Lucas With a K is (left to right) Bryon Middleton (guitar), John Hult (bass), Hunter Johnson (vocals), Eric TeSlaa (guitar), and Benjamin Johnson (drums).

By Austin Kaus

More than half their lives ago, Hunter Johnson and Bryon Middleton were two punk teenagers trying to survive the nearly-equidistant isolation of Pierre, SD. Flash forward through a couple of marriages, one divorce, and a van’s worth of children and the pair – along with three like-minded musician friends – are now making music as Lucas With a K and celebrating the release their second EP “Life on Mute.” In this interview, Bryon and Hunter talk about the 1980s, beer, and the life of being a thirty-something punker.

AK: What’s the story behind the band’s name?

BM: Spawned from the 80’s Corey Haim megahit “Lucas” and the concept of “The Slow Clap.” If you get it, you got it.

HJ: We were sitting around joking about the movie “Lucas” and thought “the slow clap” would be a good name but then realized it sounded like a terrible STD. Then, our friend Laurel came up with “Lucas with a K” and it stuck.

AK: Between that and the Back to the Future quotes included on Life on Mute, it appears the band has a strong connection to the 80s. Why is that decade so important to the band?

HJ: Most of us grew up in that time period. We all watched the same terrible movies on VHS until they were broken and we all have the connection to the games, toys and random weird shit that were attributed to that era.

BM: We’re in our mid 30’s, man. This band is just a long, drawn out, made-for-TV version of “Stand By Me” and dick and fart jokes.

AK: Best 80s movie: go.

BM: Impossible question and there’s not enough room in this interview but Rad, The Goonies, Aliens, Indiana Jones, the Star Wars trilogies, The Breakfast ClubPredator, and, of course, the great horror flicks like House, Monster Squad, and The Gate.

HJ: Howard the Duck.

AK: What’s the musical history of the members in LWAK?

BM: Jail, rehab, divorce…oh, you said “musical.” (The band is composed of former members of) Hollander, The Rubber Gloves, Action Figure Army, and Fear of the Living. Also, Hunter put on shows in Pierre forever.

youngpunksJohnson and Middleton circa 1998 or 1999 (Submitted photo)

AK: Do you ever just say “LWAK!” out loud because it’s fun?

HJ: Sometimes I forget that we have an actual band name

BM: You just got LWAK’d.

AK: What’s the goal of LWAK?

BM: Have fun, make music with friends, eat sandwiches and record as much as monetarily possible.

HJ: Write as much as we can until it’s time to call it a day. Just being able to play music with some of my best friends in my 30’s is enough to keep me going for another 10 years.

AK: What’s LWAK’s definition of “punk”? Has your own definition of “punk” changed over time?

HJ: I can’t speak for everyone else but, for me, it simply means to play it loud, play it fast and make it fun. Everyone has their own definition of what punk is or means. It’s kind of funny that a music that’s supposed to bring so many people together has so many genres and sub-genres keeping each other separated. I used to think it was crazy hair, anarchist quotes, Hunter S. Thompson books and skateboarding that made me a punk, but then hair falls out, anarchism loses credibility when you start working for the man, favorite authors off themselves and skateboarding really hurts. In the end, you realize that it’s just music.

BM: This question is dumb.

AK: Naysayers would say punk is dead. How do you respond to that?

BM: If they mean the music we play, who cares? We don’t play it for them. We play it for us and whomever wants to listen to it. And that’s people that like to live life to the fullest with a rad soundtrack.

HJ: It’s not a living thing. People that say its dead might need to see a psychiatrist due to the fact that they’re caring for a non-living thing.

AK: Who do you think your audience is right now?

BM: Come to a f—ing show and find out.

unnamedMiddleton, Johnson, and TeSlaa live at The Phoenix Lounge in Harrisburg, SD on Jan. 11, 2014/ Photo by Heather Lucille

AK: How big a role does beer play in the band?

HJ: It’s funny that you ask that considering drinking has made its way into many of our songs but, as a whole, we really don’t drink often at practice. Half of us have kids now and we have enough DUIs between us to lock a person up for 20 years. Now, if you catch us at a show, that’s another story. I write about drinking a lot because it used to play a huge role in my life and the decisions I have made. Not to say that, at times, it doesn’t still but, for the most part, we tend to behave ourselves

BM: Not as much as in the past. In fact, some of our members are primarily non-drinkers. Then again, some are still alcoholics too, but it just go to show you…oh, look a beer.

AK: How old are the members? What challenges does that aging make for the band?

BM: I think we’re about 33-35 except Ben. We don’t know how old he is, but he gets the most action. Having family and careers is never a drawback. It keeps us grounded and reminds us that this is for fun. A passion? Yes. A disease? Yes. An outlet!  Money and time are tight and scheduling shows can be a nightmare, but we get it done and most of the people that really matter in our lives understand what it means to us. That’s just how I feel anyway. Some of the other guys might just show up and play and care less. I don’t know or care. I’ll play music till I die.

AK: Some of the band members have children. What do they have to say about LWAK?

BM: Our kids love music! They love coming to our practice space and beating on the drums and screaming into the PA.

AK:  In the relatively short time that LWAK has been a band, there has already been a line-up change. How has the addition of John Hult changed the dynamic of the group in terms of performance, songwriting, etc.?

BM: He’s the most talented musician in the band, has a golden voice, and great stories.

AK: What does the future hold for LWAK?

BM: We’ll break up out of apathy or we’ll beat this dead horse and play weekend shows around the region and record another EP. Whatever happens, we’ll be writing music together in some fashion for years, even if it’s just at BBQ’s and playdates.

Check out Lucas With a K’s new record Life on Mute at


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