The Vanishers Talk Rockabilly
The Vanishers perform rockabilly - a genre I used to consider somewhat strange.
Four years ago, I would have sworn that the fusion of country, punk, and rock could never work on any level, but exactly four years ago something changed for me. While I was checking out a punk band at the Kathedral one evening, I ended up staying to check out the following act and it changed the way I will view rockabilly forever.
I met up with Paul Pengelly (vocals) and Paul McGrath (guitar) at Sneaky Dee's for a beer and to chat about how they ended up here, their new album, and the scene in Hamilton.
I normally speak with younger bands that are newer to the industry than these two, so it was great for me to talk to people who had been a part of the Canadian music scene since the late 80s. What I found most perplexing was how they had stumbled into their current genre, after playing in every other sort of band imaginable. Pengelly said it was also something the band had talked about.
"It's funny. We've had discussions about our genres in the past, and there's obviously different flavours of rockabilly and country. We don't shove ourselves into the rockabilly genre 100%. We've even gotten flack or shit from other punks who are like... 'you guys aren't true rockabilly' - which is the nature of rock. And you know what? The rockabilly comes from mostly Gary, with his style of guitar and picking. And then Darrel's such a great country bassist; he's got such a good groove. The rest of us just layer a little bit of 'alt' through it."
The boys promise that there is a tour "in the works." They have yet to embark on one, but they have warned me that something is coming.
While they are all long-time fans of country music, Pengelly says that he and Gary are definitely listening to more rockabilly than the rest of the band.
"We are old. Well, we're all over 30, so we have grown up listening to a lot of different elements of music. And, I'd have to speak for myself here, but played in trying-to-be-important alternative bands before and it got tiresome. Now, I wanna get up [on stage], I wanna rock out, I wanna tell a story with each song. And I think that's the same for everybody in the band. If that works, we're all happy."
Their brand new album can be downloaded free off their web page and is definitely worth a listen. There is obvious production experience and the songs are well crafted. They definitely reside on the lighter side of rockabilly and it's likely that Pengelly enjoys his Johnny Cash. As Pengelly told me, it was the first time that they had done it completely on their own.
"Gary's a bit of a savant when it comes to the tech stuff, so that helps. All the artwork there is done by Paul (McGrath). We're pretty self-sufficient and we put the effort into this to get it going."
McGrath added to the discussion. "It was nice, everyone in the band seemed to pick the ball up to keep it rolling. It's nice when all five guys were helping. We worked better on this album than any other band that I've been in, actually. There was a learning curve to it as well. We had to get back in there and redo a few things. We made mistakes."
The Vanishers don't play a lot in Toronto. They tend to play most of their shows in Hamilton where, according to McGrath, the scene is.
"They have taking a liking to us. There's kind of a psychobilly/rockabilly scene there and we've kind of hooked up with some people and got into it. We haven't found anything like it in the city [Toronto] so far. I think that crowd that we need is there. They just want to have fun and don't want to have to think about it and that's what we do. We get people drinking and then we get them on the dance floor."
The Vanishers perform on Tuesday, November 3rd at the Horseshoe Tavern.
Photo courtesy of The Vanishers.
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