ENTERING A Hypnotics show is like being whisked back in time, swept up in a centrifuge of pure pop and rock 'n’ roll.
Ty Thompson teases jangly guitar tones of yore from a warm tube amp. Ryan Sylvester delivers punchy, head-bobbing riffs from his classically-cool Rickenbacker bass. Behind the drum kit, you’ll find Ford Natirboff, playing those early rock riffs and, often, singing while doing so. Perhaps most poignantly, they’re clearly having a blast.
Grinning, generously thanking their audience, and emanating boyish charm, one can’t help but think of early footage of The Hypnotics’ heroes, the Beatles. One look and listen of the vintage Savannah three-piece and you better tighten the laces on your saddle shoes: you’re in for a wild ride of twistin’, shoutin’, and swingin’.
“When I first met Ty, we started talking about all the bands we love,” Natirboff recounts. “We totally clicked on a bunch of them. I remember being like, ‘Where have you been?’” he laughs.
After trying out some tunes at Molly McPherson’s open mic night—their first time playing for an audience—the band was asked to take on a headlining performance at the downtown Scottish pub.
The Hypnotics have hit a very special, brilliant niche in the gigging scene. Sure, every wedding band’s gotta break out “Twist & Shout,” but it’s not every day you hear Stones deep cuts, The Kinks, The Troggs, The Zombies, Sam Cooke, girl groups, and the Animals (and not just the overdone “House of the Rising Sun”) in a Historic District bar. It’s entirely danceable (and boy, do the people dance). Folks who grew up with the songs love hearing them live, and younger generations appreciate the vintage-cool factor and timelessness of a Hypnotics set.
“The way Savannah seems to be set up, most bars, it’s super-conducive to playing cover shows,” says Thompson. “In most other cities, there’s going to be three bands on a bill doing 45-minute sets. In Savannah, you’re playing for four hours for not much pay—it doesn’t make sense to add another band to the bill. Four hours of three-minute tunes from the ‘50s and ‘60s was the way to go for us.”
“When I joined,” Sylvester chimes in, “I think I had to learn about four hours’ worth of music that they were already playing. We’re up to 160 songs.”
Though audience reception is a determining factor in making a set list, the band always chooses songs that they themselves love playing (if the band’s not enjoying themselves, The Hypnotics point out, how can the audience?).
“It’s like, ‘How cool would it be if a band played this song?’” Thompson explains of their process.
While learning cover on cover on cover, the band was always writing their own material, too. A few self-penned tunes found a way into shows, but The Hypnotics didn’t play a front-to-back original set until a gig at Brunswick all-ages venue HBGB.
“I don’t think it was ever anyone’s intention to be in a cover band, to be honest,” Natirboff says. “We’ve always written songs and we’ve always enjoyed that.”
The Hypnotics don’t treat their cover set and original music differently. If they play a show at The Jinx, you’ll probably hear a sock hop standard or Motown hit in there; if they’re playing River Street during a big holiday weekend where the audience wants familiarity, they’ll deliver, but they may slip a Hypnotics number in between The Hollies and The Chiffons. It’s an easy feat when your songs sound completely of the period. Their sound is not vintage-inspired, not throwback; throw on their first release, POP, at a party, and your guests might think you fished a lost treasure out of a garage sale bin.
“The only genres I can say that I absolutely love are ‘50s and ‘60s rock ‘n’ roll and maybe ‘90-‘95 legitimate grunge,” says Thompson. “We all grew up on the ‘50s and ‘60s stuff, our parents listened to it. I remember, as a kid, being like, ‘Why does music not sound like this?’ There was this disconnect: ‘I don’t understand why it’s not possible to make music that sounds like that anymore.’ I thought it was literally just a reflection of the times...then you realize it all comes down to preference. If you choose to write music that way, you can. And so we want to do stuff that’s fun, infectious, danceable. I like to get a response from people when we play, and it seems like a good way to do that is to write stuff people can move to. That’s probably why we insert the covers even when we play the original shows—it augments that.”
“All of those early bands—Beatles, The Who, The Kinks, The Rolling Stones—they all had covers on their first albums,” Natirboff notes. “I heard a Beatles interview where they said when they stopped doing those cover songs and were doing originals, that’s when it stopped being fun. Because those songs they played were just so great.”
That early Beatles influence is certainly at home on POP. With seven tracks, the release is a shock of the past, complete with organ, harmonies, whip-smart playing, and plenty of silliness and tongue-in-cheek fun from all three.
From the sunshiny swing and carefree doo-wop bliss of “Take A Crack” to the woozy teenage blues of lovelorn “If You Tell Her Goodbye,” POP is an addictive, single-packed disc that’ll leave fans of early rock ‘n’ roll, garage, soul, and pysch rock wanting more.
The Hypnotics will have CDs available at their Jinx release show and are looking forward to bringing Atlanta’s Shantih Shantih to town.
With fuzzy melodies and three-part harmonies, the four-piece band is the perfect fit with our hometown fellas.
“We’re so excited for it,” says Thompson. “Anything that can be done to cultivate a punky, garage, cultish rock ‘n’ roll scene in Savannah is great. We want people to know about the scene and be a part of it.”
The Hypnotics (EP Release Party), Shantih Shantih
When: The Jinx
Where: Saturday, August 20, 10 p.m.