“Buddy Holly Meets The Ramones at a Beef-and-Beer,” an image evocative of rockabilly guitar played in the key of coolness, was the phrase Nick Falcon posted on phillymusic.com in 2002 when he was seeking musicians.
It caught the eye of Lady Dana Kain and Jonny Wolf, who with Falcon, morphed into The Young Werewolves, a horror-themed rock ‘n’ roll band from Philly with a ravenous hunger for rockabilly covers and the live music experience.
Falcon’s teenage years in the 1970s and the 1980s were spent wailing on the guitar in hardcore bands, spray painting Dadaism-influenced punk graffiti and falling in love with the old, dead virtuosos of jazz guitarists like Johnny Smith.
“I always played punk rock from age 15 onward,” the Philly native said. “When I turned 27, 28, 29, 30, I realized this is really it, if I’m going to do music and do guitar I should do something and have some credibility – as to not be pretentious. I’m still young enough to rock out.”
Rocking out to The Young Werewolves is easy, but labeling it proves troublesome. The sights and sounds of a hallowed body guitar – a style easily stolen from Brian Setzer and a stand-up drummer – draw obvious comparisons to rockabilly, but Dana Kain’s B-horror film-inspired lyrics push the band one step closer to the dark side of goth-a-billy.
But Falcon keeps it simple.
“Rock ‘n’ roll is what it feels like to me,” he said.
Only the foolish would pigeonhole The Young Werewolves, since the breadth of music Falcon cites as influences spans over eight decades. The band has independently released two full-length albums, but its abundance of rockabilly covers – ranging from Nine Inch Nails and Depeche Mode to Duke Ellington and the Beatles, boosts its repertoire to more than 100 songs.
Considering the upbeat, surfer-rock tempo accompanying curiously-titled songs like “Satan’s Daughter” and “Touched by a Demon,” Falcon and his band mates have substituted their bark with a more accessible, happy-go-lucky aura. But their overall bite is still like a werewolf – a loner existing beyond the flimsy rules and norms of society.
“Major labels are about wings. They’re not about legs,” he said, during a phone interview. “They’re about making albums that sell a million each week and maybe sell half a million the second album and then taper out and disappear.”
To make a name for his band, Falcon used the Internet and a workman’s approach – touring in Maryland, New York and just about anywhere else he could perform. He did it without bribing radio stations with white envelopes or hiring independent promoters to push his project onto focus groups, a common practice for any band signed to a major label.
“We’re not gonna pay to play,” he said. “If we need a focus group to tell us what we like, then we’re not a band. We’re a corporation.”
Despite taking a non-traditional approach, The Young Werewolves is being noticed.
Its most recent album, Cheat The Devil, was executively produced by Sid Haig, the bald and bearded horror-film icon who starred as the psychopathic clown Captain Spalding in Rob Zombie’s House of 1000 Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects.
Reviews from Rockabilly and Amped magazines were positive – citing the quality of fine rock ‘n’ roll music rather than the special guest appearance.
“WPRB spins us, KRock in L.A. has DJ Robby on the Rock – he loves us,” Falcon said. “He spins us every Halloween and Sunday nights.”
On Halloween, The Young Werewolves will rip through the homogeneous sludge of formatted radio programming when it howls live on 104.5 FM, its first encounter with the typically robotic network heads behind Clear Channel Communications. The program will be followed by a show at one of the band’s favorite stomping grounds at Sweeney’s in Northeast Philadelphia.
In a world of broad labels and a million subcultures spreading through the Internet, The Young Werewolves has clawed out a unique niche.
“That cowboy mentality that we have makes us not even able to pursue major record labels,” Falcon said. “We’ll take over the world one city at a time, but we’ll do it on our schedule, not any major label’s schedule.”
Jimmy Viola can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.