Just as the pilgrims escaped religious persecution nearly 400 years ago, Danish rock act HorrorPops sought freedom from musical pigeonholing in 2003 by immigrating to America.
"We're trying to not say "rockabilly' or "psychobilly,'" says guitarist Kim Nekroman, calling from Philadelphia. "We're basically like a rock 'n roll band. That's our philosophy and why we started the band in the first place, because we're so fed up with being in some cultures where you weren't allowed to do anything. Like if you were in a punk rock band, you could only play punk rock. You couldn't try something else."
Interest in trying something else brought together Nekroman and bassist/singer Patricia Day a decade ago. The former was in psychobilly act Nekromantix, while the latter fronted punk band Peanut Pump Gun. Soon they were married, as well as collaborating musically. Together, they decided to swap instruments and form a new act, the HorrorPops.
While the change proved creatively inspiring, the acclimation to their new instruments was a slow road resulting in a less-than-stellar live presentation. That's when Nekroman had the idea to incorporate go-go dancers on stage, to give the audience something to look at and remember. It worked, and quickly became a cornerstone of the HorrorPops experience.
"We needed something to distract people," Nekroman says. "That's how we came up with cheerleader or go-go or whatever-you-call-it girls. They are not go-go girls in the Russ Meyer sense, trying to be sexy or anything. They're more like rock 'n roll cheerleaders."
Sexy or not (and we'll be the judge of that), sex appeal is definitely a marketing strategy of the band and its American label, Hellcat Records. Case in point: The cover of the band's latest CD, Bring it On, features the sultry, schoolgirl-looking Day, and not the inked-up male band members.
Still, fighting novelty is nothing new to the HorrorPops' six members. Just take your pick: female-lead band; rockabilly band; psychobilly band; Danish band; and now, go-go band. But so far, the outfit has been lucky in that audiences seem to be receptive to the band's punk-based, rock-structured ways, which seemingly eschew labeling.
Take, for instance, the ska-tinged title track, or the old-school-punk-sounding "Caught in a Blonde." Essentially, it's a rock album for the new millennium.
Nekroman has already seen a difference in the band's concerts, where greasers and rockabilly punks are being joined by indie rock college students and even a few emo kids "who try to hide in the background."
The guitarist says the band's belief in playing whatever it wants appears to be winning people over. And while fans not representing with the Vans Warped garb may feel out-of-place, Nekroman extols the virtues of rocking in the free world.
"I think it's cool that people dress up, be weird, have Mohawks and crazy hairdos," Nekroman says, "but I can talk to people with normal hair, too."
The HorrorPops with The Briefs and Left Alone
Bluebird Theater (3317 E. Colfax Ave., Denver)
Friday, May 5, 8 p.m.
Tickets: $12, 16-plus; call 866/468-7621 or visit ticketweb.com.