Insomniac Folklore: The Early Years
Created by JoeMason on 7/21/2014 7:39:15 PM

Joe "Mr. M" Mason reviews Insomniac Folklore's latest compilation.

Two things that I remember from seeing Insomniac Folklore a couple of years ago in St. Louis were front man Tyler Hentschel stomping rhythm with his foot and his unbridled desire to get the crowd singing along. I bought a couple of CDs and stickers. When I saw an email notice one Saturday morning that they were releasing The Early Years in single disc and limited double disc editions, I PayPal preordered the big boy. A download edition arrived before the double disc. It went into a playlist and I gave it a couple of days of play during the commute.

Whereas Insomniac Folklore is a full band with folksy arrangements a la the Decembrists or Arcade Fire, early IF was clearly Hentschel’s baby. The collection shows his growth, and he wore his influences on his sleeve. Based on the spare liner notes, a bit of Wikipedia and listening to the songs, I’m going to give a fake biography of Hentschel’s project.

Tyler Henschel grew up on Oregon. Inspired by the DIY aesthetic of Pacific Northwest labels like Kill Rocks Stars and K Records, he began his musical career. “On his early recordings, “ Nate Allen (presumably of acoustic punks Destroy Nate Allen) writes on the CD box cover, “Tyler could best be described as finding his voice and discovering his songs, but even then it was more than evident that the honesty, sincerity, and charisma that make Insomniac Folklore truly something special was no act.” There is no doubt that he was finding his voice at this time. Inspired by the lo-fi punk of Beat Happening of K Records, Hentschel added his baritone to acoustic guitar instead speedy hardcore. This appropriation of sound can be heard on “American Janitor.” Times changed. When Elliott Smith’s Kill Rock Stars albums were released, Hentschel applied that sound to songs like “Ghosts of Friends Who are Still Alive.” In between, he wrote a lot of songs that start with him sounding like he’s about to play the Beatles’ “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away.”

Yes, young Tyler could be derivative. The timing of his solo strumming could be wonky too.  Today’s Tyler assesses the selections in the liner notes, ‘This collection is not intended to be the greatest hits, or even Insomniac Folklore’s most “popular” songs. Instead, the Early Years showcases some of my personal favorites and shares some songs that newer fans may not have heard before.’

Over the years he has moved to California, Portland and St. Louis, absorbing influences and jockeying band members. He found his voice and niche in what he calls “tantrum rock,” “a heartfelt and theatrical stomp-along dance party which may very well leave you in tears.”

Bear in mind, this is a fake, cobbled-together biography. It’s probably wrong on several counts, but the music is always honest. Even when The Early Years sound like someone else.

The Early Years is available at

Joe “Mr. M” Mason plays theremin and other oddball musical devices in the old-timey mad scientist band The White City Rippers and twangs washtub bass in the steampunk Britney Spears tribute band Spears and Gears. He also spins the amber oldies with the Lords & Ladies DJ crew.


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