Guitarist and singer Ty Thompson of Reverend Bro Diddley and the Hips is interviewed about his obsession with classic Rock n’ Roll, his success with the Hypnotics, his appreciation for the Savannah music scene, and much more.
What are some of your earliest musical memories?
My earliest music memories are feeling pretty high off of old soul music by Otis Redding and Percy Sledge and Sam Cooke. I remember calling the local radio station to get them to play Johnny B. Goode (because I didn’t have the album) and waiting by the radio for hours and hours and calling them throughout the day, crying, for them to make good on their promise to play it. I was pretty crazy about how angry Mick Jagger sounded on Get off My Cloud and how snotty Van Morrison sounded on the first couple records he did with THEM. The first modern group I went for was a band out of Gainesville, FL called For Squirrels. They were like 60s music mixed with grunge and punk and this amazing honesty and energy.
And that kind of captures what I look for I guess. I’m a sucker for pop sensibility with punk or at least some kind of honest manic energy. But then also the first time I heard Loveless by My Bloody Valentine everything just shifted a bit. So I also love music that pulls the rug out from underneath my feet revealing a secret trap door into zone-out land!!
Who are some of your musical influences?
Little Richard, Velvet Underground, Beatles, the Seeds, Ween, For Squirrels, Syd Barrett, Chocolate Watchband, James Brown, Nirvana, the Strokes, My Bloody Valentine and everything else I’ve ever heard!
We tried to provide a bit of a musical time capsule after our own many attempts at traveling to 1963 failed
What are some of your favorite all-time records?
Example by For Squirrels, In Utero by Nirvana, Pure Guava by Ween, Loveless by My Bloody Valentine, White Light White Heat by Velvet Underground, Black Foliage by the Olivia Tremor Control, Is This It by the Strokes, Sam Cooke Live at the Harlem Square Club, Smiley Smile by the Beach Boys, Rubber Soul by the Beatles, Trompe Le Monde by the Pixies…sheesh I dunno. I really love My Woman by Angel Olsen and Let it Bloom by Black Lips, I could put either of those records on most any time.
How did you get your start in the Savannah music scene?
I moved here to go to school in 2011. I met Ford Natirboff and found that we had a ton in common musically. We did a couple of open mic nights under different names, including Kentucky Gentlemen, The Electric Farm, The Electric Dog, and eventually that evolved into a 2-piece band that was the first phase of The Hypnotics.
Talk a bit about your other band, the Hypnotics …
The Hypnotics were a group of dudes who took having fun to a cool level. We tried to provide a bit of a musical time capsule after our own many attempts at traveling to 1963 failed. Ford and I did the 2-piece act until Ford’s cousin Ryan came along and rubbed our nose in his ability be an Olympic Singer, which my favorite nose-rubbing to date. We had somewhere between 100 and eleven-thousand different songs we could pull from, all trying to focus our energy to land us somewhere 1955 and 1968 or so. At a point, however, Ford got the call to focus more on his specific original music and left the group and Ira Miller took over on drums and backup and lead vocals and we continued to haunt anywhere from Richmond Hill to a place not terribly far from Richmond Hill for another couple years until Ira moved to Pittsburg and Ryan moved to Seattle. In January, we were invited to go over to England for an event this summer. We were a couple days away from getting our plane tickets but then Covid happened!
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Talk a bit about your current band, Reverend Bro Diddley and the Hips …
Reverend Bro Diddley is a moniker I’ve assumed out of tribute to the great one and also to all the Strug Dudes out in the world. The Hips is a project with my fiancé and now FOUR other knights fighting the good fight (Kyle Brown, Jalen Reyes, Hannah Reyes, and Jesse Centrella). So we are a six piece band now (that means its official Hannah!!!). Everyone in the band could (and most already do!) easily front their own groups. In fact, I’m literally the worst singer in the Hips which sometimes embarrasses me and other times suits me just fine!
So far, I’m writing the tunes but everyone brings an indispensable element, in both a sonic but also an editorial sense. Kyle’s this crazy great bass player who has this instinct for movement and feel and is just a really great, really hot hot friend. Jesse brings this spooky organ sound that’s become perhaps the most instantly recognizable aspect of our sound and he also brings Maya, who helps keep us in line. Jalen is the crazy dedicated dude who will ride through the universe and back with me just so we are sure we’ve figured out the best way to eat pupusas and drum at the same time. And then he sings like an angel but Victoria’s Secret kind not the biblical one.
Jhovana plays guitar in this somewhat crude way that oozes with character and her voice will solve world hunger. Hannah takes Jalen’s drumming to a new level with her percussive prowess which she can focus like an energy laser onto individuals. I don’t know if it’s true or not but as many as seven different people have reported her energy laser focus being so intense it induced vomiting, so we can say goodbye to syrup of ipecac. So it ends up being my crude reinterpretation of a 60s rock and roll production blended with whatever piece of emotional theater I find important enough to put in ink. It all gets sifted down through the many filters of the ever opinionated aforementioned members of the band. The result is something that sounds like Chubby Checker got addicted to aliens and hard drugs. I love it.
Are there any Savannah artists you haven’t worked with, but would love to collaborate with?
There are tons really, or maybe there are exactly six! I dunno. I’d love to get uncomfortably close with people like Isaac Enen or Donna Savage or Ryan Graveface. I have talked with others like Igor Fiksman and Phil Price about doin stuff. I’d love to write a super sardonic country song for CC Witt to sing! I’d love to produce a doo wop group with some of the amazing female vocalists in town. I’m having fun doing some stuff in the production realm at the moment and that should see the light of day soon! And of course I miss all the guys I’ve played with in previous groups and hope that we can all swap spit very soon.
Before all the shows stopped I was fairly impressed by the support given band to band
What are some of your favorite Savannah venues to perform in?
I guess each has it’s own thing that’s cool. Really I don’t care much about the venue as much as I care about a thoughtful sound person and a fun crowd. We played Victory North last December and they were good to us and it was a ton of fun. They got on to me a little bit about eating one of the headliner’s bananas. That was bananas. Wes at Rocko would have eaten the headliners bananas with me. So I had some fun with that but it was all light-hearted and I guess we will be playing there again soon (Halloween!).
What are your thoughts on the current state of the Savannah music scene?
I don’t really know what kind of scene there is at the moment. I will say that before all the shows stopped I was fairly impressed by the support given band to band. Its a friendly and fairly creative atmosphere. I’d always love to see more BANDS out there, though. I’m kinda hopelessly romantic about being in a band.
Solo acts, either in name or function, seem to be what most people are into. And there’s not anything wrong with that of course, but since you asked for MY thoughts, I think bands are way more interesting! The idea of a bunch of good friends going all in, everyone playing as much of a part as they can to make something that they love that lasts forever, what’s not to like?
Any upcoming projects?
Yup! 90 Day Fiancé is about to release a new … eerrrrrrrrrr. The Hips just finished up a couple of singles that we are about to release. We actually might go ahead and make a second record out of it. We also have some shows coming up, including Oct 24th with Donna Savage at Service Brewing, Oct 31 at Victory North doing a Sonics cover gig, and then Nov6th at Starland Yard. I’m also working with Jalen on opening up a production company called Holy House Records. Got some folks we’re going to be producing/recording in these last few months of the year. Also I’m thinking about getting a life coach.