Welcome to another edition of ‘Billy Monday. This is our weekly celebration of rockabilly, hillbilly, and psychobilly. I do this simply because I think these genres are all pretty freakin’ good, but just don’t get enough attention.
I found Dr. Caligari on Bandcamp while browsing for psychobilly bands. I have to admit that this band caught my attention before I even heard a note of the music. How is that? Well, the cover art looks like something from one of my favorite comics: The Goon (and if you haven’t read it, you absolutely should). That album cover fits this EP perfectly considering the references to death and zombies in these three songs.
So what can you expect from this band aside from songs about death? Well, like any good psychobilly band, this one delivers fast tempos, loud guitars and a bass line that makes you wonder how the bassist does it. It’s all wrapped together with a female vocalist who sounds like she wouldn’t have any trouble dotting your eye. Another thing that sets this band apart is that it tells a good story in its songs. There is something almost literary in the stories of these songs – as if you’re hearing a spooky story set to music. But as always, don’t just take my word for it. Have a listen for yourself.
Allow me to begin by welcoming you to another working week. In the words of Elvis Costello, “I know it don’t thrill you, I hope it don’t kill you.” Just let me say, loyal reader, that we are here to make your Monday better with some good tunes. Get ready to give your ears a treat.
If you’ve read this blog even once, you know that we here at Incognito HQ are total suckers for music with a real trashy sound. For one thing, if an album has a raw, trashy sound, I know it hasn’t been overproduced. For another. I think it just makes for some fun music.
Now, I don’t have an explanation for this particular phenomenon, but quite a few bands that sing in Spanish have mastered the trashy sound we love. Enter Los Benders. It doesn’t take long to realize this band has mastered the trashy sound. You can hear it in what was once described to me as “cathouse sax” in the opening track. Saxophone in a rockabilly band? Yes, indeed. And this particular track sounds a lot like the stuff from the 50s that was punk before punk existed as a genre.
I’m not going to go over every track. After all, you can (and should) listen to the full album yourself. I will, however, discuss the second song, “Ampayita.” This sounds a lot like what would happen if the vocalist from Wau Y Los Arrrghs!!! collaborated with a rockabilly band. The guitar has that clean tone that you expect from rockabilly, while the vocals and everything else provide the trashy sound. If you like tunes that are both swingin’ and trashy, Los Benders is definitely a band you should get to know. Now crank up the volume, and let Los Benders improve your Monday dramatically.
Recently, we’ve had some good luck with new followers on Twitter. It almost seems that bands are doing a little homework and following us because they have seen what we do and they fit the profile.
Knocksville is a band that certainly fits the profile of bands we like, and it only took about three seconds for me to figure it out. I went to ReverbNation, and the first song I heard from this band was “Wait and See.” This song begins with a guitar riff that would make John Lee Hooker and Billy Gibbons proud. The rhythm section provides a boogie groove that would definitely get people moving on a dance floor.
Since this is ‘Billy Monday, this obviously is not just a blues-rock band. This band some pretty serious rockabilly and psychobilly influence too. Think Reverend Horton Heat…only trashier. The rockabilly sound is especially apparent in “Work It Out” and “Baby Stop.” When you hear “Baby Stop,” it’s pretty easy to imagine a scene of guys with pompadours swing dancing with beautiful rockabetties in dresses. The psychobilly sound really comes through in “Forever Young,” a song that reminds me quite a bit of Tiger Army.
If you’re a regular reader of our ‘Billy Monday posts, Knocksville is a band you should check out. It will sound great as you drive around in your primer-gray El Camino.
And bands out, use Knocksville as an example. Follow us on Twitter (@incognitomag). We may just like your stuff as much as we like Knocksville, which means that you could be featured here sometime in the near future.
Generally ‘Billy Monday is reserved for rockabilly and psychobilly bands, but today I’m doing a little something different. As I mentioned last week, sometimes I ask bands where they would file their music in a record store. More than that, I give them the latitude to create their own file-under category. Well, The Steady Swagger has created its own file-under category: Whiskeybilly.
What is whiskeybilly? Well, the recipe might go something like this: Take one part Tom Waits, one part Sleepy LaBeef, and one part United Steel Workers of Montreal, and one part gypsy punk. Add a cask of rum, and a healthy dose of pirate rock. Now let me explain at least some of the ingredients in this musical cocktail. The vocals frequently sound like the theatrical growl of Tom Waits. There is some definite classic rockabilly sound (as well as some vocals like Sleepy LaBeef) in “One More Shot.” The backing vocals by drummer Brigitte Desjardins sometimes remind me of Felicity Hamer of United Steel Workers of Montreal. As for the rum…something has to fuel this band and its energetic recordings. As for the pirate rock, what can I say? My two boys have become big fans of Jake and the Neverland Pirates.
While that description is pretty accurate, it still doesn’t do this band complete justice. Do yourself a favor. Pour yourself a big shot of rum (since you’re listening to this band, don’t mix it with anything this time), crank up the volume, and give The Steady Swagger a listen. It will get you rocking, and it just might get you shopping for an eyepatch.
I’m not sure why so many great psychobilly bands come from the UK, but I kind of wish this is one area in which the U.S. followed in the footsteps of the English. This album begins with “Fright Night 2,” a song that begins a little slow, but then explodes into a psychobilly rumble after the first verse. This song embodies everything that is great about psychobilly: trashy and loud guitar, lyrics that lend some horror to the song, and a rhythm that is tough to keep up with.
The lead track is followed by “Going Postal.” The vocals in this song bring early punk to mind. If you like murder ballads, you’ll really like this song.
On the one hand, there is a murder ballad. On the other hand is a remake of “Teenager in Love” called “Psychobilly in Love.” Dion and The Belmonts never sounded quite like this. Speaking of never sounding quite like this band’s version of a song, The Griswalds also do a version of the theme from the “Banana Splits.” It’s unexpected, fun, and pretty different than the actual version of the song.
This album hits all the themes that you can find in a lot of psychobilly songs: drug use, zombies, crazy people. All wrapped up in trashy melodies and driving rhythms. If you want something that will get your foot stomping and your blood pumping, check out The Griswalds.
In case you haven’t noticed, we’ve featured a lot of Canadian artists recently, particularly for ‘Billy Monday. You know how this goes. You find one band, and then you get recommendations for other bands in the area. And really, what can I say? The Canucks are grabbing my attention at the moment.
The Howling Bullets is a punkabilly/horrorbilly band from Toronto. Now those terms probably turn some folks off immediately. They probably imagine band members in ghastly makeup singing about darker themes that are pretty familiar at this time of year. When you visit the website for The Howling Bullets, you’ll see a player with three song, two of which are “Ghoul County Limits” and “Devil Bat.” So yeah, this band has the Halloween sort of themes (and the makeup), but they’re really good songs with some loud and fast guitars and rhythms that will make you push the accelerator to the floor if you hear it in the car.
My favorite song of the three available on the website is “Mississippi Magnolia.” This is a great punkabilly sound. Just listen to the bass line in this one. If it doesn’t get you moving, it’s hard to imagine what will.
The Greasemarks might be as fitting a name for a band as I’ve ever encountered. What better name for a rockabilly band – a genre known for songs about hod rods and drag racing? The tagline for this band on Twitter says, “Nasty. Authentic. 50s style rockabilly.” Not one of those claims is false. This band plays 50s-style rockabilly filtered through some gritty garage rock.
The rockabilly sound is prominent throughout the melodies (particularly the guitar and bass). These guys from Toronto play the kind of melodies that get couples swinging on the dance floor. “Plowin’” is a great example. This song sounds like it could have been recorded in the 50s. In fact, it sounds a lot like “Mystery Train.” The garage rock sound is mostly in the vocals, especially in the song “Bring Her Back (Don’t)”.
If you like the classic rockabilly sound with just a little grit added, The Greasemarks is a band you should get to know. It will sound great coming from the speakers of your hot rod, or at your local juke joint.
Alastair Chirstl: Classic rockabilly at its finest
If you haven’t noticed, we here at Incognito HQ pay attention to our readers. For instance, last week I solicited suggestions for ‘Billy Monday. Alastair Christl was one of the recommendations sent our way. Lo and behold, here he is as our featured artist.
My first impression of this rockabilly guy from Toronto was “Candy Shop.” There is no other way to describe this song than classic rockabilly. From the vocals and guitar to the pedal steel, this is rockabilly the way it used to be. At times the western swing melody reminds me of Junior Brown. And like Junior Brown, this song will get you two-stepping.
There must be something about Spanish-speaking places for rockabilly guys. (Maybe they’re beguiled by the dark eyes and hair.) Christl has a ballad called “Spanish Melody” that reminds me a lot of Chris Isaak.
When you go to Christl’s website (and you should), “Spanish Melody” is followed by “Catfight.” It would be hard to put two more disparate songs back to back. “Catfight” is a rumbling rockabilly tune. How to explain it? Well, when you go to a rockabilly show and you see that one guy out on the dance floor who’s not afraid to sort of toss his dance partner around…this is the kind of song where he gets to show off.
Alastair Christl has a voice that was made for rockabilly. It tends toward the higher registers, but that fits right in with the vintage feel of his music. Plus, he never sounds like he’s straining. He has as smooth a voice as you’ll find. If you like classic rockabilly, check this guy out. He’ll make you want to comb your pompadour up high and get on the dance floor with some cute rockabetty.
Governor Grimm and The Ghastly Ghouls: evil psychobilly from Ohio
This is yet another band I found doing a random search for psychobilly on Bandcamp. I don’t know if the name of this band would frighten people away, but I certainly hope not. (And by the way, If there is a prize for alliterative band names, I think this band has closed the competition.) Anyone who shies away from this band because of its name is really missing out. The guitarist plays like his ax is on fire and the rhythm section plays like they’re daring the guitarist to keep up.
The EP begins with ”No Escape.” This is about as catchy a song as you can find about someone “leaving a trail of bodies” in his wake after setting a town on fire. I don’t think you’d be wrong if you described the guitar sound as evil, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing.
Every song on this EP is uptempo, but I think “Raise the Dead” is most uptempo. You can work up a sweat just listening to this song.
The themes of the five songs on this EP are pretty familiar for psychobilly, but that doesn’t take anything away from the band or the songs. If you like psychobilly where the evil sounds a virtually tangible, Governor Grimm and the Ghastly Ghouls is a good band to get to know.
Whatever else you can say about this blog, you can say that we pay attention to you, our loyal readers. Again, I solicited your recommendations for ‘Billy Monday, and again. you came through. Last week when I solicited your recommendations Strangefellas (@strangefellas) suggested Brutally Frank from Joplin, Missouri. And a good recommendation it was.
I guess since I leave this open to all ‘billy styles, I should say that the best way to describe this band is punkabilly. This band plays its songs at a feverish pitch. Frankly, if I were going to guess where this band is from, I would have guessed Boston. It has that same loud and fast sound and the gritty vocals are reminiscent of both Al Barr of Dropkick Murphys and Dickie Barrett of Mighty Mighty Bosstones. The ‘billy aspect of this band comes from the upright bass. I’ll tell you one thing. It must be amazing to see this guy play live because he absolutely beats the stuffing out of that bass. If you want a good example, listen to “Like a Flash.” People have sold their souls (so the stories go) to play their instruments the way Steevo plays in this tune.
It’s loud. It’s fast. It has some killer upright bass. What else do you need to love this band? If you’re a fan of Three Bad Jacks, Brutally Frank should fit right into your collection.