Hey Boyles and Ghouls. So the website is live, finally. And I wanted to make sure we had some kind of post for you fiends to read. So, I’m trying my hand here and though I’d touch on a subject that seems to be something I have to explain quite often.
People ask me all the time, “What style of music do you play?”. When I tell them, the typical response is: “What-a-billy?!”
At least in my neck of the woods (where did that term even come from?), the response is typically that or a head tilt with a blank gaze followed by an inevitable “huh?”.
So I thought I’d take pen to paper. Or fingers to keys as it were, and attempt to demistify what the hell it is I’m talking about. Now, obviously there are a lot of people who already know what I’m talking about. If that’s you, then I’ll talk to ya in the next post. If you don’t know what I’m talking about then please read on.
All of the “billy” genres stem from Rockabilly. The easiest way to explain Rockabilly is that it’s one of the earliest styles of Rock and Roll music. Dating back to the early 50’s in the United States. It blends Country/Western with Rhythm and Blues. Pepper in a little Bluegrass and thats the basic sound of Rockabilly. Some defining features include strong rhythms, vocal twangs and that familiar tape echo. Rockabilly was popularized by legends Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis to name a few. Back in the 50’s Rockabilly aka “Rock and Roll” was a big deal and began to decline in the 60’s. Let’s not forget that it was also “The Devils Music” of the time.
So whats with all these other “billy” genres? Well let’s see… There is seemingly a plethora of them. What makes a subgenre, in my opinion is adding in some alternate musical influence along with the original Rockabilly. For instance, in the 80’s there was a rockabilly revival. Many of the folks/bands involved took that original Rockabilly style and electrified the hell out of it. Complicating it and speeding it up quite a bit. This, to me has become the more common sound of current bands calling themselves Rockabilly. Yes Brian Setzer and the Stray Cats are among them.
Recognizing a lot of these names? If you aren’t you might as well go back under that rock you crawled out from and just forget it. If you are, then again, Kudo’s to you. You’re probably starting to know what Rockabilly is. And that’s the starting point.
My personal favorite subgenre of Rockabilly is what is known as Psychobilly. Psychobilly essentially came about when Rockabilly was fused with Punk Rock. Taking the traditional rockabilly rhythm, ramping up the speed and adding in the punky riffy style while also relying heavily on horror imagery. Psychobilly oozes horror and sinful acts. Songs are usually riddled with clever, tongue in cheek commentary and sexual undertones. (I just love everything about it!).
Now psychobilly has a huge list of its own subgenres, but thats a rabbit hole I don’t want to go down at this time. So who invented it? Who is the father of Psychobilly? Well that is a matter of much debate, but the common arguements are typically The Cramps. A band that gathered a rather large following in the underground punk scene of NYC in the 70’s. Or The Meteors in the early 80’s from Europe. Psychobilly, for the most part remained an underground scene until the 90’s in America. In my opinion. I’d say it was the Meteors that really added the “billy” to Psychobilly. But that’s an arguement that won’t be solved here.
Another subgenre is Punkabilly. Punkabilly is essentially Psychobilly without the horror/scifi imagery. They are still playing very “punky” riffs with more 50’s style soloing. They just aren’t singing about dracula, blood sucking fiends from outerspace or making out with your dead girlfriend. But with that roots style rhythm you’re going to find it hard to not tap your toe to it.
So what is Horrorbilly?
Horrorbilly is a term that was coined by Joel “Hooch” Parkins of The Matadors. As Hooch explains it, and who better to explain it than the guy that coined the phrase, Horrorbilly is blues oriented and old school country style based. He further explains that Horrorbilly is “whatever the Matadors are”.
Now, Casanova Frankenstein and the Voodoo Machine definitely has a lot of blues and old country style based songs so we fit that part of Hooch’s definition. But he also explains that although they do have a few horror themed songs, that is not why he calls it Horrorbilly. To him it’s is more about the horrors of living your life. Fair enough. He also finds it embarrassing how many bands now use the term to describe themselves and provides a list of things Horrorbilly is not. With that said, I would like to first and foremost, apologize to Hooch for misusing his term. As we definitely fall under one of the citiations he makes as to what Horrorbilly is not.
Hooch says: “Horrorbilly is not a method of opting your rockabilly or psychobilly scene“.
Honestly, we call ourselves Horrorbilly specifically because we don’t have a rockabilly, psychobilly or any “abilly” scene where we are from. Personally with the newer music we have been writing I would definitely classify us as more of a psychobilly band. However, after 3 years of playing, and watching peoples heads almost explode when I say “Psychobilly” I decided Horrorbilly was a way easier term for people to grasp. “Oh they play old school style music, sing about horror stuff and dress like they’re dead. I get it!”. Granted if we were geographically located in another region, even just a few hours south of where we are now, I wouldn’t have to use Hooch’s term. Unfortunately, that’s just how it is. So again. Sorry Hooch.
Now, I could go on about psychobilly, horrorbilly, rockabilly, surfabilly, punkabilly, metalbilly and all the other “billys” even more. But I’m out of time to type.
So until next time my fiends!