By Maggie Urban-Waala Staff Writer
I would have been more terrified walking up to a seemingly deserted warehouse in Brooklyn had it not been for the soulful music emanating from the building that could be heard from a block away. Here I spent time with five of six members of The Dirty Gems, a band that found its inception at Hofstra University. After sitting down with The Dirty Gems in their practice space, it became apparent that while the members have similar musical tastes, it is ultimately the stylistic differences within the group that keep their songs on repeat in my brain for days on end. The Dirty Gems have categorized themselves as a pop/rock/soul band, but the diversity of their sound could not possibly be labeled into any one, or even three genres. Lead singer Raycee has a hauntingly beautiful voice that is almost contrasted by the rock music accompanying her, but is sometimes complimented by Gems’ occasional techno-pop sound. The band’s potential for success began at an early stage, although the seed was initially planted in three of the band’s members at Hofstra University by Bob Bowen III, a professor at the University. Gems’ member Cam Underhill described Bowen as, “a type of professor that was really a mentor to everyone he worked with.” The Hofstra professor handpicked students Raycee Jones, Ulises Amaya and Cam Underhill to form a jazz combo. After a few years, the group ended up as a cover band named Pump Yo Brakes with the addition of drummer Jack Goode. After the tragic passing of their mentor Bob Bowen, guitarist Gary Heimbauer was discovered by the band while playing at Bowen’s memorial concert. Heimbauer assimilated into the group as the soulful guitarist who would bring the band to a new level. After the band finally solidified their lineup, The Dirty Gems have the potential to be considered one of the most talented and innovative musicians of their genre. The band agrees that while they have been lucky enough to not have any real hardships as a whole, their music comes from a very vulnerable place and is inspired by any number of things. Their newest musical creation titled “Easy on Me” was written with the intention of “making people wanna dance without really rockin’ out,” according to the band. Gems’ first public performance was at Hofstra University in the school’s 2011 Battle of the Bands. After winning the competition, the band earned the opening slot at Music Fest for groups Minus the Bear, The London Souls and Big Boi. Since then, the Gems have now played at venues all over New York City from Webster Hall to The Bitter End, packing the clubs to near capacity. The band has also won the 2012 Upper East Side Music Festival. As for now, the band is discussing a summer tour, which could go as far south as Atlanta, Ga. With their newest EP set to release this spring, and a type of bond that can only be seen in siblings that love to hate each other, it is exciting to think of how soon the band could blow up on the scene.