Chattanooga songwriter, performer, and producer Nick Lutsko shares how his musical career began and how his iconic band, The Gimmix, was created.
Photo by Ryan Long
Well on his way to becoming a household name, Nick Lutsko is known for producing music with nuanced lyricism and stage performances teetering between carnivalesque and purely outlandish. In addition to writing and performing music with his band of life-sized puppets, The Gimmix, he also produces satirical songs and music videos for entertainment platforms such as Netflix, College Humor, and, formerly, Super Deluxe.
Lutsko’s parodic music videos, which include Kanye West as a Tame Impala Song and Alex Jones Rants as an Indie Folk Song, have amassed over 130 million views across streaming platforms and earned him two Webby nominations. They are a more lighthearted testament to Lutsko’s musical talents, as he uses out-of-context sound bites from prominent celebrities to craft playful songs using his own vocals, meter, and instrumentation.
Photo by Lark Stevens
Where Nick shines brightest, though, is as a songwriter. His verses are layered with a visceral physical description and emotional complexity. His lyrics tend to be coarse yet romantic, dark yet humanistic. Take All Shook Up for example, in which he sings:
“Well I was all shook up in the middle of Memphis
She stabbed me with a cigarette while kissing a crucifix
She told me in confidence as I was licking off her lipstick
I don't wanna die in Tennessee, I wanna be different.”
or one of his more recent hits, Sideshow, in which he sings:
“Your word is paper thin
You told your children they could reach for the stars
Then fed them Ritalin
And popped their futures into VCRs.”
Lutsko makes it look easy, but he shared that only after years of putting the craft of songwriting to practice did he reach the level he’s at today.
“I started taking guitar lessons in fourth grade and began writing songs right away,” he said. “I tried convincing all my friends to buy instruments so we could start a band. I recorded dozens of awful songs in middle school on ‘sound recorder’ and other cheap recording software. Things got more serious when I started playing shows and making albums with my high school band, Infinite Orange.”
After high school, Nick studied commercial songwriting at Middle Tennessee State University. He moved back to Chattanooga after graduating in 2013, and he’s been writing, producing, and performing here ever since, he shared.
Lutsko released his most recent album, Swords, after performing it live at The Signal in October 2019. Over the past several years and leading up to its release, Nick’s live performances and music videos have evolved quite dramatically.
Photo by Lark Stevens
Though wildly entertaining, the music video released in 2015 for All Shook Up humbly featured Lutsko, by himself, lip-syncing and miming guitar chords in front of a red backdrop while raw hot dogs were thrown at him from off-screen. In comparison, the videos for Sideshow and Software, both released in 2019, boasted cinematic camera work, extensive set and costume design, and more artfully obscure narratives.
Each video Lutsko produces has his creative fingerprints and whimsical style all over it. However, it’s also clear how much his skillset and storytelling abilities have evolved over the years from sheer experience and from working with other creatives, like directors Justin Cipriani (Sideshow, Predator, Grinning Like a Barracuda) and Edy Recendez (Software).
His bandmates, The Gimmix, are another example of how Lutsko’s eccentric style and imaginative company influence their musical performances.
“My roommates and I made puppets in college. It was just something dumb we did on a whim to make funny videos with,” Nick said. “I toyed around with the idea of having puppets onstage for live performances but couldn’t really figure it out … The goal was to replicate this feeling of having a puppet band onstage, so [my band and I] created these puppet-like costumes. It eventually became its own thing.”
Photo by Ryan Long
Under the costumes are Eric "Greezy Rick" Parham (bass, keys, vocals), Jacob "Brother Cobb" Lutsko (xylophone, percussion, vocals), Jon "Professor Hornsby" Elliot (saxophone) and Adam "Ole Stumpy" Brown (drums, loops).
“We call them ‘Gimmix’ as a tongue-in-cheek way to acknowledge the fact that dressing up on stage is a very gimmicky thing to do,” Nick continued. “But more so than that, it’s a creative extension of the music. I love to create things. Funny things, scary things, pretty things, confusing things … I’m a musician first and foremost, but creating things that stimulate on multiple levels is exciting to me.”
Considering how far his songs, videos, and live performances have evolved in the past decade, any fan of Lutsko’s should be just as excited to see what he creates next. Make sure to go follow him on Instagram and to check out his website!