Fire up the boilers and dust off your top hats because Halloween is clawing its way on to our doorstep once again, which means that for the fourth year in a row Punch Drunk Cabaret will be headlining Edmonton Steampunk Group’s annual Rocky Horror Steampunk Ball at the Starlite Room.
Born from the ashes of the long running art-rock band Screwtape Lewis, Punch Drunk Cabaret have been tearing up stages for years with their crafty blend of classic rockabilly, country roots and steampunk swing. Anchored in seventies anthemic rock theatrics and infused with snake oil bravado and crunchy bump and grind, Punch Drunk Cabaret is definitely a witches brew of divergent influences.
“It’s like a strange mix of electricity, meditation, and demon possession,” says the gravel voiced guitarist Randy B. “It works together so well because they’re all very primal forms of music. It’s always been a mystery to me that the same people who like AC/DC also like Johnny Cash, yet it makes perfect sense. Punch Drunk Cabaret exists at that same crossroads. There’s nothing original about this band, except how we piece together these disparate parts and present them in a way no one’s seen before.”
Rounding out the trio is stand up drummer “Captain” Sean E. Watts and Terry “Sawbones” Grant on the iconic Tom Petersson 12-string bass, and along with Randy B the three of them have put aside the standard rockabilly look and have instead adopted a type of Victorian era attire more indicative of the steampunk culture.
“We decided on a look that personified the name of the band, something that was both vintage and iconic,” he says. “It wouldn’t have made sense to wear leather jackets and pompadours. We needed something that transcended the genres that we covered. So, what better way to dress than like early century snake oil salesmen or untrustworthy carnival barkers?”
With their new album Electrik Steam Show—still hot to the touch—Punch Drunk Cabaret’s third release contains ten throbbing boppers recorded at drummer Watts’ home studio and co-produced by Ross Nykiforuk, a JUNO Award winner for his work with Saskatoon’s roots rockers The Sheepdogs.
“The songs on the new album maintain the rockabilly, roots, swing template we established on the first two records, but I feel we’ve arrived at a sound that’s more signature and original,” says Randy B. “We found that once the adrenalin starts pumping during a live show, we play more aggressively, so we wanted to reflect that on the new album.”
He’s also excited about the recent release of the band’s new video for the song “Beard Of Bees” which was directed by Edmonton cinematographer Mark Remple and shot on the epic landscape of Southern Alberta where the band members and crew spent less time invested in apiculture and more time fighting off hoards of blood sucking insects.
“I wrote the storyline of a beekeeper, his best man, and a chain smoking clergyman, walking across treacherous landscape to marry a beautiful and mysterious Queen Bee. I also got to serve as the artistic director and channel my shameless affection for directors like Terry Gilliam and Tim Burton,” he says.
Live Punch Drunk Cabaret is a feast for the senses with their attention to style and high powered showmanship, yet they build their world on a strong foundation of polished marketable music and clever lyrical narratives. Taking to the stage with a strong catalogue of original material that span the band’s three releases provides a powerful launching pad for a live act greatly influenced by such legendary rock bands as KISS and Cheap Trick.
“I’m still completely addicted to that mystical mix of electricity, energy, and spirituality that utterly possesses your being,” says Randy B, about playing live. “Time no longer has meaning as you ride this otherworldly wave. It’s everything drugs are supposed to do for you.”
This motley trio of musical misfits have obviously been doing something right to impress the folks at the Edmonton Steampunk Group because the band has been headlining this wicked Halloween shindig since its inception.
As potent as Punch Drunk Cabaret is, Randy B confesses that even they can be outdone at times by their devoted fan base.
“For the Rocky Horror Steampunk Ball, because we know that audience so well, it’s a case of giving them lots of room to participate in the show. Given their enthusiasm and penchant for costuming, it’s the one event of the year when we look underdressed.”
Fri., Oct. 28 (8 p.m.)
w/ Lilith Fair as Dr. Frank N. Furter
Starlite Room, $40