Something Rockin' in Denmark: Why HorrorPops left their homeland to reimagine American music
"In Denmark, if they're really rocking out, they're listening to Coldplay," says Henrik Niedermeier.
Which is why he and the other HorrorPops, husband-and-wife team Kim Nekroman and Patricia Day, left Copenhagen and made tracks for LA as soon as they inked a deal with Hellcat Records four years ago.
"Denmark's entire underground-music scene is less than a thousand people," Niedermeier continues. The 'Pops and moody fellow Danes the Raveonettes are kindred spirits—and they got the hell out of their tiny country. "We're friends from the same scene, but we were inspired enough by going abroad to not stay in Denmark and play the same 10 venues twice a year," Niedermeier says. "I don't know if it's our Viking heritage to go out and explore the world, but it's a kick."
And from the sound of it, it's curiously American. How else to explain how HorrorPops—not unlike Lars Von Trier's American trilogy or Playboy bunnies and porn stars aspiring to look like Viking goddesses—manage to mirror an utter American-ness from the remoteness of their Danish roots? In the HorrorPops' case, its an omni-billy approach with more kitsch than camp, putting everything there is to love about American music-"from Dolly Parton to Metallica," as Niedermeier says, but with more obvious nods to the Cramps and X-in three-minute nuggets.
Since moving to LA, HorrorPops have made themselves right at home. Nekroman has a vintage Model T hot-rod "coffin" that would give the Munstermobile a run for its money, and Day is into sports cars.
"A lot of people are like, 'Oh, LA's this big, stinky city, and it's so spread out,' but we love it," Niedermeier explains. "It's like being on the road, looking out the window and going, 'Oh, right.' Even though . . ." You can hear Niedermeier break into a smile as he concludes, "I've probably been there before."
The same could be said of their new album, Kiss Kiss Kill Kill. Their 2004 debut, Hell Yeah, was pretty damn psychobilly, then they went more straight-up rawk for 2005's Bring It On! But they've landed back in the mish-mash with Kiss Kiss Kill Kill.
"One of the mantras we had from the start," Niedermeier explains, "is that we'll try to play everything—ska, punk, nice little pop tunes—anything we feel like playing." No shit. Inspired by celluloid Americana, the album is a flipbook of styles, most notably in the synth-stroked new wave of "Everything's Everything." "Patricia's a huge Depeche Mode fan," Niedermeier notes, while he admits he's a massive fan of the B-52's, of all bands. "The way they arrange their songs, you just hear all these different little things going on."
"Different things" in Kiss Kiss Kill Kill's case is leavening the riffery of "Private Hall of Shame" with the ska-billy of "Missfit," which mashes together Madness' "One Step Beyond" and "Our House."
Speaking of Misfits, HorrorPops' what's-not-to-like live freak show has made for some strange touring-fellows, like last summer's jaunt with Danzig. "I have no idea how that happened," Niedermeier says, laughing. An unlikely pairing even by HorrorPops' all-embracing standards, but perhaps a nod from Glenn Danzig to his campier Misfits roots, a notion furthered by the fact that former Misfits guitarist Wolfgang von Frankenstein was also on the tour, making for night after night of Misfits encore sets. "I was right there on the side of the stage, pumping my fists like everybody else, going, 'Yeeeaaah!'"
HorrorPops records are pretty straightforward, but their live show can get bizarre, which isn't easy as a trio when the singer also has to handle a friggin' standup bass bigger than she is. "It's a battle sometimes," Niedermeier admits. "Some songs are really fast, and [Patricia] has to catch her breath." Any budget that could be devoted to, say, hiring other musicians to take the load off Day are spent on two go-go dancers, for whom Day hand-makes costumes.
But this kind of attention to detail has won them an invested following—their MySpace page has a whole photo album dedicated to fans' HorrorPops-inspired tattoos, and the 'Pops have carved out a little niche for themselves as the you-gotta-see-this change-up from the screamo mall punk as Warped Tour regulars. Niedermeier just can't figure out why more bands don't try harder to stand out. "If a band like My Chemical Romance come out, all the labels have 10 bands that sound exactly the same—I literally can't tell them apart. That kind of annoys me," he says. "Find your own expression and stick to your guns." And a pair of hot go-go dancers.
HorrorPops perform with Pink Spiders and Rocket at the House of Blues, 1530 S. Disneyland Dr., Anaheim, (714) 778-2583; www.hob.com. Sat., 7 p.m. $15-$17.50. All ages.
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