Hosty Duo’s Mike “Tic Tac” Byars has the beat
By Doug Hill
Mike “Tic Tac” Byars is the other half of Norman band Hosty Duo which is among the most successful and longest-lived musical outfits in Oklahoma. He’s on drums and Mike Hosty sings and plays guitar. Byars expressed surprise, feigned or genuine unknown, when told that not only is the Duo popular with audiences they’re admired by other musicians, as well.
“I don’t know how to explain that, it’s great to hear,” Byars said. “Maybe they have seen that we have consistently kept going and not given up even if we play a show and no one is there.”
An audience slim on attendance happens to most bands occasionally but it’s rare with Hosty Duo. Whether it’s a Summer Breeze concert series in hometown Norman or a ski resort saloon in Colorado they tend to draw a large enthusiastic gathering. Hosty Duo plays their share of private parties and corporate affairs and their fee isn’t chicken feed. They’ve recently discovered a niche market providing dance music for University of Oklahoma alumni association parties in far away big cities including San Diego. Hosty Duo has built a successful career in no small measure by making Chi Omega booty bounce.
“It’s kind of obvious that we’re background music but we’re doing our thing whether the room is packed or there are just a few people there,” Byars said. “Maybe other musicians like us because we’re not show-off virtuosos. Our music is simple.”
Simply good that is. They’re stylistically attractive and the songs are chock full of regional character. Hosty Duo aren’t hot dogging a wheel barrow full of superfluous notes, they stick to the tried and true songs.
“We like '50s and '60s pop music and can’t help but play a little like that,” he said. “Hosty has been as big an influence on me as any other musician.”
They have a personal cosmic symbiosis that defies analysis. Hosty doesn’t even draw up a set play list before shows. He apparently gauges the mood of his audience and calculates it against his own feelings that evening.
“I can tell by the (guitar) chords what song we’re playing next,” Byars said. “He’s a man of mystery so I never know what the show is going to be like from one time to another.”
Byars stays creatively stimulated searching for music that’s never hit his radar before. He digs XM Radio’s “Soul Town” show for its often obscure urban pop from the mid-20th century.
“I listen to music that inspires me before I go play,” he said. “Certain records give me goose bumps, I’ll listen to them and get wound-up, energetic and ready to go.”
That readiness to go includes regular 12-hour one-way trips in the van to venues in all adjoining states. Sometimes when it makes sense financially they fly to gigs, carrying what gear they can and borrowing the rest locally. Both men have families here in Norman and being close to home is important but doesn’t prevent the occasional show as far away as Portland, Ore. Their busy schedule leaves little time for side projects but Byars sits in on other artist’s recording sessions now and then.
“I had a Western swing band for awhile,” he said. “I’ve played brushes for Travis Linville and Stoney LaRue at their Monday night Deli shows. But playing 5 or 6 nights a week with Hosty Duo I have to step away and let the machine breathe.”
Byars relocated his talent to Austin for a time several years ago. The young man was fortunate to have some percussionist mentors in a town that was then ripening into the music mecca it is today. Among them were University of Texas-Austin professor Brannen Temple, John Mayer’s drummer J.J. Johnson and North Texas University’s Earl Harvin who has played for Seal and now lives in Germany.
“Those three guys changed my life for sure,” Byars said. “The very first night I arrived in Austin, two of those guys were playing and it blew my hair back. I was intimidated by their holy greatness.”
He made it his business to learn more about and from these masters of the skins. Byars returned to Norman after a time but has maintained those relationships. Besides playing drums that’s something else Tic Tac’s good at.
If You Go:
What: Hosty Duo in concert as part of the Summer Breeze series.
Where: Lions Park, 450 S. Flood Ave.
When: 7:30 p.m. July 7