Are you tired of the 20-minute guitar solos your perpetually-stoned, patchouli-soaked roommate praises? Maybe your girlfriend’s cutesy indie-pop pick of the week clings to your brain like an insatiable hookworm, sucking and draining until your sanity is truly strained. If these scenarios sound familiar, you might want something a little weirder or edgier, something worthy of a dark venue where mysterious painted beauties and cloaked ghouls congregate. Getting warmer? If you dream of Gothic grandeur, shadowy carnival barkers and dark things dwelling beyond the Top 40, you might want to hurry, hurry, hurry to the upcoming Hellblinki show.
A dark opera that defies categorization, Hellblinki blends psychobilly, organ work and powerful female vocals the late Edith Piaf would envy, producing a lilting, spooky patchwork without equal. The sheer queerness of the unclassifiable Hellblinki mixture might turn off listeners who crave the chorus/verse/chorus formula, but adventurous investigators will warm to the group’s grand pieces, songs fit for the gypsy camps or laboratories in the Universal monster movies of old. The persistent presence of the organ in the band’s catalog might trigger memories of a travelling carnival or a circus, but the Hellblinki carnival would probably be a decidedly creepy spectacle, an event unrestrained by corporeal bonds.
While Hellblinki’s squeezebox dirges definitely depart from normalcy, the band’s signature black mélange of sideshow melody and punkish attitude isn’t impossibly avant-garde. Rather, the band’s comical, kooky lyrics ground the project, anchoring the mad, floating aspects of the group’s music with a warm touch.
The Exponent caught up with Andre Benjamin of Hellblinki, and he shed some light on the musical chimera that will appear at the Filling Station Oct. 13.
Exponent: A dark carnivalesque feeling pervades your pieces. Is this sound cultivated intentionally or is it an unexpected result of stylistic fusion?
Benjamin: “Stylistic fusion,” for the most part. All creativity is synthesis, or the combining of ideas. I feel that the more open I am to “the muse,” the more interesting the final product. I try to have only a very vague idea of the finished product when starting a song or recording. That said, I grew up hearing opera and folk music from around the world at home, and got into punk rock as a teen in the late 80’s, so obviously those styles of music are a big influence.
E: Psychobilly, opera and even ambient experimentation all find their way into your music. Consequently, a lot of strange labels are used to describe your style. How would you categorize the Hellblinki sound?
B: I try not to, sometimes uttering something about “American and European folk through a
punk rock meat grinder,” but even that doesn’t quite explain the thing.
E: Could you briefly describe the aim of the famous Hellblinki live show?
B: Ohhh, sure. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!