Thursday, October 2, 2014

Chicago group The Robert Hynes Band breaks boundaries on new album


Unlike much of the music on mainstream radio today, it's hard to put a label on Chicago-based The Robert Hynes Band.

The band demonstrates as much on its new CD, "My Machez A Mio," as it dips into blues, rock, country and other genres. The band will celebrate the release of the CD by playing Oct. 8 at the Mayne Stage, 1328 W. Morse Ave., Chicago.

David Hawkins and Teresa Storch also are on the bill. The show starts at 8 p.m. and tickets are $5, available at
I had the chance to talk to Hynes about the new album. 

Q - Great talking to you. In making  "My Machez A Mio," what were your goals and do you think you accomplished them? 

It's great talking with you and the Total Scene blog. Over the last couple of years I've been performing this material around Chicago with my band. 

I really wanted to be able capture our live show experience in a recording.  We wanted the raw sound, and I'm very happy with how it turned out! 

Q - The band dips into many genres on the album, including blues, jazz and country. Your first band, Dragonfly, also roamed through a number of genres, including Latin jazz, funk and rockabilly. You seem like the type of musician that doesn't like to be confined to a certain genre. 

Very true. I really don't pay attention to genre when writing, or where a song belongs, other than for inspiration. 

I do like a wide variety of music, so my band's material ends up being pretty eclectic. 

Over the years, way back since Dragonfly, I've played a little of this and a little of that. With the Robert Hynes Band, it's pretty much the same, with a touch more blues and smaller group.

My favorite artists have always been those that are hard to pin down to one category like Ray Charles, Dr. John, Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, Paul Simon, Taj Mahal, and The Beatles.

Q - How did your current band form and what do you think each of you brings to the table? 

I've been very fortunate to work with some great Chicago musicians, and my current four piece group is a blast to play with.  Fred Mundinger is on guitar and backing vocals. We've played together since 1992/'93 in various band formations. He has a great sense of tone and musicality. 

I've been with Kevin Becker (upright bass) since '08, and Mike Bruno (drummer) since '09. Like Fred and I, they both have wide spanning tastes.

Kevin has a laid back style, and Mike has great feel and plays with taste. Because of our influences and talents, we have become awesome  collaborators  in creating our sound.

Q - I understand that when you attended the College of DuPage, you studied under several prominent guitarists, including Tom Sanchez (formerly of the band Liquid Soul), jazz-fusion guitarist Steve Ramsdell, classical guitarist Scott Johnston.What were the biggest things that you learned from them? 

Practice, practice, practice, then practice some more.  Know your stuff and play with feeling. 

There's always more to learn. Those guys are all so good, I learned a lot from them and others and am still working on some most of it! 

Finger-style, improvising over changes, sight reading, ear training and composition are the most important things I learned. Tommy was my long-time teacher. I bought my Gibson ES 175  (my "go to" guitar) from him in 2002, and play it at most shows.

Q - You are a music teacher yourself. What are the major things that you try to teach your students? 

Play what inspires you, whatever it is. Make your practice enjoyable so you'll keep at it and you'll get better. 

Always try new things on your instrument to keep growing, and make use of all of your resources. On a practical level I work on sight reading, transcribing popular tunes, chord voicing, rhythm/picking patterns, improvising solos etc. 

Q - What do you think of the Chicago music scene and where do you think your band fits into it? 

There's a ton of talent in Chicago and the surrounding area. As an original songwriter the Chicago music scene can be a bit tricky to navigate, but I've found some success by being diverse. 

I've kept busy as a musician by teaching (guitar, bass, ukulele, banjo, mandolin, and a rock band course), and performing. 

I also build and sell cigar box guitars,  hot-rod guitars and amps, and do a variety of repairs. I really enjoy bringing these creations, such as a home-built rotating Leslie cabinet, to my shows. 

They help me to deliver a sound and experience, that is uniquely "Robert Hynes, Rust Bucket Funk." Because my band has a wide range we've been lucky to open for many great touring acts passing through Chicago like New Orleans legend Buckwheat Zydeco and Leo Nocontelli (guitarist of the Meters).

I'm always looking for opportunities like that, or anything else that pops up!