Pumptown serves up musical smorgasbord

High-energy and highly musical, Pumptown includes Bill Hynek, DMU student Amy Hynek and her siblings, Amanda and Joe. The band performs original folk rock, rock, pop, country, “island country” and polka tunes with some drum solos in the mix.
Amy Hynek, D.O.’10 juggles music and medical education as skillfully as she plays guitar, drums, mandolin and more.
Life may seem boring
And a little mundane
When you are looking
Through opaque shades
But you’ve got to take them off
And don’t give up hope
Because life is one big kaleidoscope.
– from “Colors”

Life is anything but mundane when you hang around Pumptown.

During the band’s performances, member Bill Hynek might whip out a rainstick while son Joe simultaneously plays the bass drum and an accordion named Steve. Joe’s sisters Amy and Amanda make music on everything from guitars and snare drums to the mandolin and even a conch shell. Put the four Hyneks together, and you get one big rocking, rollicking musical kaleidoscope.

“Our music is eclectic,” says Amy, D.O.’10. “It varies so much by song.”

That’s an understatement: During the band’s recent performance in Des Moines – for which Amy arrived the evening before, taking a break from a surgical rotation in Detroit – tunes ranged from the toe-tapping country-beat “Get a Job” to the drum-intense “Ka Mate,” inspired by a New Zealand visitor to the family’s Ellston, IA, farm.

“She taught us the Maori war chant,” Amy says. “I took parts to write the song.”

The four Hyneks write all the band’s music, which Amy calls “a pretty nice creative outlet.” But it’s also an impressive feat, given she is a full-time medical student and her bandmates have day jobs. The fact they’re family helps keep them together; in fact, that’s what got them together.

“We grew up playing the guitar around the campfire. People started wanting us to play, so we decided to make it a band and see if we could get paid enough to pay for the equipment,” Amy recalls.

Six years and five CDs later, the band – named after a ghost town near the family farm – is now a loud, proud crowdpleaser that’s fun to watch and often funny. In the funky stomp “Bacon,” singer Joe shares insights on appealing to the fairer sex:

Up in the mountain where the air is clean
He pulled out a skillet and some Jimmy Dean
She said, “Smells good – whatcha got cooking?”
Like a fisherman, he got the hook in.
… Everyone knows: Girls like bacon.

Pumptown’s music reflects less-pleasing personal experiences, too, including online dating (“She’s Got a Cat”) and love gone bad (“Brain in the Pants Syndrome”). Several songs reflect the family’s travels, including the five winter holiday breaks they’ve spent on building missions in Mexico.

The band’s drum infusion stems from Amy’s love of the instrument, which she collects. Nature is featured prominently, too; for example, Pumptown’s environmentally themed CD “Greenspace” includes a pumped-up salute to biodiesel.

The band’s talents go beyond performance. In 2006, Joe and the siblings’ mom, Angie, wrote the musical “Farmer Song,” about a young couple struggling to survive the 1980s farm crisis and subsequent technology evolution. T he musical took second place in the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival’s musical theater playwriting contest and earned a Robert E. Stewart Humanities Award from the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers. It also was performed at the 2007 New York International Fringe Festival, to which one critic said it added a “new element of wholesomeness,” Amy recalls.

In 2007, the Hyneks took their love of music to yet another level by launching Farmer Song Fest, an annual musical celebration held during Memorial Day weekend on their farm. The fest features Pumptown and three other invited bands, drawing approximately 400 people ranging from little kids to senior citizens.

This year’s fest will be especially hectic, as it will occur on DMU’s commencement, May 29. The Hyneks will celebrate Amy’s graduation at the 10 a.m. ceremony and then head south. “We’ll load up the RV. I’ll have my biscuits and gravy ready,” says mom Angie. “After graduation we’ll head back to the farm for the festival.”

That’s fitting for a band that sings, in the lyrical track “Colors”:

We all are colors in every shade
A little crazy, in our own way.

Listen to Pumptown’s music and watch a video of the band performing at Pumptown.com.

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