FeminINDIE Artist: Eve Hell and the Razors – “When the Lights Go Out”
Eve Hell and the Razors is a rockabilly trio based out of Calgary, Canada. The band consists of the husband and wife duo of Mike and Eve Hell, who have been joined by more than one drummer over the years, but currently have Lorne Peterson manning the backbeat. They create fiery, rollicking, dance music, with shuffling drum beats, a 50’s rock style twang to its guitar, and funky bass lines from a stand- up bass. Ms. Hell’s raspy vocals are not afraid to show a little growl to find their place in the music and take the reins. Theirs is a let-loose swinging groove that invites you to dance until you sweat.
While Mike and Eve have been making music together for over fifteen years, The Razors formed in 2006. They recorded their first album in the most independent way possible, by funding it themselves. Fire It Up was released in 2008 with drummer Ed Tiegs. The band’s most recent effort, When the Lights Go Out, was released in 2010 by which time the band had found Richie Ranchero to be their drummer. Richie had settled in on the drums in 2008, shortly after the release of Fire It Up, and remained with the band through 2013. He was with the band as they made some of their biggest headway after the album’s release at the Calgary Tattoo Festival, and in Las Vegas at the Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekender. Richie moved on in search of new musical projects this past year, and the band landed Lorne Peterson to continue the groove.
The album opens with the instrumental groove of “Pick Dust,” which begins with a haunting guitar line that sounds as though it could be the opening of a spaghetti western, yet within a few bars the band kicks in, already in high gear. It’s as if they’re in a race, daring each other to try and keep up. With the title track “When the Lights Go Out,” we get the first taste of Ms. Hell’s sultry voice as it snakes out over the tight slow building heavy groove of the music. “Love and a .45” sees the band busting out its 50’s surfer rock side with Mr. Hell’s Dick-Dale-esque guitar carrying the song. The band’s take on Johnny Cash’s classic “Big River,” will have listeners moving with its infectious drum beat, swinging bass, and the vocals of a singer leaving it all out there.
The band keeps up the rockabilly dance party with “Two-Timing Man,” and shows off its jazzy side, with the bopping, lounge like “Driving Me to Drink.” “Coffin Hunter,” offers listeners another quick, funky instrumental that allows the band to let loose, Mr. Hell’s guitar particularly, though his band mates are right there with him, egging him on the whole way. “After Dark” shows how Mrs. Hell can own a song with her vocals, as she commands the music as it rises and falls. The album closes with “Rocker,” a track which lives up to its title as the band takes its last chance to dance as an all-out throw down, with all members pumping full tilt together, and Eve more than lives up her self-proclaimed “psycho-billy queen” status on the vocals, going nothing short of crazy.
When the Lights Go Out by Eve Hell and the Razors showcases a band that knows how to swing, rock, let loose and throw down. It is fun music that will go over well with a lot of people the more it’s played and heard. It might even get some people dancing at parties, for this music invites listeners to let loose and have fun along with the band. It’s Johnny Cash, and country Bob Dylan, with some Dick Dale and the Deltones, surf and 50’s rock wrapped up in one and given a modern take by a trio of musicians who are talented and tight.
The band has shows scheduled in Alberta, throughout the spring and early summer, including Saturday, April 12th at The Borderline Culture Series, and Sunday, June 22nd at the Beaumont Blues and Roots Festival.
Wordkrapht was able to catch up with Eve Hell for an interview, and here’s what she had to say:
To start, could you give the readers a little run down on who is Eve Hell? Where are you from and how did you get into playing music?
I’m Eve Hell from Calgary, Alberta, Canada. According to family stories, I was whistling along with the radio at about 10 months old, so, I’m not sure when the official move into music happened. I guess my first paid gig was an opera at age 16. Singing in choirs etc. was always an easy gig to land. There is always a big demand for altos out there.
I didn’t get into playing bass until I was in my 20s. Sadly, my husband had to buy my first bass for me. The local shop refused to do business with me unless I was interested in the keyboards or the cello. I remember as a teenager trying to buy this awesome, vintage, duck yellow Fender P bass and they guy behind the counter refused to sell it to me and I quote: “to some girl so it could rot in her bedroom closet. This bass deserves to be played, man.”
It’s been difficult getting shows, getting respect, and getting to where my male counterparts can basically fall back into if they so desire. I’m not bitter to them or anything, I just find it very confusing as to why there was ever a question whether or not a girl could play bass. It seems such a frivolous fight to have to have. Honestly if it wasn’t for my husband Mike, I don’t think I’d ever get to play bass. It’s a shame. I’m sure lots of other girls from my era could have been awesome if given the chance…and now you know the little inside joke as to why my upright bass has a tribute to Woodie Guthrie hand written sign on it that says “This machine kills sexists.”
Why the stand-up bass as opposed to a standard electric? Was it for a sound you preferred, or did you just have fun going nuts on this huge instrument? I ask because from the videos I’ve watched, it looks awesome, and you look like you’re having a blast?
The upright has a very distinct sound. I started on electric, but the upright was always something I wanted to play. It’s more percussive and has that classic sound you just can’t emulate on electric. If you want to do retro music right, you have to have the upright. It’s the best.
Were there many bands before The Razors? The other stalwart in the band is your husband Mike, how did you two come to the decision to form the band?
Mike and I have always played in lots of bands. It makes you a better player to play metal and then latin and then 60’s surf or garage and punk and then country, rockabilly and psychobilly. The more you are forced to think outside the box, the more your own sound becomes unique and naturally your skill goes up as well being exposed to as many different genres as possible.
The Razors is the epitome of everything we are good at though. Mike’s guitar style is absolutely perfect for our particular aggressive attack on early American rock. My voice has the right range for it and the slap technique that I have adopted from early blues guys and Italian gypsy bass players blends into the genre pretty swell, if I don’t say so myself.
What’s the songwriting process like for the band? Is it collaborative? Does one bring the lyrics while another brings the music, or is the writing handled mainly by one member?
It starts separate and then gets married along the way. Mike has a library of riffs and I have a note book of lyric scribbling. Typically, I’ll hear him playing something on guitar while sitting on the couch in front of the hockey game and I’ll run through my lyric book in the kitchen humming melodies over his chord progressions until I find one of my lyric scribbles that works well with what he has. Then I run into the living room, put the TV on mute and we hash out the tune. Then once we get it worked out, we’ll bring it to LP (the drummer) in rehearsal and let him go with it.
Do you have an idea of how you’ll vocally attack the songs, so to speak, in their inception, or does that come as the song comes into fruition? I ask because your vocals can go from punk freak out with “Rocker,” to sultry and smooth with “After Dark,” to fun country with “Two-Timing Man.” Does the music inform the vocal stylings, or do the intended vocal stylings inform the music?
I come from a theatrical background vocally, so lyrical content will often dictate what I emote. Between what the music says and what the lyrics demand I will try to characterize as best I can what needs to be projected through the song. Usually I’m screaming when the character in the song is angry or showing off, looking tough or whatever and softer, coy or sensual if the story plays out that way.
You recorded your first album Fire It UP, as independently as possible, by paying for it yourself. Looking back on that, were there any advantages in that, aside from getting your music out there? How has the band’s relationship with Transistor Records been? Have they been helpful in recording and promoting, or do they do that by getting the hell out of your way and letting you do your thing?
Record companies are a great resource when you can’t keep up with your own CD sales or have a track that needs to be shopped for commercials or movies or something, and they are an excellent way to elevate you above the other thousands of CDs that go through the hands of programming directors at radio stations.
When it comes to producing a CD, your best bet is to work extra hours at the day job or get that second or third part time job and pay for it yourself. Total control, no debt, no pressure. We will likely always self produce our CDs, but Transistor 66 is very helpful in getting our CDs heard sold and played a bit more.
You say on your Twitter account that you are a mother of two. Are your kids old enough to know what their mom and dad do? If so, how do they react? Is it tough to manage the responsibilities of being a parent with the responsibilities of being a musician, i.e. – finding time for shows, tours, or studios?
To this day, you put on loud rockabilly music and my kids will be out like a light in 5 minutes. We would rehearse with the baby monitor on in the basement after they went to bed when they were little. We were very fortunate that they just grew into our routine. It doesn’t even phase them, which is awesome for us. I’m willing to bet that sometimes it can be uncomfortable being the kids of the tattooed, hot pink haired and pompadour-ed parents who are clearly running on 3 hours of sleep from the gig the night before trying to volunteer at the school bake sale or whatever, but I’m sure they’ll learn to roll with it, Haha.
As a previously unfamiliar listener, I loved your music; it was fun, fiery, danceable, and lively. I think others would feel the same when they hear it, and I imagine as a group you’re confident in the music you make. Today as an independent musician in the world of social media, you’re able to promote yourself like never before, but your music is also apt to get lost in the flood of independent artists using the sites for the same means. What, to you, as an independent artist is the most frustrating part of trying to get this music you believe in out to listeners, and, on the other hand, what have you found to be the most successful means of doing so?
First, thank you very much, a very appreciated compliment.
We have a wonderful little niche that has already been carved out for us. People who like old cars, vintage fashion, or take dance lessons are already on the lookout for folks like us, so that part is easy. Right now our biggest problem is how isolated we are regarding touring and face to face networking. Canada is large and fairly desolate. Hitting the next largest population is at least a 4 hour drive and then a good 8 to 14 on top of that depending on whether you head North, East or West from here. Touring Canada is all nice and dandy, but the economics of driving 14 hours for one show is a bit silly. A good way to get our music out there to more hands would be to head south after hitting up the Canadian market and play in America as well where you can hit up millions within a few hours drive and reach some of the people who have already interacted with us through youtube, Facebook and twitter. They want us there, but we can’t get to them.
Our ‘benevolent’ government has acted in what they thought were our best interests by closing the border for musicians. They thought it would help Canadian bands get more gigs locally, by shutting out the Americans. However, all it has done has hindered our ability to network and grow. They should have asked us first before making this decision for us. We actually want the Americans here to play with us and bring new sounds and make connections back to their home towns for us as well. Our government’s theory only works if you think that Americans are so much better at music than Canadians are that us poor little musicians need to be protected by separation. It’s not the case and quite frankly, an (albeit unbeknownst to them) insulting gesture on their behalf.
Now It costs thousands in VISA fees to tour and you have ridiculous amounts of superfluous paperwork to go through to get to tour and its even more difficult to bring Americans up here. This is absolutely our biggest challenge as musicians today. We have been trying to rally folks into getting the governments to ease up on touring laws. If anyone remembers, live music was quite a different story in the early days. Even as recently as the 90s, it was far more vibrant than it is today. It was all thanks to face to face networking and being able to tour with just a passport and guitar. We need to get back to those days again.
I have proposed a ‘touring passport for amateur/semi professional musicians’ idea to the Musician’s Union. A one time fee- good for 5 years- passport and it allows you to work up to a certain dollar amount and limits 6 months annually worth of travel a year. Honestly, we end up spending more than we make when on tour, so they don’t really need to worry about musicians taking money from Canadians or Americans. Especially if it revitalizes the live music scene. It’ll be good for everyone if we can get this going again.
Where do you see Eve Hell and the Razors going from here?
We have another CD in the works. I think it’s a bit more mature and personal than our previous work. We have our new member, LP on drums, and he has a bright new energy and drive. I think regarding touring, we’re going to stay in Canada this summer, but you never know what the fall will hold.
WORDKRAPHT Rating: 4 Stars!
Album Name: When the Lights Go Out
Date Released: 2010
Genre: rockabilly, psychobilly, 50’s rock, surfer rock
Location: Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Band Members: Eve Hell (bass/vocals), Mike Hell (guitar), Lorne Peterson (drums); Richie Ranchero (former drummer, drums on the album)
Record Label: Transistor 66 Record Co. http://www.transistor66.com/