To say Madison native Thomas Hentges’ musical interests are diverse might be an understatement, considering his highest profile projects have been metalcore juggernaut Nodes of Ranvier and the folky, acoustic outfit Burlap Wolf King. He is also a co-founder of Different Folk Records, and a hell of a beertender at Prairie Berry East Bank. Now, the Sioux Falls-based singer-songwriter is bringing his talents to 605magazine.com. Each month, Hentges will be covering the local music scene through interviews, reviews, and whatever other fun he comes up with. But first, he answers a few of our questions…
What is your first music memory?
Thomas Hentges: Faking taking naps at my babysitter’s as a very young boy, all the while intently listening to the warm tones resonating from her console stereo. I also remember spending several summer nights listening to area string bands playing at the Lake Herman State Park amphitheater, when my father was employed there as a park ranger.
What is one band that you remember really connecting with as a kid?
TH: Shortly after I had a my Nirvana moment in middle school (which led me away from the FM radio hits of the day), I dove headfirst into the timeless catalog of the Beatles’ music. They have been the strongest and longest lasting influence on me and my life thus far. I usually tell folks that my ideology was shaped by two main sources: John Lennon and Dr. Seuss.
How/when did you start playing music?
TH: I had written poetry and prose dating all the way back to my very early school days. I first picked up playing the guitar when I discovered a cheap old acoustic guitar stuffed away in the basement of my best friend’s folks’ house. I imagine it was his mother’s. I asked if I could borrow it and began learning a few chords.
I monkeyed around with guitars through high school here and there, while singing in a couple bands, but never really committed myself to the instrument. In my mid-20s, I found myself desperate for a creative outlet, so I began fiddling once again with an acoustic guitar I had around my apartment, and started writing tunes shortly thereafter. I took to the instrument much faster this particular go-round and have been slowly improving both as a musician and a songwriter ever since.
You’ve had a pretty diverse musical history. Talk about how you’ve evolved as a musician.
TH: I first got started “singing” (most folks would call it screaming) in a couple of bands I played with back home in Madison during my high school years. By the time I moved to Sioux Falls in the fall of 2016, I had already planted seeds to start a band with some folks I knew from the areas punk scene. Within a couple months, the band we formed, Nodes of Ranvier, was gigging. Within 16 months of my move to Sioux Falls we inked a record deal with southern California record label, Facedown Records. At that point, I began life as a touring musician, often spending 6 months a year on the road.
I really enjoyed my tenure with the band, but a handful of personal awakenings eventually led me to making the decision to leave in 2004. I had grown a bit tired of the aggressive music scene in general and wanted to return to what I saw as more of the roots of the music I truly cherished. After a couple of years thinking my music making days were over, I began tinkering with writing tunes which has led me to where I am today. I truly love all kinds of music and suck it all up like a sponge. I try to reflect this varied taste in my own music.
What was the most exciting show you’ve been part of?
TH: I can’t really pin down one, but can say that over the last couple years I have had the privilege to open up for some of my favorite musicians making music today. Getting the chance to go on stage with that caliber of talent is both a compliment to what I have accomplished over the years, as well as an acknowledgement of how far I still have to go to fulfill my musical goals and aspirations.
What is one musician or band that you find surprising and innovative?
TH: I am really high on the music of Texas-born songwriter Robert Ellis as of late. I got the chance to open for him and his band just recently here in Sioux Falls. Robert’s music is very sophisticated both in its musicality, as well as it’s song-structure. What I admire most about him and what seemingly makes him so innovative is his ability to encompass many genres of music within his own tunes, without producing what many refer to as ‘fusion.’ I am not really a big fan of ‘fusion’ in music, so for an artist to be able to craft a body of work with such a rich variety, all the while carving out his own niche is inspiring.
Who are a couple current local bands or performers that you think are great?
TH: I dig all my friends’ bands like the Union Grove Pickers, Phantom Balance, Soulcrate Music, Jami Lynn, Nick Engbers, Ryan Kickland, Hard Travelin’, Condor, Rifflord, Husk, March in Arms, Horseplay, Red Leaves, Elsa Rae, Sol Fredo, the JAS Quintet, the Southern Dakota Band, and several other area artists.
What has me most excited is the emergence of a new generation of young Sioux Falls bands like Angie Hosh, Lemmons, Low Riding Moths, Tenenbaums, Androgynous Squash, Bodega Sushi, Meriwether Raindelay, and a handful of others who are breathing new and youthful life into the Sioux Falls scene. This all has been made possible by Total Drag’s opening and providing a space for these younger musicians to cut their teeth and express themselves in a safe and nurturing environment.
Which local band do think works the hardest?
TH: That’s a really hard question, because so many bands work very hard in a variety of different ways. I have long admired Soulcrate Music’s commitment to developing and strengthening their music, stage show, PR, etc. They have worked very hard and built an area hip-hop scene almost single-handedly out of nothing over the past fifteen years. It’s hard to attach that kind of title to any one act, but at this point I believe I would place that crown on Wes, Dan, and Corey’s heads.
If you could have three dead musicians over for dinner, who would they be?
TH: Great question! I would have to go with Jason Molina, Townes Van Zandt and Waylon Jennings.
If you could jam with one living musician, who would it be?
TH: Without a doubt, Neil Young
What’s your favorite local restaurant? What’s your go-to order?
TH: It’s hard to pick just one, but I would say that the South end of Phillips Ave. downtown has my heart (and is close to my home). My three favorites are M.B. Haskett, Bros Brasserie Americano and Sushi Masa. I am also very fond of a good traditional taco and have found Tortilleria Hernandez to produce my favorite at the moment. Currently my go-to dish would have to be Bros’ pork belly entrée.
What else should readers know about you?
TH: When it all comes down to it, I see myself as a self-starter, hard worker…most certainly a lover, not a fighter as well as a generally pleasant person to be around. I am a proud born and raised South Dakotan and anticipate spending my entire life a resident of our wonderful state. While at times South Dakota may seem a little less that ideal in a handful of areas, I subscribe to Gandhi’s notion of “be the change you wish to see in the world.”
My favorite nights are those involving good friends, great conversation,
Outside of my obsession with all things music, I also enjoy spending lots of time with my wife, Alix, my dog (Timber) and cat (Cohen), absorbing classic films and watching considerable televised sports and sports commentary.