Because my name is Opal, I’m the ‘gem,’ and Evan is the ‘I,'” Kelly said.
“And you’re a Gemini,” Diem added, without missing a beat.
“We didn’t have, really, any other ideas for a name, and I just sort of thought that’d be a fun little quirk to have,” Diem continued. “Something that has layers to it, that gives you an idea of the thought process that is going into the songs, if that is what’s going into the name.”
Both Kelly and Diem have solo projects as well — Kelly working on their first album, “Housefire,” under the name Opalite and Diem, who has been putting out music since 2013, and is hoping to have his next album done by December.
“I’ve been slowly working on an album for so long that I keep thinking is going to come out, and then me and my producer learn more about how to mix music, and we think, ‘Oh no, we have to go back and fix something,'” Kelly said. “Sometime in the next six months, I swear to God, it’s going to be done.”
Kelly has one song currently streaming, but does not encourage people to listen to it, as it was created before they knew enough about mixing. They do, however, encourage people to check out “Housefire” when it comes out.
“I have a different problem to Opal, whereas I will record something and then release it and be like, ‘It did sound bad,’ and then I will have to do the next one better,” Diem said. “So I’ve just been doing that since like 2013.”
Kelly said listeners should expect gem+i’s next EP within the next year and a half.
What artists inspire gem+i: The Mountain Goats, The Weakerthans, Lights, Carly Rae Jepsen, MUNA, Taylor Swift
Their dream concert lineups:
- Opal Kelly
- Boy Jr.
- Carly Rae Jepsen
- Walk the Moon
- Evan Diem
- Boy Jr.
- Bachman-Turner Overdrive
To stream music by gem+i or Kelly’s and Diem’s solo projects, visit the following links:
The interview with gem+i can be seen above.
Music Monday is a weekly series created and produced by Adam Duke to showcase artists from Western New York and their work. To be considered for a feature, email Adam at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Adam Duke is a digital producer who has been part of the News 4 team since 2021. See more of his work here.