A toast to The Hangovers

Errol Nazareth, The Toronto Sun 

Christian DeArmond doesn’t seem to give a toss what tags critics use to describe the music that his band, Christian D & the Hangovers, makes. I didn’t ask, but I’m guessing he’s pretty comfy with psychobilly.

With a style that looks to The Cramps, Nick Cave and Elvis, The Hangovers belt out distorted, punky rockabilly on record and on stage as if their lives depended on it.

Their hour-long set at the East End Rockabilly Riot two weeks back was exhilarating and one that will surely be reprised when The Hangovers — featuring Mack Black, brothers Ken and Tim Kelley and charismatic frontman DeArmond — invade the Bovine Sex Club tonight.

If you can’t make it to the gig, I highly recommend snatching up a copy of their blazing full length disc, Shake It or Leave It.

It boasts the same volume, energy and power as their live show.

“I like to mix rockabilly, punk and alt country, so the basic starting point for the band is to pick up where bands like The Cramps and X left off,” DeArmond says.

“That’s why The Cramps song, Cornfed Dames, is on the CD. That band was really important to me in terms of what good and wild rock ’n’ roll should sound like.”

Continuing in the spirit of those bands but not replicating them is what separates The Hangovers from their contemporaries in the city’s small but hopping rockabilly scene.

“As much as I love rockabilly, I’m equally influenced by guys like Nick Cave and Tom Waits and Iggy Pop,” DeArmond says. “I don’t want to recreate a ’50s sound — there are bands around that do that much better than I do. I’m in love with trash and twang and wild abandon.

“I’m more interested in just trying to write songs that I personally find intriguing and then trying to present them in a way that an audience might find interesting,” he adds.

“We’ve got a murder ballad (Mr. Handsome) that I like to throw in the middle of a set and some stuff that’s a little more what I think of as East Coast country.”

If their name doesn’t hint at their hedonistic vibe, cue up Shimmy Shorts and Hot Mess for more proof that “trash, twang and wild abandon” holds a special place in their hearts.

DeArmond says Shimmy Shorts started with a guitar riff inspired by listening to garage rock for a day.

“In my mind it would be perfect with those stripper-style drum rolls that D.J. Fontana used to play with Elvis,” he says. “That led me to thinking about Poison Ivy from The Cramps in those red shimmy shorts she wore in the video for Bikini Girls With Machine Guns, and then the song kind of wrote itself.

“I think I finished it in about 30 minutes, then went back and did some minor lyrical edits.

“I love when a song comes together really quickly like that, they usually turn out to be my favourite ones.”

Then there’s Hot Mess with these lyrics: “Saw you at the bar last night, ya got 4-inch heels and your hair piled high/Your cleavage flows down to your mystery, I’m sure you know what that does to me.”

“It’s a humourous take on the kind of girl you’ll sometimes meet in a bar after you’re done playing,” DeArmond says.

“She’s kinda pretty and sexy but a little disheveled and out of control.

“You’re kind of attracted to her, but you can’t help wondering if she wouldn’t be more intriguing on the other side of 8 a.m.” he adds.

“When you meet someone at closing time, it’s sometimes amazing how differently they act in the light of day.

“You’ve got to accept anything that happens at two in the morning with a certain suspension of disbelief,” he says.

“You’re living in a hazy night time reality there, and what you see often has little bearing on day-to-day reality.”

NOTE: Christian D & the Hangovers, The Grave Mistakes, and Ginger St. James play the Bovine Sex Club tonight. 10 p.m. $5. 542 Queen St. W.

Visit Errol’s blog at www.musicinthemessage.blogspot.com.