Former Vegas Kings guitarist Pete Collins says the idea for his current sometime party band, The Horrortones, came after watching Melbourne band Dynamo in full, party-style flight. “They were having such a great time – it was just like watching a party band,” Collins says. After the gig, Collins, fuelled by excitement and alcohol, mused about a possible entrepreneurial concept. “I remember talking with Phil Gionfriddo when we were in Melbourne once, and saying we wanted to start a Brisbane Dynamo cover band,” says former Vegas Kings guitarist Pete Collins. “We’d have a Brisbane Dynamo, and a Sydney Dynamo band – we’d just franchise it, with matching uniforms. Then once a year we’d all get together and play!” he laughs.
The Dynamo cover band didn’t eventuate in its original conceived form; Collins did, however, get together a few friends to form The Horrortones, a band featuring a rotating line-up of guests that endeavoured to capture and exploit the party band concept. “When I was growing up, my dad was really into Australian pub rock, and a big fan of the Party Boys,” Collins says. “I just loved that idea of having a band made up of guys from all these different bands. If you look through the history of the Party Boys, it’s absolutely insane how many people from the pub rock scene, and overseas, played in that band. I even heard a rumour – I’m not sure if it’s true – that Stevie Ray Vaughan got up and played with them one time.”
A few years ago the Vegas Kings were asked to play Brisbane’s Ramone-athon; unable to make the commitment, Collins and fellow Vegas Kings member Ben Dougherty decided to seize the moment and bring the nascent Horrortones party band concept to fruition. “We just pulled together a band for the event, and we did Ramones songs, and some soul songs,” Collins says. Later on, when Collins and Dougherty organised the inaugural Mere Noise Meltdown Festival (Mere Noise being the Brisbane-based label established by the pair), The Horrortones appeared again. “Over the years the band line-up has changed depending on who’s available at the time,” Collins says. “The Horrortones will never not play just because someone’s not available – we’ll draft someone in, have a rehearsal and then play."
It was never intended that The Horrortones actually recorded anything, or even toured outside Brisbane – this was simply a live band that came, gave the audience a good time, and disappeared back into the wings. Over the years The Horrortones featured an impressive cast of guest players, including Ben Corbett (Sixfthick, Gentle Ben), Andy Moore (Digger And The Pussycats), Jo Nilson (Butcher Birds) and Spencer P Jones. “We were never going to record anything, but we were getting paid for gigs, and one day we realised that we actually had all this money, and we wondered what to do with it,” Collins says. “So we banked it, and realised we had all this money and we could do something stupid with it!” he laughs.
The initial idea was to record a series of 7” singles, and release a new single each time the band played; this idea evolved to the very idiosyncratic concept of a triple 7” gatefold single. “We took this idea to a few printing shops up here, and they just couldn’t get their head around it,” Collins laughs. “So we thought ‘OK, we’ll put the 7”s in a box instead’.”
The resultant 7” boxset features six tracks that showcase the Horrortones’ invigorating rock’n’roll-infused soul style. “We wanted to steal that Ultraglide in Black thing that The Dirtbombs did – taking other peoples’ songs and making them your own,” Collins says. “What we’ve got on the boxset is a mixture of stuff, including a Bob Seger track. I’m a massive fan of early Bog Seger – actually, I really like his lame 80s stuff as well,” Collins laughs.
This weekend sees The Horrortones’ first foray into Melbourne, when the band plays the Beasts Records Festival Showcase over three nights. Collins and Dougherty first met Beasts Records owner Sebastian Blanchais through Sixfithick – Beasts Records having released and supported Sixfthick in its various European forays. “He helped us out when the Vegas Kings went overseas for the first time, and we started a friendship with him,” Collins says. “He’s put out some of our bands over there, and we’ve helped him out with bands like Dimi Dero.”
Back in Brisbane, and Collins says the local music scene is already feeling apprehensive at the impact of the new Queensland government, though the artist community is doing its best to keep its head up. “Brisbane actually has more artist-run initiatives than Melbourne or Sydney, which is quite amazing,” Collins says, “and people are finding new and different ways of getting their art out.” But this weekend the focus will be on Melbourne, and the Horrortones’ party world. “We’re not sure how people will take to us, and whether they’ll just think we’re a cover band,” Collins says. “I always say the difference with us is that a cover band plays songs the audience wants to hear, but we play songs that we want to hear.”
BY PATRICK EMERY
The Horrortones play Saturday July 21 at the Retreat with James McCann and the New Vindictives and Spencer P Jones and the Escape Committee and Sunday July 22 with MJ O’Halloran and the Sinners, Bad Vision, Head One and Roller One.