Motor City Rides 

Keeping the lawns of Grosse Pointe mansions looking fab requires proper fertilizing, weed control, watering, some garden fetishizing and — a bit of rock 'n' roll.

SSM and Hentchmen keyboardist-vocalist John "Hentch" Szymanski's day gig is to make sure Grosse Pointe (and other "points" in the Detroit metro area) lawn sprinkler systems are in top shape at all times. Unfortunately, being in three of Detroit's greatest contemporary rock bands (Hentch was also the original Paybacks bass player) wasn't covering the homeowner's bills so two years ago Szymanski procured AAA Lawn Services from a pal.

Like his granddad, Hentch had been a plumber, and so it wasn't a leap to installing, maintaining and repairing lawn sprinkler systems. And, fortunately for Hentch, he already had a van to put into service for work — the former Paybacks tour van.

Paybacks frontwoman Wendy Case had purchased the 1997 Ford Club Wagon in 2003 and Hentch — quite the handyman, see — promptly constructed a loft in the rear of the van. "We pretty much lived in that van," Szymanski says. "You can imagine the weirdness." When Szymanski bought the van back in '05, the first thing he did was put in a CD player. "When we were in the Paybacks we'd all bitch about only having a radio. We'd play games like 'guess the classic rock song' while driving across the country. I don't know why we were too cheap to put a CD player in."

When Szymanski took over the lawn service, he tore out the old loft, put in some shelves for his tools and parts and was ready to go to work. He enlisted his pal Ian from Chicago's Submarine Raves to make a sign for the van's side. "It was kind of a Spinal Tap moment," Szymanski cracks. "I asked for a 4-foot-by-2-foot sign and it came out 10 inches by 14 inches. It's a little lost on my giant Club Wagon. I guess it's kind of understated you could say."

"Iron Pimp," the first 7-inch EP of a four-part series of releases by the Hentchmen, is available from Bellyache Records at And for all your lawn sprinkler system needs call Szymanski at, um, AAA Lawn Service at 313-521-0153.

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