Hey Underwater Sunshine folks! Andy here, from the Andy and Katie Mullins show. Excited to have the opportunity to introduce you fine people to Ryan Hamilton. When we get new Underwater Sunshine music (or really any new music) at Chez Mullins, it usually makes its debut after 9, when the kid is asleep and Katie and I head off to bed for the night. Not gonna lie, the party really does never stop here in the Midwest. It was while lying in bed listening to new music that we heard Ryan Hamilton for the first time. “Wow,” she said, “Sounds a lot like some of the classic power-pop coming out of the late ‘90s Denton scene!” Friends, I will not lie— I nodded and said, “Yeah! It really does!” But friends, I did not know… I did not know what the hell she was talking about.
Dear readers, it is not always easy being married to a walking music encyclopedia. She just knows stuff. All the stuff. She is 12 years younger than me and couldn’t drive in the late ‘90’s while I had graduated college and started trying to be an adult but somehow, she knows more than I do about the era. Turns out Denton is a city in Texas near Dallas (Katie’s hometown) and yes, there was a rollicking power-pop, pop-punk scene during that area, as well as in Southern California and New York. The big band to rocket out of the scene was Bowling for Soup. It was the era of similar bands like Nerfherder, The Ataris, Blink-182. No, Ryan Hamilton isn’t late ‘90s Denton. But he’s pretty damn close.
Ryan Hamilton hit the Denton scene in the mid aughts (Yeah, my wife is really good at this, but she’s a decade off). His first spark on the scene came with the band Smile Smile— a very indie folk pop duo of Ryan and female vocalist/pianist, Jencey Hirunrusme. Three well-received records later, Smile Smile broke up and Ryan found himself collaborating with a lead member of one of the bands his old band had opened for— Jerret Reddick of, well ... Bowling for Soup (Damn it. Katie!!!). Their collaborations, known as People on Vacation, were short lived, but it’s clear that it was time well spent for Ryan Hamilton.
The Ryan Hamilton that emerged from People on Vacation had tongue firmly in cheek and had left some of the straight folk sensibilities of Smile, Smile in the past in favor of writing perfectly crafted power pop rock that married melody to wit and welded it all together with loud guitars and just the right amount of humor. Recording since then as Ryan Hamilton and the Traitors and current incarnation, Ryan Hamilton and the Harlequin Ghosts, Ryan has developed into an adept pop rock journeyman, bringing forward the best legacies of the genre: earnestness, loud guitars, and a more than healthy dose of wit.
Nowhere is this more evident than in his latest single release, “Bottoms Up (Here’s to Goodbye)” and it’s companion release, a cover of Paula Abdul’s pop rocket, “Straight Up.” The brilliance of the cover choice is born from the unlikelihood of ever really considering Paula Abdul for a punked-up redux. But it works though, in the same way Bowling for Soup reinterpreted Bryan Adams’s “Summer of ‘69” and the Ataris brought us a new rendition of Don Henley’s “Boys of Summer,” neither the likely suspect for a punk interpretation. But it worked and I’ll be damned if I wasn’t singing a punked-out version of Paula Abdul the next day.
“Bottoms Up (Here’s to Goodbye)” is an absolute ear worm that will embed its chorus in your brain after one listen— driving beat and bass line, loud and dirty guitars, and a perfect punk vocal delivery all meshing into everything that’s good about the genre. Both songs are available on Apple Music, YouTube, and Spotify. And from cruising YouTube, it’s clear from video of recent live performances that there’s a whole lot more good material in the tube for eventual release.
I’m looking forward to hearing Ryan Hamilton play his new stuff and anything else he feels like at his upcoming solo gig at Underwater Sunshine. And hats off to Katie for apparently being able to guess a band’s geographical location and musical lineage in one song or less. It’s weird people. Weird.