He’s a human ball of hellfire: flailing limbs and flying hair and gnashing teeth, a face that’s scrunched up like the skin wouldn’t otherwise contain what’s inside, a white dress shirt stained with sweat and other peoples’ cocktails, and a sullied black-mesh hat. Onstage at El Cid, Andre Hyland, as youth minister and rock prophet Tracy Marune, is shrieking “J-E-S! U-S-A!” into a dented microphone while brandishing the painted phallus of an 8-foot-tall cardboard demon.
Perhaps explanation is in order. “I don’t know what to call myself,” Hyland says. “Performance artist/filmmaker/actor/visual artist? I don’t want to be all ‘Captain Slash’ about it.” Now, sitting in his Silver Lake living room, surrounded by what must be a few hundred videotapes, the Cincinnati-bred Hyland, 28, seems Midwestern to the bone: humble, slouching, careful not to offend, full of goofy expressions. But these two Andres aren’t the half of it.
Tracy, Dean & Jesus, Hyland’s psych-punk band/variety show currently holding residency at El Cid, is only Hyland’s loudest outlet. Under the production moniker Blond Chili, he writes, directs, edits and stars in a bizarre procession of comedic shorts as intimately off-kilter as they are hilariously satirical. His clips for FUEL TV’s sketch-based Stupidface are the most YouTube-d of the series, due in no small part to his alter ego Tim Hutchins, a ponytailed douche with yogic aspirations in perpetual confab with his cell-phone headset. Cameras hidden, Hyland yammers improvised quips to no one, shushing passersby or asking for their help with one of Hutchins’ ridiculous quests (a blind date, for instance). He invariably loses his New Age cool, screams and dunks his phone into the concrete.
“All the things that don’t appeal to me in actuality really appeal to me comedically,” Hyland says. “Most of my creations involve my own worst traits heightened, and the things I can’t stand about society compiled.”
In his Web series promoting the new album of Oakland buzz band Why?, Hyland becomes a knuckleheaded hick who knew the band way back when. (He actually did attend high school with them in Ohio.) In a recent music video (Wallpaper’s “T-Rex”), he plays a low-budget auteur delivering ham-fisted direction to his subject. Once, staging a religious protest of Jimmy Kimmel Live!as Tracy Marune, Hyland beaned the host in the head with a brownie. Hyland’s work has a clear Situationist element, carried over from his days as a graffiti artist, but there is also something vaguely voyeuristic about it.
“I was enthralled with cable access as a kid,” Hyland explains, “that rawness, the fake professionalism. My family didn’t have cable, but when we’d go on vacation, we’d rent this house in Florida that did. I’d pack tons of VHS tapes and record TV all week. The church shows were my favorite.”
Hence Minister Marune, who, despite all his advertised piety, is known to shout a trilling “Goddamnit!” when he injures himself onstage, which he does frequently. A January performance left him on crutches for a month. You’d expect him to take a break, but Hyland developed a slide show around his blackened ankle. Hardly normal, yet as he sinks into his nondescript couch, Hyland seems just that. Even as he talks about Marune in alternating third and first person, medical records wouldn’t be enough to connect the character of the man to any one of his characters.
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Photo by Kevin Scanlon