Hepper than Hell. Interview with Alex Brown of the Hellbound Hepcats

Hellbound Hepcats Photo. Photo David Don't Hellbound Hepcats Photo. Photo David Don't

There are only so many bands on this planet that can take you time traveling at their shows. By attracting local swing dancers (and not just your uncle who thinks he can swing dance after three bottles of wine) and serenading you with cover songs from the 50’s, The Hellbound Hepcats can count them in that select group.

The Hellbound Hepcats peaked my interest first at my college radio station in Ottawa, as they were one of the only bands that brightened a slow indie playlist. With a move to Montreal, I was super happy to have stumbled upon these lovely lads at one of the watering-holes they perform at several times a month. When the opportunity arose to interview Alex Brown it was the perfect time to chat.

Hellbound Hepcats. Photo Lucy Hamblin

Hellbound Hepcats. Photo Lucy Hamblin

The Hellbound Hepcats was crafted when Brown and his friend Jordan Peddie sat around and jammed to old rockabilly songs. Brown discovered he could sing and play along to Johnny Cash, Chuck Berry, Johnny Burnette and Brian Setzer. Peddie and Brown started jamming, and Peddie’s parents bought him his first gigantic stand-up bass.

Now, the band consists of Brown as lead guitarist and vocals, Peddie on the stand-up bass and a drummer. There is always a drummer, just not a completely stable one, so they use a rotation of about five, with their go-to man Sandro Sanchioni from the Creepshow.

The first Hellbound Hepcats show was in a little Montreal bar called Bar de Canaries, which filled up because they were opening for another band, the Pandemics. It soon became apparent that the Hellbound Hepcats was a baby born to succeed as they only performed more and more.

“The band started off as a hobby, soon the hobby took over school and then it started taking over my life,” Brown says.

The Hellbound Hepcats have done five Canada tours and three trips to Vegas including the Viva las Vegas Rockabilly Weekend. This year they will be making their way to Belgium for a tour and more shows around Canada at various venues and bars in different cities.

Apparently these cats can perform over a hundred cover songs and their original songs are also amazing. Their newest album, Hellbound Hepcats No. 2, sounds like it’s from another era. Brown writes the lyrics. He says that some of them come to him out of nowhere and others he has to sit down and force out of his brain. As he says, “You can’t always expect the clouds to part and artistic inspiration to fall on your head.” Every song on the album is true to their Rockabilly genre.

If touring with the band, playing over 200 shows a year and releasing albums isn’t enough for Brown, he’s also taken up a new project. Brown and Edward Roy, artistic director of Toronto’s Topological Theatre, are working together to create a musical. Brown is assisting with writing, producing, and even acting in the musical! They’re thinking of calling it, — wait for it — Blood and Chicken Wings.

“I don’t even really like musicals, but it’s really fun taking up this new project,” says Brown. “It’s something different”

I’m happy he brought that up as I had a hard time picturing him singing and dancing to Hairspray. Blood and Chicken Wings is about a Rockablilly artist (Alex’s character) who has signed his soul to the devil to become a famous musician. Based on Brown’s overview, it sounds like an entertaining mess of randomness, with an insane rockabilly playlist.

The Hellbound Hepcats and Louis and his Royal Pickles are playing Dig Tha’ Feet 2014 at Club Soda (1225 St. Laurent). Introductory swing dancing at 7 p.m., show at 9:30 p.m. $25.
Leave your drunk uncle at home.

You can also catch the Hellbound Hepcats on Mondays at Honey Martin (5916 Sherbrooke West) , and regularly at Ye Olde Orchard (20 Prince Arthur West) and other bars in Montreal.