Hillbilly Hellcats play in Vail, answer 7 questions | VailDaily.com

Hillbilly Hellcats play in Vail, answer 7 questions

Sarah Mausolf
Vail CO, Colorado
Special to the Daily

VAIL, Colorado ” When Colorado’s Hillbilly Hellcats hopped the pond this past fall, Europeans vibed on them. Fans begged for the band’s signatures and Italian club owners lavished pasta dinners on them.

“Rockabilly is bigger and more known in Europe than it is in the United States,” Hellcats guitarist Chuck Hughes said.

Not that the band is small in the U.S., though. Hillbilly Hellcats have sold more than 24,000 copies of its 1998 CD, “Our Brand.” And thanks to Myspace.com, Hughes, 57, has been recruiting touring members for his growing roster of gigs. The band’s all-Colorado lineup, including Hughes from Lafayette, plays the Sandbar tonight. We chatted with Hughes about life as a Hillbilly Hellcat.

1. Vail Daily: Are you from a hillbilly town?

Chuck Hughes: No, I’m not. I’m from boring old suburbia and so is Lance (Bakemeyer, the bassist).

2. VD: Your songs have titles like “Better Be Some Drinkin.'” Where do you get your inspiration for the lyrics?

CH: My inspiration for the lyrics comes from a combination of sheer fantasy and actual experiences. “Better Be Some Drinkin,'” however, was an actual experience. … I played in Carbondale in a previous band many years ago and the owner, after the first set, said ‘People aren’t drinkin.’ There better be some drinkin’ if you’re gonna get paid.’ …People say you can write a song by going to a cafe and eavesdropping on conversations in the background and you should be able to come out of there with several interesting titles for a song and I think that’s true.

3. VD: What kind of guitar do you play and why?

CH: Well, like many rockabilly players, I play a Gretsch Hollow Body. Gretsches sound somewhere between a Fender and a Gibson. They have a sound that works from classic rockabilly sounds all the way up through modern psychobilly…

4. VD: Your music really sounds like Elvis and “The King” is listed among your influences. What aspects of Elvis are you trying to emulate?

CH: We are not trying to emulate anything. What comes out is a combination of all our influences. I would say, however, that Elvis was the king of rockabilly and what we do with the songs, first of all, is that we’re using the 12-bar blues progression and I like to say our songs are a combination of blues, country, jazz, bluegrass and punk …

5. VD: What’s the most hillbilly thing you guys have ever done?

CH: … No matter what your band is called, in the final analysis, life in the band is riding in the van, booking shows, playing shows, recording, distributing. It’s really a business and, you know, we don’t spend our day brewing moonshine in Appalachia. We used an evocative word but we don’t have a blunderbuss [muzzle-loading gun] and we don’t sit on the front porch in a rocking chair waiting for revenuers …

6. VD: What’s next for the Hillbilly Hellcats?

CH: Other than the tour of the West Coast (which begins in January), I would say what’s next is a video. It’s going to be a homeshot video we’re going to put on Youtube.

7. VD: What was your European tour like?

CH: We drove 14,000 kilometers and we played to 1,800 people at a festival in Spain between 2 and 4 in the morning. It was outdoors and it was amazing because so many people there knew our songs and it was for a Harley Davidson motorcyle festival. We were the headliners the first night. Deep Purple was the headliner the second night. …In some cases fans set up the shows all by themselves for us, providng us a venue, advertising for us and letting us crash at their houses so we owe it very much to our Myspace contacts …

High Life Writer Sarah Mausolf can be reached at 970-748-2938 or smausolf@vaildaily.com.

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