Koffin Kats' Vic Victor on Punk, Psychobilly, and Playing in Arizona
It can be tough to get into rockabilly or psychobilly because, let's face it: a lot of the bands blend together. Yeah, upright bass and horror movies are cool, but watching a guy with a pompadour stand on top of his bass while singing about cars gets a little old.
The Koffin Kats aren't your typical psychobilly band. There are some traditional undertones, but the band's take-no-prisoners song structure as as much to do with punk rock as greasy hair.
"What everything boils down to is I consider us a punk band with an upright bass," says singer/guitarist Vic Victor, "the biggest influence is just the aggression and the speed of what punk rock music is, just fast paced and keeping your foot tapping [music.]
We recently caught up with Victor to discuss psychobilly in the United States, why the band keeps coming back to Arizona, and what made the band stronger than ever.
The Koffin Kats are scheduled to perform Friday, June 8 at Chasers in Scottsdale with The Quakes and Calabrese.
Up on the Sun: What can we expect out of your upcoming show in Phoenix?
Vic Victor: Considering that we have The Quakes and Calabrese with us, it's going to be absolutely packed beyond belief, I know that. Us alone, when we played at club Chasers there in Scottsdale, we had no problem packing it out, so it's going to be beyond packed with those other bands added. It's going to be a lot of fun, we always have a good time at that club.
When it comes to our show, we go up there and give it our all. We like to keep the pace of our set moving really quick and always giving people something to look at. We're not one of those bands that necessarily stand in one spot. Playing over 200 shows a year, if we were standing in one spot, we'd all go crazy. So, we kind of do it for our own sanity to put on a wild show together and make every night as interesting and entertaining as possible. You guys have toured a lot of places. Is there anywhere on your wishlist you haven't played yet?
Actually, we haven't been to Finland yet, and that's where we're starting off the European tour. We haven't been that far north, so that's really cool. As far as the states, we've been in every state except for Alaska and Hawaii. One of those days, we'll probably hit Alaska and Hawaii and we're still working on doing Japan and Australia, it's just a financial issue at this point because we're still one of those bands that has to pay for all of our airfare and things like that.
You're playing at Chasers, and you're coming back to Tucson and Yuma. Is there something about Arizona you hold dear aside from being a midpoint between California and Texas?
I definitely have to say that Tucson and playing the Phoenix area, ever since our first tour, we've been playing through there. Both cities have always been good to us. We've played Yuma before and actually had a blast. It was a small show, but it was a lot of fun. We've done Flagstaff in the past and we've played up in the reservation, and we just always have a good time coming through Arizona. We've always been treated well and usually had great shows and we'll keep coming back.
Has Tommy Koffin's departure affected your songwriting at all?
No, actually not really. If anything, bringing [guitarist EZ] Ian has brought new life into the songwriting process because he's got a different guitar playing style, and it's cool to change things up. Tommy was with us for six years and now Ian's going on three years with us. We've been able to match all of our chemistry up and we've been writing music, and it's been turning out pretty good. In fact, some of the most recent material is some of the material I'm most proud of doing.
I hear some punk undertones in your music. Was punk a big influence of yours?
What everything boils down to is I consider us a punk band with an upright bass. We like to touch on every band that we've been influenced by and bring it into our music, that's what influences are all about, being able to pull from different areas of music. The biggest influence is just the aggression and the speed of what punk rock music is, just fast paced and keeping your foot tapping.
What do you think has kept psychobilly alive over the years?
There's always an intrigue for underground music and listening to something that not everyone else does. Psychobilly is not necessarily an underground genre everywhere around the world, it's pretty well known in Europe and that's definitely one thing that's helped keep it going over the years. As far as in the states, for a while, maybe one out of five punk rockers had heard a psychobilly album, or a Demented Are Go! album, or a Mad Sin album for some time. Now it's pretty much out there in the open, and a lot of that has to do with the internet. A lot of these records and CDs were not accessible before you could order things offline and find them so easily. Back when I first got into psychobilly was like '98-99, I was working at a record shop and it was next to impossible to find and psychobilly CDs. I had to do special orders from Europe to get them into the store and all of that. That's how it used to be, now you can pretty much walk into most indie shops and find something pertaining to rockabilly or psychobilly.
I was able to expand my knowledge of other psychobilly bands by going through the mail order catalog and going, 'that sounds cool, I'll order this one and order this one.' It's funny, I was supposed to be ordering for the store, I was really just ordering for my own collection.
That way you can give the customers better recommendations.
That time it was cool because we only played our records in the store and people would go, 'oh man, what's this?' I've always had the belief that this genre of music is for everybody. Any form of music should be accepted or at least open for everybody to hear. A lot of times when you have underground scene, people like to keep it to themselves and not let new faces into it, but I've never believed in that. I've always tried to get this type of music out to as many people as possible and say hey, 'here's something you don't know about.'
There's many things beyond what's advertised, beyond your AP magazines or what you see on MTV, there's a lot of bands out there that are still doing things their own way and doing things out of their own pockets. That's pretty much what we've done for almost the last 9 years now is tour out of our own pockets, released our own CDs, we've had distributions through labels, but pretty much beyond that, everything's been done the way we want to do it with our own financing.
It's particularly cool that you've kept up with it for almost 10 years.
It's not been easy and there's been a lot of sacrifices. We've been fortunate that over the last couple years, we can start to see some of that hard work paid off and it's really inspiring to keep us out there and keep us doing it. We'll keep pushing until either something breaks or we just can't do it anymore.
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories Newsletter Our daily newsletter delivers quick clicks to keep you in the know
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in Phoenix, delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday.