If you are one of the many that have yet to experience “psychobilly” music in any form, consider this your introductory course. Often thought of as the hellish offspring of rock ‘n’ roll and punk rock, psychobilly was conceived in the dark alleys of underground scenes all over the world; only recently has it taken small but sure-footed steps into the mainstream music industry. Many loyal fans, however, pay no mind to the commercial success and are more than content to keep the psychobilly music and subculture within the shadowy miasma from whence it came.
At first glance, the psychobilly subculture seems to revolve around black-and-white horror movies, retro 1950s styles, tattoos, classic cars and the vices of man – drinking, gambling, fighting and (ahem) copulating. Yet, scratch the surface and you’ll find that it is a subculture entirely about the music – raw and gritty at times, like its punk rock cousin, or alternately sweet and melodic like its rockabilly brother. Either way, fans of the genre come easy due to the infectious and explosive energy that characterizes most shows, and indeed, most psychobilly bands themselves.
Enter Dusty Graves, the lively lead vocalist and upright bass player from Santa Barbara’s own Graveside Rockers (with lead guitarist Brian Lakey and drummer Chris Story), who describes their energetic performances as something completely natural.
“I play with a lot of emotion and passion, and it works because the fans like it,” Graves said. “People think it’s cool, that inspires my show antics.”
Graves is known for accomplishing feats such as standing on his upright bass, or playing it behind his back. Yet, when it comes to musical inspirations, Dusty Graves steers clear of adopting a style or sound that isn’t one hundred percent his own.
“I intentionally stray from other people’s music because I want every song to sound different,” Graves said. “Some are more punk rock, some are more metal-sounding. Our lyrics differ from most psychobilly bands, because they stick to the same subjects – monsters, cars and girls. Most of my songs are about deep-seated emotional trauma, life experiences and love.”
Don’t let the subject matter fool you, though; Dusty Graves describes his contributions to the band as aggressive punk rock, keenly meshed with his bandmates’ rockabilly sounds.
“The ‘-billy’ aspect comes from Chris; he’s got rock ‘n’ roll mixed with early metal. He is one of the best guitar players around, and he has developed his own style, which is very hard to do,” Graves said.
Despite a growing fan base and some success along the way, Dusty Graves admits that, at present, the Graveside Rockers are not as far along as he would have liked. It was due to his own personal tragedies that the production of their current album “Hymns of Iniquity” was halted for a time last year. Now that their tour is moving along in full force, he anticipates that they will continue to grow and succeed given the loyalty of their fans and their talent for drawing crowds.
So what’s next for the Graveside Rockers?
“[When it comes to the future] you can’t really make any predictions with music,” Graves said. “There are bands out there that are great, but don’t make it big; no one ever wants to sign them. I would like to say that it rests in the hands of the fans as to how big we can get, but it’s going to be an awesome year for us.”
Graves said he is hopeful that at some point the Graveside Rockers will make it big, but will always remain true to themselves and true to the music.
“We try to do more than just belong to a scene. Our hearts lie in the music, in rock ‘n’ roll,” Graves said. “We listen to everything. People should, too. Do whatever the fuck you want and just listen to whatever the fuck you want.”
This reporter suggests starting with the Graveside Rockers.