Calgary rockabillies play through the city

By Jordyn Marcellus

Local Calgary stand-up bass siren Eve Hell, frontwoman for Eve Hell and the Razor, knows a thing or two about the Cowtown rockabilly subculture. With her band rocking Calgary car shows and the more wild-eyed pubs around town and their new long-player Fire It Up! on record store shelves, they’re hooking into one of the more unexplored musical communities in Calgary and stepping on the gas.

Hell explains the rockabillies try to emulate the 1950s greaser subculture, with hot rods and hot women all abound.

“[The rockabillies are] people who try to emulate the 1950s,” says Hell. “Slicked back hair, Levi jeans, Converse shoes, girls dressed up as Marilyn Monroe. Burlesque is really tied into it as well. People who restore cars, that’s a really big element to it. Anything pre-1963 is big.”

With Hell plucking the strings on the stand-up double bass, Hell’s husband Mike making the guitar sing while the famed Richie Rancheros — formally of seminal surf-punk band Huevos Rancheros — banging the drums, the band has begun to pick up steam. On the phone from the Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekender, Hell says that the people in Calgary have got the cred to go toe-to-toe with the Weekender stalwarts.

“It’s pretty similar,” she says. “I’ve been gone around this car show and I’ve seen the builders here and there’s not a big difference between the two. [Calgary-based car club] the Diablos could go head-to-head with any of these guys from California. It’s really great and I’m really proud of the boys . . . It’s great to see that we’ve got this great scene and that we aren’t faking it. We’re just as real as these guys.”

For those who may not know where to check out shows, Hell gave some tips on the trying to find out where the venues in Calgary really are.

“The Studio is really hot for rockabilly right now,” says Hell. “The Palomino too — it’s always been a really good home for us. The Castle used to be, but it shut down . . . We’re kind of looking for more clubs. The Brickyard has been very good for us, so that might be the next one.”

For a three-piece to have one of Calgary’s supreme surf and rockabilly drummers playing with them is a huge honour. Hell cannot help but lavish praise on Rancheros’ style and his love of the genre.

“Richie is just fitting in perfectly,” says Hell. “I’ve never hooked up with a drummer and been this tight with them before. [He’s got] a lot of experience and gone to different places and done things that we don’t even know about. He has this really excellent collection of rockabilly albums and memorabilia because he’s been a fan for so many years. He’s really expanded our horizons in the genre itself.”

Leave a comment