Eric Thompson—Hyryder

I was born in Littleton, Colorado. We moved around a lot early on in my life— from Colorado to California, New York and back to California—but we settled here in Indiana when I was young and I’ve been proud to call Indianapolis my home ever since. My first real musical memory was from a very young age. I don’t know how old I was but I distinctly remember listening to Mickey Mouse Disco playing on vinyl. I believe I was in a playpen at the time. My father, who loves music, listened to a lot of records. Beatles, Beach Boys and, you know, Simon and Garfunkel, the Mamas and Papas, that kind of thing. So I was exposed to music really early on. Both of my uncles are musicians and definitely were an influence on me musically; but yeah, I’ve been listening to and interested in music for as long as I can remember. 

Eric Thompson—Photograph © Phierce Photo | Keith Griner

I started piano lessons at age six and continued that for about three or four years. I will always be grateful to my mother for encouraging me do that. I don’t believe at the time I was really into it and probably gave her a lot of grief over having to practice; but it really instilled in me the basics of music theory which has served me well throughout the years. I picked up the guitar in high school, maybe sophomore year; and, honestly, I was just getting into the Grateful Dead and was out at shows playing air guitar to Bobby by age 14. So when I started to learn some chords, you know, I kind of already had a little bit of the rhythm to go along with it. 

My high school was just a few miles from Deer Creek amphitheater, and at the time we lived nearby. I remember seeing the Deadheads coming into town in the summers and was always really intrigued by it but I didn’t know what it was all about. Fortunately, I had a friend who had an older brother and he was into it. He turned me on and I started going out to Deer Creek to see the Dead in 1992. By the time I graduated high school in ’94 I was going to as many shows as I could. So it’s an interesting dynamic, because I was really only able to catch the last few years of the Grateful Dead, and at the time there were older heads telling me, oh, you know, it isn’t as good as it used to be, but I can tell you for me at that age I’d never heard anything like it in my life and it completely blew my mind and led me to today. 

Hyryder—Photograph © Amanda Cannon

Eventually I started jamming with some guys who had a little blues night gig at a local Italian restaurant on the patio. That was my first experience playing live. I was kind of just learning chords and that kind of stuff. For me, personally, I’ve primarily always been interested in playing the Grateful Dead. I just always wanted to learn those songs, you know, so I did, and Hyryder was my first real band. 

Charlie Morgan—Photograph © Phierce Photo | Keith Griner

Hyryder was formed in the summer of 2008. It kind of grew out of another local band that was playing the Dead, called Acoustic Flyer. I used to sit in with them from time to time. Our lead guitarist and vocalist, Charlie Morgan, our drummer, Nick Neureiter and myself started jamming and that’s where this trip began. 

Blair Ping—Photograph © Brian-McDonough

Hyryder primarily performs throughout the Midwest. Skull and Roses 2023 will be our first time in California, and we’re really excited to be a part of the festival this year. The lineup is really amazing and we are honored to be a part of it. Our home base is a venue here in Indianapolis called the Mousetrap. I can tell you it’s one of the best Grateful Dead bars in the country. Our fan base has grown over the years with us and has developed a really solid scene in the Midwest. We’re playing all over the place in the Midwest and trying to grow into new markets as much as we can. Covid put a little halt in everything there for a couple years, of course. 

Kirby Hammel—Photograph © Brian-McDonough

I play rhythm guitar in Hyryder. And I sing primarily Bobby tunes. I do a little bit of Jerry. We don’t really define it like that in the band. Our lead player, Charlie Morgan, is an absolute beast and there are some Bob songs that he takes on that he just does so well. But I primarily, do Bobby and Pigpen, and a few Jerry songs. I am so lucky to be playing with this amazing group of musicians 

We just love the music. For me, getting into the Dead at such a young age and only getting to do a couple of tours just wasn’t enough. When Jerry died I was just blown away and being able to go see bands like Dark Star Orchestra as well as other Dead bands really helped. I do agree with you that the Grateful Dead is its own genre of music. I really believe that’s true. It’s an enigma and hard for some people to understand. 

Nick Neureiter—Photograph © Brian-McDonough

We have, myself and my band included, an intense appreciation for the music of the Grateful Dead. It’s been like a dream. I don’t even know how I ended up here to be honest with you; but just to be involved in or considered in a conversation in helping to, you know, continue on the music of the Grateful Dead is such an honor. I really love that the Grateful Dead has embraced the bands playing their music. 

It’s a community. Here in Indianapolis and around the Midwest there is a vibrant Dead community. I think maybe some people around the country, you know, don’t take notice of it so much, but there is such a thriving Grateful Dead scene. I can’t say enough about the Hyryder fans. I am just so proud of our scene and this whole greater community.

And boy, is it fun to be a part of it.

Hyryder—Photograph © Amanda Cannon