Cheap and deep

Drive-Thru Mystics play fun garage rock that resonates with surprising depth and smarts

As its chief Drive-Thru Mystic, frontman Aaron Hutto—a.k.a. A.a. Ron—is singer-songwriter, influence wrangler and vision haver.

As its chief Drive-Thru Mystic, frontman Aaron Hutto—a.k.a. A.a. Ron—is singer-songwriter, influence wrangler and vision haver.

photo by lisa baetz

Catch the Drive-Thru Mystics on Friday, December 7, at 9 p.m. at Fox & Goose, 1001 R Street; $5. The band also plays on Saturday, December 8, at 9:30 p.m. at the G Street Wunderbar, 228 G Street in Davis; no cover;

It isn’t just music that influences local quartet Drive-Thru Mystics’ sound: It’s also B movies, John Waters and existential philosophy. But the idea for the band really came together when lead singer and guitarist A.a. Ron—a.k.a. Aaron Hutto—had a vision.

“I visualized these guys in a van hanging out at the drive-in in the ’70s, talking [about] really deep stuff, watching B movies and getting high, sort of like Dazed and Confused or something. I like the idea because it symbolizes cheap and deep,” Hutto said.

The meaning behind the name turned out to be a perfect fit to match the band’s fun, retro, straightforward, almost campy, garage-rock songs, with subtle nuances and lyrical content that resonates in a surprisingly thoughtful way.

“It’s music that’s not so complicated that you have to spend a ton of time thinking about it, but at the same time, if you do stop and think about it, there’s something going on,” Hutto said.

It’s a bit of an oversimplification to even call Drive-Thru Mystics a retro garage-rock band. Their influences encompass not only Nuggets-era psychedelic rock, but ’70s glam rock, ’80s post punk, ’90s droning indie pop and everything in between. In fact, when Hutto first posted a Craigslist ad looking for bandmates, he listed nearly 50 bands as his main inspirations—and that was just the tip of the iceberg. He is, in short, a walking musical encyclopedia.

“I have all these influences running around in my head at any given time, and they just kind of find their way into the songs,” Hutto said.

Though Hutto met several different musicians via the ad, it wasn’t until early this year when he found Farfisa organ player Jess Goddèsse—a.k.a. Jessica Kelly—who played in the legendary South Bay Area band, the Guttersluts, that Drive-Thru Mystics really gelled.

And while Kelly is no longer in Drive-Thru Mystics, her influence remains. “She has a warped sense of humor. She … influenced the tone of the band significantly,” Hutto said.

Now, the band includes drummer Kevin Shakur on drums and bassist Dave Adams, and its easygoing, whimsical sound almost disguises Hutto’s intense passion for the music he writes.

“They’re fun songs, but this is something I take really seriously. This is my art. I put a lot of myself into this. I sing so hard sometimes [that] after songs, I feel like I’m going to fall down. My head is all woozy,” Hutto said.

When Hutto writes a new song, he said he plays it 50 or 60 times alone before taking it to the band—which makes sense, considering the scope of their subject matter.

“Sunshine Superscam,” while seemingly an upbeat power-pop rock song, is really a social critique of American culture that takes on the recent housing crisis. It tells the story of a couple that’s trying to figure out what to do after losing their home.

Likewise, “Synergy, Revenue Stream, Jargon” sounds like a sunny, psychedelic-pop tune, but in truth, it’s about a friend of Hutto’s who has drug problems; he refuses to deal with them and burns every bridge as a result. The song is particularly personal for Hutto, because he once dealt with his own drug addiction. Now, Hutto, who quit using drugs seven years ago, said he could have become like his friend in the song.

Drugs weren’t his only hurdle in forming a band. In fact, over the years, Hutto has had to deal with various health issues, the challenges of raising his son and financial troubles.

“I couldn’t afford musical equipment. I couldn’t afford baby sitters to even be in a band,” Hutto said.

Not only has he finally found the right band members, but he’s also gotten married, something he said enabled the pursuit of his dreams.

When he met the woman he’d eventually marry, Hutto said, everything fell into place.

“My life started to come together,” he said. “She was a big part of that.”