Next to the U.S., the United Kingdom has probably had more impact on rock music than any other country. Recently the Burning Condors stepped up to add to that legacy by unleashing their own brand of “punkabilly” on the world!
You’re based out of the UK, but your sound is very much rooted in American roots rock. Would you say that makes you stand out in the English music scene?
I guess so. I mean there are a lot of clubnights springing up over London playing 50s rockabilly and blues. But the gig scenes yet to catch up. In London nowadays every man and his dog is in a band but it’s all very Electro and Indie and to be honest a lot of it is shit. I mean does the world really need to hear another band doing a bad MGMT rip off…. There are some bands doing the blues and country thing but they tend to be the older guys. Problem is people around our age group hear you talking about the blues and instantly dismiss it as old fashioned. I think they see it as all being some old guy singing about being down by the river, losing his job, his dog died and all those old cliches…stuff which is irrevlevant to them. Plus you can get a bit of snobbery on the rockabilly scene, more from the purists. Like some of these guys don’t realise that the worlds moved on since 1956 or something…yeah we love that music, the fashion and the whole vibe. But we’re four guys in our twenties who’ve grown up in London. We’d be lieing if we were singing songs about hanging around in diners and driving hot rods down the highway you know. It was cool when guys like Cochrane were doing it and we love bands like The Stray Cats. But I grew up in a dodgy area of East London where most of the kids were listening to Garage and grime music. It’s a long way from the Delta you know…. I worked underage behind the bar in a nightclub while I was at school, I was hanging out with a much older crowd who were big on the rave scene so I was always hanging around clubs, going to these weird parties. I got wrapped up in the whole culture. It was a period in my life where I was out drinking a lot, got involved in experimenting with drugs, meeting lots of different characters and I talk about them and those situations in my lyrics. People seem to be relating to that or at least it’s interesting to them. We wanna show people that playing the blues is still relevant, raw and powerful.
You say that your music has a strong “punk” feel to it. What do you mean by that?
The whole punkabilly tag isn’t something that came from us, it’s been from people seeing our show. Yeah we like to give it some on stage. I mean we’re not pretending it’s high art, it’s a rock n roll show, people haven’t come for a night at the opera. But we see ourselves as a country/blues band. There’s just this whole stigma attached to country and blues music like I was saying. When we tell people we play country they start imaging Dolly Parton…then when they listen to us their opinion usually changes. We often get told we’re like the Strokes or Arctic Monkeys doing country. I get that coz we love those bands, those guys have got that punky garage rock sound that we dig . We’ve also spent a lot of time hanging about Camden and we’ve definitely been influenced by that, especially the fashion, the fact people want to stand out and do their own thing. Round my way where I grew up that was frowned upon so I really gravitated towards that. Also we’re different from most Rockabillly and Punkabilly bands in that we use an electric bass rather than an upright. I mean Churchy’s digging in with a pick and it’s distorted, kind of like the guy from the Stranglers. It’s not a nice pure sound. It’s very obnoxious like it’s saying fuck you, you know?
Of course, you also draw a lot from country. What country artists do you enjoy?
From a guitar point of view I started getting into the style of guys like Carl Perkins, Albert Lee, Danny Gatton for rockabilly Setzer and Horton Heat. These guys are proper players. I mean Danny Gatton’s probably the most naturally gifted guitarist I’ve ever heard, the guys just improvising all over the place and just blows it out of the water. We dig the whole chickin pickin thing and shuffle rhythms but we’re not a straight up country band. For us it’s more about taking the elements we like and relate to and doing our own thing.
The biggest influence on us is more the songwriting. I’ve always loved the story telling aspect of country. I think you can judge if a song is really good if you can play it acoustically. A guy like Johnny Cash, he draws you in and takes you on a journey, just his voice and an acoustic guitar, it’s as stripped and raw as it gets. When he’s singing a song you know he’s lived a life and you wanna hear what he’s saying, he doesn’t need to wrap it up in some multi layered autotuned to fuck production. There’s a lot of good modern music out there but too much sounds like it was made to be sold as ringtones…. I mean everyone now says it’s all about the t-shirts, it’s all about the brand. Fuck that, it’s all about the music.
What is the rockabilly/psychobilly/punkabilly scene like in England?
It’s a growing scene. It’s always had a very hardcore following and you see the same faces rocking around. Like we supported Punkabilly band Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers on their London date recently and we saw a lot people in the crowd who were at the jump blues night we played the week before. A lot of these guys are passionate about not only the music but the whole lifestyle. Burlesque is being seen at more mainstream clubnights and people are just really starting to dig the whole vibe. What’s cool is that there’s a lot of new club nights playing 50s music and rockabilly and it’s attracting kids who are knew to the scene. It’s really starting to cross over and find a new audience, we’re even finding that our cover of Folsom Prison Blues is being played at Indie/Rock nights. For us that’s a great thing. Some of the hardcore don’t like it spreading, they get possesive of it but to me that’s stupid. This music is amazing and as many new people should be hearing it as possible. We wanna see the kids burn their skinny jeans and rocking out the brothel creepers!
How did the name “Burning Condors” come about?
It goes back to the whole Cash story of him crashing his truck in the mountains while he was high and burning down a part of the forest that had a load of Condors. Our drummer was talking about it round about when were needed to come up with a band name and it just stuck.
We never planned to release these recordings. It was supposed to be just a few live tracks recorded down onto tape to test whether things were sounding as fresh and exciting as we thought or if we were just a deluded bunch of deluded London boys butchering country music! When we heard it back the recordings had the vibe we wanted, sent it to a few venues and started getting bookings at loads of clubnights and then got asked to play at the Ace Café for the Harley Davidson afterparty. . We found out that Folsom and Round Our way Were being played in clubs and people were asking to buy it so we decided may as well give the people what they want!
Any upcoming gigs our readers should know about?
We’ve got the release party for our new EP at a 50s style bar in Shoredtich called Last Days of Decadence on November 27th. We are recording the EP in October back at Cowshed studios, this wicked little analogue place that gets a real dirty sound, captures the vibe perfectly. Luckily for us loads of people have wanted to get involved on the back of the RodeoDisco recording, Ben Newman who does a lot of the artwork for milkcow got hold of a copy and loved it, said he wanted to do and design for this EP and it will be available as a print.
We’re also starting a residency at the Rock n rolio night at the Moustache Bar on the first Saturday of the month, it’s a wicked night playing loads of 50s tracks but it’s quite different to a lot of 50s nights in that the DJs play some pretty obscure tracks not just the “old classics”. It’s got a wicked vibe and is always rammed, we can’t wait to be a part of it and get things lairy, bring the Condors thing to the party!
Learn more about Burning Condors on Myspace!