gaspump talent: ruler of the elves



Ty Hutchens and Austin Thompson of GasPump Talent. Photo by Blake Sellers.
by Tamara Styer

      Austin Thompson and Ty Hutchens of GasPump Talent are the epitome of indie music. Inventing a truly original sound, their latest album, No Place in History, available on iTunes, is full of songs that get stuck in your head with guitar-strumming, foot-stomping beats, and deep, gravely voices. Their songwriting is refreshing, full of stories and meaningful lyrics.
     The first song on the album, ‘Ruler of the Elves,’ paints a vivid picture of a young outcast boy who finds his identity in music. (Was always talking to myself / When everyone around was talking with somebody else / I send myself a letter and address it to the elves of the world I ruled in… I found a guitar in a room / Beside a book of letters that told me what to do / A wooden box with strings that made me feel I was in tune / With the world it was magic.)
     The intro to ‘Revolution’ showcases Thompson’s surprisingly beautiful, smooth, expressive vocal abilities, then jumps into Gaspump’s signature outlaw country beat and Thompson and Hutchens’ playful, raspy harmonies and melody.
     In the small, dim-lit establishments of Springfield, Missouri, they always have a great support group of fans. They have an incredibly unique sound, one that’s difficult to put a finger on, but once you’ve felt the pulse, you’ll find yourself singing along to their easy, laid back feel, indebted to Johnny Cash and reminiscent of the rhythmic accompaniment of railroad songs. It is fascinating music, and impressive to watch these two guys singing and simultaneously playing guitars, booming drums and harmonica.
     Deitra Mag sits down with the duo to discuss their songwriting, influences, and - the thing that makes it all happen - the fans.

Photo by Teri Schmitt-Nord
DM – I loved the album. Tell me about who writes the songs.

Austin Thompson – It’s a collaborative effort, but we do it separately, if that makes any sense. He’ll write lyrics, and music, melody, and I’ll do the same on my part and then we’ll get together, and kind of work out different parts.

Ty Hutchens – I’ll write a song and bring it when we get together, and he’ll kind of tweak some things or change a few words, or maybe change some of the melody. It would work better like this kind of a thing, but most of the time we write separately.

Thompson – And get together, and see what happens.

DM – You guys seem to work really well together. Have you been doing this for years?

Thompson – I guess it’s been like three years now since we’ve been playing out together. We started writing about four years ago, but we’ve been wanting to do it for, I don’t know, 15 years. We talked about it forever, and then finally we started doing it. At the beginning we didn’t know if anybody was going to be interested at all, and we thought it would be annoying more than anything. But people started liking it, and we got invited out. So we’ve just kind of gone from there, and stuck with it, and that’s about it. We’ve been resilient, we’ve had ups and downs, you know, we’ve definitely had people that haven’t been interested, and then the people that have given us support have kept us going, so it’s been good, altogether.

DM – how did you gain that support?

Hutchens – One person at a time.

Thompson – Pretty much. We’ve got good families. I think a lot of it comes from that.

Hutchens – Starting out, it was really like just friends.

Thompson – Friends and family really.

Hutchens – And they would just come every night. They stuck by us, whether it was good, bad or whatever it was.

Thompson – And they all like to drink, so that helps.

Hutchens – And as it did actually get better, we wrote better songs and started playing  together better and all that kind of stuff. Then more people started to come. They didn’t have to make such an effort to come to every single show. We had more of a fan base.

Thompson – I guess we spent the first two and a half years without an album. You know we had little recordings that we had done, and we’re just now starting to get people singing the songs, and knowing the words to them, and calling out songs, and having requests, and that’s a good feeling to see that progression and have that now, because we actually have some fans that show up other than the people that we know.

DM – Do you think that has to do with how much you play or the venues that you play at?

Thompson – Absolutely. You know, it’s not easy. You have to play a lot, and people don’t care. They really don’t. You have to be around a lot or you have to write a certain kind of a song that touches somebody, to make them happy and interested in it. And in a town like Springfield, that’s difficult to come by. It’s a cover band town, so we’ve had some difficulty with that, but it just takes work, and you just have to stick with it. If you love it then you’re going to stick with it regardless of what happens. It’s just hard, but it’s fun.

Schmitt-Nord
DM – How do you know when you’re writing better songs? How do you sit down and say we’re going to make this better?

Thompson – That’s a hard question, I think. You know, you scrap so many songs, you start writing and you spend hours revising, and eventually you’ll just throw some away or keep them. But I think that content is what drives us. We love stories, we love to tell stories, and that’s a big part of it. If we’re not singing a song or writing a song that means something to one of us we’re not going to write it. You know, we’re not going to go down that road. And really the sound of it doesn’t matter so much, if it’s got a beat that we can stomp to, and if we’re getting a point across, then it’s good. I don’t know if we’ve ever decided on our philosophy, but I guess that’s close to it.

Hutchens - I guess maybe ‘better’ is the wrong word. It’s gotten easier to work within the sound we’ve made. At first it was all over the place, I’d be writing a song that was a punk rock song or a country song, and trying to emulate something I’ve heard or that I love to listen to, and as we’ve made our own sound, we work within that range, and I think that makes it, maybe not better, but more your own.

Thompson – I think most bands and artists can probably identify with that. I think everybody goes through that period of progression where you finally get to the point where you start to feel more comfortable with what you’re doing, and it feels like your style more than influences from other styles. So I think that we’re finally there, or close to that, where, when we make our songs, they’re our songs.

Photo by Blake Sellers
DM – You guys definitely have one of the most original sounds that I've heard anywhere, really. Where does the inspiration come from for that sound?
                       
Thompson – That’s all over the place, really, I think for both of us.

Hutchens – Yeah, I listen to everything from country to rock to classic rock, punk rock, hip hop, you know just any kind of music, it’s always a part of everything I do.

Thompson – And he’s really my influence to all that music. He’s turned me on to pretty much everything I’ve ever been turned on to. I kind of leave it up to him to be like, ‘I found something cool, you need to listen to this.’ And that’s fine with me; I’ll sit back and let him do that.

Hutchens – we never really set out to make a sound, a lot of people when we were getting started would be like ‘What are you trying to do? Because it sounds kind of Irish, it sounds kind of…

Thompson – It’s punk and its folk and it’s…

Hutchens – We just never really set out with a plan, we just started doing it and that’s what came out.

Thompson – Yeah, we never have an answer for that question when people say that to us,

Hutchens – We’re not good enough musicians - or at least I’m not - to say I’m going to play this kind of music, or I’m going to play this kind of music. I basically know a handful of chords, and then I just write words to fit those chords and that’s pretty much it. You work with what you have, and since we both just have acoustic guitars, that was just kind of how it ended up being.

Thompson – As far as the influences, we love Lucero, we love Tom Waits, we love all outlaw old country, we love Johnny Cash and Willie and all that stuff. Pretty much any good songwriting we’re just into, and I think that’s where our love for songwriting comes; those artists that have touched you in some way. You know, you hear a song and you never forget it. And for me that’s what I would try to aim to do, is write a song that somebody hears and loves instantly.

Photo by Teri Schmitt-Nord
DM – You said you’ve been friends for 15 years. Tell me a little bit about your friendship.

Thompson – Well, all the girls liked him in high school. He had money and a big truck. (laughs) So that’s why I started hanging out with him. It didn’t really do me any good. But no, our families go back to before we were born. We were acquaintances growing up through our whole lives. We were around each other off and on, and about high school we started hanging out and from the beginning always had an interest in music as a whole. We’d get together and jam out, play guitar, and he had a drum set and all that kind of stuff. We had the standard beginning of the friends getting together and playing music together just for fun, and just progressed as we went along. We went to college together in Colorado and spent four years out there, and still then never achieved anything with music. We just did what we kept doing. He did DJ turntables for a while and I stuck with the guitar, and we never went out and did anything other than get drunk. And it wasn’t until we both ended up back here (Springfield) that we started to write and vibe off each other, if you will, and play music, and I think since then, our relationship has grown and gotten closer than it had in those first 10 years. Because of music, it pulls people together. That’s about it in a nutshell. 15 years goes by pretty fast, you know.

DM – Do you have any advice for new bands that are trying to go after their passions?

Hutchens - wish I had some sort of sage advice, but I really don’t. Just be honest with what you’re doing. Don’t write something with the intention of impressing somebody or trying to write an amazing song or any of those kinds of things. Just write what you’re feeling, write about what you know about, what you’re about, because that’s what’s going to make it unique. Your perspective on something is what makes it unique. If you’re trying to push it too hard, it either ends up bad - which has happened to me a handful of times - or it ends up with no feeling in it. You have to have your perspective when you’re writing songs. Then you have to have the confidence to go out and sing them, and sing them to blank faces, with people looking at you like, ‘What the fuck are you doing here?’. It takes that just continually pounding people with these songs that mean something to you, and then eventually you’ll find that group of people that appreciates it.

Thompson – I think the bottom line is just do what you love, and don’t give up and be persistent, and you’ll be happy. You know, it’s going to be fine, and because if you don’t do it you’re going to be miserable. So if you’ve got passion for it, whatever it is, songwriting, artwork, film, whatever it might be, just writing in general, just go after it, and fuck the people that tell you ‘no’. Just believe in yourself, that’s it.

Thompson – To speak for the fans - we play a lot in Springfield; we play three times a week basically - and they’ve been great. The people who have gotten the music have just been awesome. They’ve made us continue with this, and we will keep continuing. They really are the ones who keep us out playing and having fun with this in a social setting. Of course we’re going to do this regardless if we have a place to do it. But to be able to touch people with these songs, and to just have people know that we’re going to keep doing it is a cool feeling, and so we respect our fans and we thank them for doing what they did.

     Catch GasPump Talent live at Lindbergs in Springfield, Missouri once a month and weekly at Emit’s Field downtown. Find out about more events and news at http://www.facebook.com/GasPumpTalent or http://www.gaspumptalent.com/

Photo by Blake Sellers

All contents property of Deitra Productions
Reproduction prohibited
Copyright 2011, all rights reserved
Photography by Blake Sellers, property of BS Photography
Copyright 2011, all rights reserved
Other photography by Teri Schmitt-Nord, property of Gaspump Talent
Copyright 2011, all rights reserved


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