Kyle Hunt and the King Gypsy
By Chris Mastrovito 05/06/2010
Love them in their Chevy van
Finding your musical identity is like finding a favorite pair of pants. You try out a few and wear them down until one just feels right. Guitarist Kyle Hunt didn’t start out playing the blues. A young Kyle Hunt and DeAnza Middle School mate John Sagar both became involved in the punk and hardcore scenes in high school and started a band together called Ribshot, but soon both drifted away from punk rock. “The whole scene was kind of violent,” recalls Hunt. His first venture as a songwriter was a 14-track solo album released in 2007 called Under a Peaceful Moon, a solid folk-rock record reminiscent of Tom Petty and Wilco. But musical combos die hard, and Hunt and Sagar decided to collaborate once again in 2008, adding drummer Jon Long and bassist Brandon Romero. The result was the formation of Oak View’s beer drinking, trucker hat and flannel shirt-wearing classic rockers Kyle Hunt and the King Gypsy: four dudes in an old brown Chevy van named Bertha, who are ready to party.
Spread the word and you’ll be free
Part of the band’s philosophy (aside from living free, taking off their shirts and playing rock ’n’ roll) is the radical notion that it is desirable to talk to people — like, with your mouth. When trying to book shows, Kyle Hunt always prefers to call. He finds e-mail frustrating and too impersonal. Consequently, the band members tend to put their personalities out there. When it comes to promotion, while KHKG still maintains an active presence on MySpace and Facebook, the band relies primarily on the face-to-face interaction of the pre-Internet ritual of hitting the streets and personally passing out flyers to potential fans. When it comes to the flyers themselves, it’s all about simplicity and quantity. Drummer Jon Long prints literally thousands of them: small, wallet-sized pieces of paper printed with one puzzling main image and three key pieces of information: the band name, the Web site, and a short phrase, such as “Party Time?” “It’s just about getting your name into the heads of people,” says Hunt. That they do. The band has done such a thorough job distributing flyers that members had to pay a visit to the Ojai Sheriff’s Department to retrieve trash bags full of the excess littering streets. Outgoing and audacious, and never missing an opportunity to promote, Long reached back into the bag and handed one each to the sheriff, the assistant and the dispatcher. “That’s just Jon,” says Hunt.
Old songs for new faces
Even if you have never seen one of the flyers, chances are excellent that you have seen the name somewhere, especially if you visit Ventura regularly, where KHKG has a steady flow of gigs, playing at least once a week downtown and in Ojai. That exposure has been pretty effective in building a local following, which consists of all ages. Mindful of the possibility of overexposure locally, it has also ventured down south to San Diego, and is taking Bertha out for the band’s first trip to San Francisco this month for at least two shows in the city, for new ears. At the end of 2009 they released the first full-length CD, Chasing a Dream, which they will continue to promote in new cities. Instead of focusing on the next recording, Hunt would rather not rush it. “We have been playing these songs for a while, but there is still a very, very small percentage of people who have even heard this album. We need to play these songs for new faces and write new songs for the faces we have already played in front of.”
Kyle Hunt and the King Gypsy play at the Village Jester in Ojai on May 21, before trucking up north. “Chasing a Dream” is yet to find distribution but is available directly through the band by visiting www.kinggyp.com.