The Hypnic Jerks chase stardom on their own terms

Buffalo band hopes to create internet buzz to chase independent musical dreams


Lydia Macaluso was sitting in her Psychology 101 class freshman year when the teacher started lecturing the class about hypnic jerks, an involuntary twitch in your sleep.

“She was like, ‘today we’re gonna talk about hypnic jerks,’ and I said ‘the Hypnic Jerks, wouldn’t that be a great name for a band?’” Lydia said.

The Hypnic Jerks, an up-and-coming band made up of Lyana Macaluso, a UB sophomore film major, Lauren Gantz, UB graduate occupational therapy student, and Lydia Macaluso, a Buffalo State pre-law graduate, have spent the last several years growing their fan base through social media.

The Jerks, as fans often call them, have known each other their whole lives. Lydia and Lyana are sisters and both have known Gantz since birth. Lydia and Lyana’s mother was there when Gantz was born.

When they were seven, Lydia and Gantz started a fake rock band together and put on productions in their backyards. The Jerks were officially formed three years ago.

“I was in a folk band for a very short period of time without the two of them,” Lydia said. “It was actually at a funeral, they featured in my folk band and slowly but surely the rest of the folk band switched kind of doing things and the Hypnic Jerks were born.”

While Gantz and Lyana are both still in school, Lydia is currently taking a gap year to focus on the band. She is the band’s de-facto leader, planning gigs and meetings for the band.

“Lydia had the vision and now we’re all kind of following,” Gantz said.

Lydia’s dad also helps with the management of the band, as well as the songwriting. He was in a band in the 1980s called White Lies.

White Lies nearly signed a record contract, but ultimately fell through because the group members couldn’t agree on one style to focus on. The Jerks attribute their ’80s dance vibe to Lydia’s father.

They cite Chance the Rapper and the band Twenty One Pilots as two examples of musical acts that were able to build a following through the Internet and make their own type of music without corporate influence.

The Jerks are hoping that through some smart use of social media, they too can make it big while embracing their “genre-less” style.

“I don’t think genres really exist in music anymore and I think trying to put yourself in one genre kind of limits music,” Lydia said. “We kind of have a little bit of everything. We were kind of pop punk, but then we were kind of pop rock, but then we were kind of pop. And if you just listen to our lyrics we’re Taylor Swift, but if you just listen to our music we’re the 1975 or The Killers.”

Other influences for the band include The 1975, Paramore and The Killers. The band’s three members all come from different musical backgrounds, which helps them find their versatile style.

“My dad grew up with classic rock, my sister was like punk and metal, I came from more of a hip-hop, pop music base and Lauren brings us home with the rap,” Lydia said.

Next January, they will independently release their debut EP in the hopes that they can grow their fan base even further and continue to make music independently and on their own terms. They currently have 15.2k Twitter followers and 21.4k Instagram followers. The group hopes their social media following will translate to music sales.

The Jerks traveled out to California last summer to work with a producer and presumably sign a record contract, but things didn’t work out.

The Jerks decided after the stressful summer that they did not want to sign with a label and would be better off staying independent.

“Labels really aren’t the way to go anymore,” Lydia said. “It’s kind of the way to go now to build your own following. We’ve found that we’re having decent success on our own, so if we can sell records and get our YouTube channel going and get a production company, we’d be better off.”

The Jerks have worked hard at creating a loyal fan base over the past couple of years. They started by posting 30-second covers of songs on their social media accounts, slowly creating a following. This year, they have begun creating full covers of songs and doing livestreams.

The Jerks have not yet released an official project because they are hoping to create a strong following first so their music doesn’t go unseen.

“One of the big mistakes I think a lot of young artists make is they have like 200 followers and they release a full album,” Lydia said. “It’s like, ‘OK that’s great, but you put all this time and effort into content that no one’s gonna hear.’ And not that it’s never gonna be heard, but we’ve kind of found that it’s better to create a buzz and create a demand before you put something out.”

The band hopes that their EP this January will find an audience through social media. If the EP performs well, they can hit the festival circuit this summer and get on the lineup for Warped Tour.

Michael Akelson is the senior sports editor and can be reached at