BARNSTABLE – What started in the summer of 2020 as a jamming session for two sets of neighboring Barnstable brothers has turned into a group with a series of local shows, three singles on music streaming platforms and a debut album that due out in September.
Two years ago, Liam Hempstead, 18, and his longtime friends Thomas and John Bresette, 17-year-old twin brothers, started playing music with Liam’s older brother, Graham, 20, in the basement of the Hempstead House. Soon they became Barn Boys group (named after their Barnstable roots). And after singer Nicole Childs, 19, joined last year, the band’s name changed to Nikki and the Barn Boys.
Nicole approached the band for a possible collaboration after seeing The Boys perform in front of hundreds of people for the 2021 Barnstable Village Jailhouse Jam. make me sound better,” says Nicole. “After seeing them play, my friends encouraged me to approach the band and the rest is history.”
This summer, the band that began their journey during the COVID-19 pandemic performed at the Barnstable Village Jailhouse Jam series, the Barnstable Village Parade and the Gaslight club in Nantucket. The band was scheduled to play Friday in the parking lot of the Safe Harbor Record in Orleans and Saturday on the main street in Hyannis. In August, the group must perform in several private shows. (Information on upcoming shows: https://www.barnboysband.com/.)
“Cape Cod is a great place for live music, and we’re grateful to live where we are,” says Graham. “I hope this is the start of all our dreams.”
How the band started
Graham, the lead guitarist and vocalist, started playing guitar at the age of 7, and his younger brother Liam started playing drums at the same age. Both brothers’ interest in music began with their father, Scott Hempstead.
The Bresettes live just across the street on Deacon Court, and in 2018 Graham started giving guitar lessons to Thomas Bresette and he improved enough to become the band’s rhythm guitarist. Twin John taught himself the bass guitar and the band was complete.
“We started practicing with Graham, and we’ve been Liam’s best friends for as long as I can remember, so it all just kind of coalesced,” says John Bresette.
None of the musicians have had any professional training. Liam and the twins go to high school, while Nicole and Graham are both in college. Liam will be a senior at Landmark School in Pride’s Crossing; Thomas will be a senior at Cape Cod Academy in Osterville; and John will be a senior at Sturgis Public Charter School East this year. Sophomore Nicole studies at Salem State University and Graham, a junior, studies at Eckerd College in Florida.
Nikki & the Barn Boys have evolved into a blues, rock, funk and reggae band, performing multiple covers and their original songs. Graham has been writing songs for a while, Thomas has also started writing and now Nicole is also writing for the band. “They made me write songs, they made me write songs,” jokes Nicole.
From jamming sessions in the basement to performing in front of hundreds of people was an exhilarating experience, the members say. “When I’m on stage (and) watching people and they’re getting into the music, (I realize) I’m doing exactly what I was doing in that basement and trying to put myself more at comfortable thinking that,” says John Bresette.
With two members in college for most of the year, the challenge for the band was to be consistent and train regularly. “School is really the only thing holding us back,” Graham jokes.
What’s next for Nikki & the Barn Boys?
In May, the band landed a record deal with Safe Harbor Records in Orleans. The musicians had recorded two demo singles there – “Thunder” and “Song 3” – in the summer of 2021. These two songs as well as “Hey Joe” are available on Spotify, Apple Music and other streaming platforms.
Nikki & the Barn Boys is set to release a full album in September, featuring 12 or more original songs. “We got a lot of positive feedback from our original songs, especially with the song ‘Thunder’,” says Thomas.
Next summer, the band members say they plan to tour the East Coast with their music. “Right now, we’re just building the dream. We want to play music professionally, travel, see the world and get our music out there,” Graham says. “We want to play our songs to anyone who wants to hear them.”
The band members say they are excited to work with the local community, as well as local producers and recording studios. According to Graham, there is a lot of hidden talent here in Cape Town and working with local labels has been a great adventure.
“We are extremely grateful to the team at Safe Harbor Records for supporting us and everyone who has supported us,” says Graham.
“Especially our families have been so supportive, it’s amazing,” adds John. Isabelle Bresette, older sister of Thomas and John, is the group’s manager, in charge of reservations and the organization of shows.
Scott Hempstead, Liam and Graham’s father, says it’s been a pleasure to watch the band grow and perform.
“The best thing is that they learn,” he says. “They learn life skills – how to organize themselves, how to manage their finances and how to solve a problem during a show, all while having fun. It’s a different type of education for them, and they take it very seriously. It’s fun to watch them grow, in a versatile setting.”
When Nikki & the Barn Boys are on stage, the members say they don’t stop for breaks, but just keep playing non-stop. “We put a lot of work into it and we keep playing for three hours straight,” says John.
The band members recall a recent gig where they kept playing and the bartender reminded them that they didn’t have to.
“When the bartender told us the other bands usually take breaks, I just said the other bands aren’t Nikki & the Barn Boys, right?” said Liam.