Monday, 3 June 2013

hillibilly rocket at l'esco bar

Hillbilly Rockets |  L'Esco Bar


You know that excitement you get when discovering a new, great band? That was my feeling on the night of Nuit Blanche, when the crowds had driven me East on St. Catherine. The night was about to end. Berri Metro was in sight and then I remembered the bohemian gem, L’Escalier. I was steps away with nothing to lose. Walking up the rickety staircase the music immediately caught my attention. There was no hesitation; I was on the dance floor.  Chalked onto the wall behind the band read “The Hillbilly Rocket Ship”.  I was hooked. 

The band has transformed over the past two years, guitarist/composer Hugo Joyal recalls the agreement with past Bad Uncle band mate to start playing rockabilly, “Let’s do it. Let’s have fun.” They started a project called “Just B-Sides” and over time, the current members, Jean-Pierre Dubé (guitar and vocals), Olivier Pomerleau (upright bass), and Eric Sandmark (drums) joined to create the now finalized band, The Hillbilly Rockets. When you see the group performing, they are so solid that it seems they’ve been playing together for years. They joked, “Yeah, it’s just natural, we have fun and we have good chemistry. It’s because we’re all the same astrological sign. That’s really important.” 

Their style is infused with different genres; they mess around with various influences and have fun creating the hybrids. They explain that it’s rock n’ roll, “Country and Blues are everywhere, but we don’t play Country and we don’t play Blues. We go to the borders of each, but never in…  If people’s hips are rocking, you’re a rocker.”

The Hillbilly Rockets launched their debut “The Way Way Out Sound Of…” album on April 19th, at L’Escogriffe when I had the chance to sit down and chat with the band.  Hugo, who wrote the majority of the songs on the album, explained “It’s weird, some songs I have been keeping for years, and working on them over the years. And some songs just happen, I get this groove and I start writing. Even at work I keep a little piece of paper and write down stuff like chords. Sometimes there are no lyrics, I have melodies and I write them down.”   Now that this first album is finished, and he’s through his old stuff, Hugo says he’s ready to write more songs.  The band says they would like to have another album out by Christmas, and the second album will push the limits even farther. 

After the opening act, Jitterbug Swing, the room was packed and ready for The Hillbilly Rockets to take off. Their performance combined focus, vigor and extravagance in a way that created something so unique it really has to be experienced firsthand. Their music alone is amazing, but when the guys were on stage their love and commitment to the music created a whole new dimension. The evening even included a sultry appearance from burlesque performer BonBon Bombay.  The band says their favorite part of performing is the energy exchange they experience with people in the audience just having a good time, “When you start to feel it, you really enjoy it and don’t ever want to quit.”   

When asked about what they hope to accomplish over the next year, the band agreed “To make a name for our selves, once you pass a stage where you have an album and people know you, that’s where we want to get this year. Okay, we’re the Hillbilly Rockets. That’s our ship! You like it or not, that’s what we do” 

You can get their new album on bandcamp and several of the independent record stores around Montreal. Be sure to check out the awesome album cover, “Eric always does these posters of cities, like old B-movie posters, with monsters destroying the city. So we thought lets do that and put the Montreal Landmarks on the poster. You can see Place Ville Marie and Pont Jacques Cartier.” Their friend and graphic wizard, Jeff Marshall, created the cover using 3D software. Just grab a pair of 3D glasses and enjoy the full effect. The album has already received a lot of recognition. They performed and interviewed with K103, their album was recognized as album of the week on Spain’s Rockin’ Therapy Radio, and it is being played on Surf Music Radio in Halifax.  For a band that has yet to tour outside of Quebec, their name is spreading quickly. Watch out for the Hillbilly Rockets, and their ship. 

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