Hollow-body guitars, upright bass, leather jackets, suede creepers, garter belts, fishnet stockings, victory rolls and classic cars – psychobilly is a scene with serious retro inspiration and style while horror punk pays homage to classic horror films, monsters, creatures, and all things creepy.
Psychobilly and horror punk often intersect – originators date back to the late 70’s and early 80’s when The Cramps, Demented Are Go, and The Meteors transformed punk by fusing it with rockabilly while the Misfits began serving a side of horror with their punk rock. The Misfits, more of a punk rock/metal sound, have thus greatly influenced the lyrics, image and style of many artists popular within the psychobilly genre today while The Cramps, Meteors and Demented Are Go have influenced the sound of the genre.
Horror often dominates the album covers, merchandise, music videos and lyrics of many psychobilly acts – classic horror film clips, Vincent Price soundbites, monsters, zombies, vampires, werewolves, ghouls and cemeteries. As with a lot of punk music, psychobilly does occasionally find itself accused of not being “diverse” enough but the genre is also known for borrowing from a wide range of influences, resulting in a unique fusion of musical genres. A wide sampling of psychobilly music will reveal influences from surf music to heavy metal, country music to rock and roll.
Regardless of where a group fits on the psychobilly spectrum, the fact remains that the music is often fast, loud, and impossible NOT to dance to. Spend an evening with Montreal’s The Brains or Denmark’s Nekromantix and you will be both inspired by the music as well as the scene. Fans of the genre often dress up for live performances and people-watching at a Tiger Army show is almost as fun as watching the band onstage. Fans of Walk Off The Earth will recognize Sarah Blackwood during her many years at the helm of Ontario-based The Creepshow.
Sample psychobilly below:
The Cramps (1976-2009)
Cat suits and stilettos, The Cramps are a punk rock classic who have rarely self-identified with psychobilly but are often credited with pioneering it. You can’t see them play live anymore due to the untimely death of frontman Lux Interior but there are plenty of videos of live performances available online (including footage of a performance recorded within a bona fide insane asylum – wandering patients included).
The Misfits (1977-1983, 1995-Present)
Fans can be divided with regard to the Danzig period versus the years since his departure – and this is on both sides of the debate – you either love Glen Danzig or you don’t. The Misfits are generally considered horror punk but have proven to be very influential in the work of many psychobilly artists.
Mad Sin (1987-Present)
Germany’s Mad Sin – one of the coolest things to happen from watching low-budget horror films, the band credits much of the inspiration for their theatrical style on some of the very worst horror films ever made on the lowest possible budgets.
Tiger Army (1996-Present)
Nick 13, the lead vocalist and mainstay of Tiger Army – his soulful voice will make you want to hunt down a 1965 Impala and cruise the Western coast by moonlight.
Denmark’s Patricia Day and Kim Nekroman formed the HorrorPops in 1996 – both musicians play bass and sing (they are also a married couple). The band released their debut album Hell Yeah in 2004, followed by 2005’s Bring It On! and Kiss Kiss Kill Kill in 2008 – all three albums are fantastic.
Kim Nekroman plays an upright bass that has been custom-made to resemble a coffin – and he plays it really really fast. For approximately 5 years the band toured with female metal drummer Lux who likewise plays at an almost inhuman speed. Nekromantix also has a great sense of humour with tracks like “Who Killed The Cheerleader?” and “Night Nurse” to their credit.
Koffin Kats (2003-Present)
Detroit’s Koffin Kats bassist and lead vocalist Vic Victor is a master at the slap style bass playing that populates the genre – 2012’s Our Way & The Highway is also one of those albums you might find hard to turn off during mid play.
Three brothers from Arizona who love music, horror, superheroes, and having a really good time – Bobby, Jimmy, and Davey Calabrese definitely know how to entertain.
The Creepshow (2005-Present)
Burlington Ontario’s The Creepshow started with vocalist Jen “Hellcat” Blackwood who would later be replaced by her younger sister Sarah “Sin” Blackwood, now of Walk Off The Earth fame. After Sarah’s departure, the band has continued with a new singer, Kenda “Twisted” Legaspi who joined in 2012.
The Brains (2002-Present)
Montreal’s The Brains will make you dance – try to catch them live if you can, they never disappoint.
Be sure to check out these additional psychobilly bands from around the world:
The Silver Shine
Demented Are Go
The Hillbilly Moon Explosion
Southern Culture On The Skids
Reverend Horton Heat
Zombie Ghost Train
The Young Werewolves