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‘I’m no Thumbtack Mechanic’: Student band is rocking Oxford

Local Oxford band Thumbtack Mechanics pose in front of Brick Street Bar on the night of a performance.
Local Oxford band Thumbtack Mechanics pose in front of Brick Street Bar on the night of a performance.

Thumbtack Mechanics began with a flyer.

In the spring of 2022, Miles Lynn wanted to improve his guitar skills by playing with other musicians. Like other artists before him, he made and hung flyers to seek out potential band members using an eye-catching red font.

Once people began responding, Lynn started holding interviews. 

“[I] was just trying to get to know them; see if I meshed with them,” Lynn said.

One by one, the group began to grow, and it’s now comprised of seven Miami students: Lynn on rhythm guitar, Zach Hillman on bass, John Cronin on lead guitar, Sara Noall on keys, Brock Shults on drums and Jane Feck and Ethan Kraus as lead female and male vocals, respectively.

Photo by Chloe Southard | The Miami Student
Thumbtack Mechanics members Miles Lynn, Zach Hillman, John Cronin, Sara Noall and Brock Shults sit down for an interview with Staff Writer Chloe Southard.

The group tested names such as Easy Squeeze and Miles and the Kilometers. But the right name came to them while Lynn and Cronin were hanging flyers.

“[Miles] was like, ‘How many thumbtacks should I put on each flyer?’” Cronin said. “And I was like, ‘That’s a dumb question’ … so I go, ‘I don’t know, I’m no thumbtack mechanic.’ I thought it was a stupid joke, but Miles liked it. He was like, ‘That could be our band name!’”

Thumbtack Mechanics cites bands such as The Strokes and The Beatles as musical inspirations, but that wasn’t originally the plan.

“[We] encompass everything,” Lynn said. “When we started, I had a vision in mind for the music that I wanted to play. Throughout adding people, it kind of changed because we are so diverse, and that makes such a versatile setlist.”

Thumbtack Mechanic’s setlist is indeed versatile; with music from Taylor Swift to Paramore to Amy Winehouse and Train, there’s something for everyone.

The band played what they described as their first real show during Oktoberfest last year, with an estimated 300 to 400 people in the audience.

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Before then, they were playing at parties and in backyards. Unlike other bands, Thumbtack Mechanics isn’t picky about where they play or what equipment they use. Shults said he’s had dirt on his drums on more than one occasion.

As a collective, the band lists their favorite performance as Brick Street Bar. Brick is a staple of Oxford, and the group felt elated to play there.

Thumbtack Mechanics performing a cover of "Cigarette Daydreams" by Cage The Elephant at Brick Street Bar. Thumbtack Mechanics

“I’m sure we’d all say one of our favorite performances was Brick,” Shults said. “I walked in [and saw] all of these pictures hanging of all these people that’ve played at Brick. Sure, we’re a student band, but when I was looking out in the crowd, I didn’t see one empty spot in that bar.”

Lynn agreed with Shults.

“When I started, [Brick] was the goal I wanted us to achieve,” Lynn said. “Not only to have gotten there, but to have packed the place — that was a great feeling.”

Thumbtack Mechanics is a close-knit group. They enjoy jeering among themselves and playing jokes on each other. As Schults put it, “We like to banter.”

For example, the band commented on the musical influences of lead singers Feck and Kraus, who were absent from the interview. They said Feck’s favorite song to perform was “Tongue Tied” by Grouplove, and joked that Kraus’s biggest influence was the band fun.

Photo by Thumbtack Mechanics | The Miami Student
Thumbtack Mechanics in the middle of a performance at Brick Street Bar.

Despite all of the fun being in a band entails, it can be stressful to balance with school. The band practices once a week for two to three hours, then designates time to practice on their own as well. On top of that, the group plays one to two shows a weekend.

“It is a job,” Noall said. “Moving equipment is something you don’t think about when you join a band, but we spend a good amount of time lugging equipment from here to the studio to somewhere else … it’s super rewarding, though.”

As for the band’s future, the end of the semester will be bittersweet. Lynn, Cronin and Kraus will be graduating, which leaves Hillman, Noall, Shults and Feck, who is an Oxford native. Fortunately, Thumbtack Mechanics will continue to play.

“I’m passing [the band] off to the first person that joined the group, [which] is Zach,” Lynn said. “I’m handing off the keys to the kingdom.”

Still, as Hillman said, “It’s just not gonna be the same.”

Long term plans are still being discussed among the group, but the seniors expressed it’ll be tough to walk away. Noall stated that the band has been working on original songs and has talked about recording music.

Shults left with some encouraging words to other musicians.

“I would encourage any group of people out there that want to go out and show what they’ve got, to go out and play; coordinate something and do it,” Shults said.“We got very lucky … it is so fun to get on the stage and play for people.”