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Skulls and Flowers

Photo by Octavio Winky Tiki

Psychobilly kids boast a specific sense of style: meticulously cuffed Levi’s; creepers and crisp white socks; red silk roses and crimson lips; vintage leopard-skin purses and black fishnets . . . and the hair, ah yes, the hair. All were in full bloom two months ago when HorrorPops rocked Amoeba Music on what happened, fittingly, to be both Friday the 13th and the day before Valentine’s Day.

The Danes’ breathless stomps bounced throughout the store, even if at times we couldn’t get the theme to Jaws out of our heads — the audience’s countless shark-fin-like pompadours (identical to that of guitarist Kim Nekroman, also the crooner/standup bassist of the coffin-crunchin’ Nekromantix) seemed to swim above nearly every aisle, CD racks obscuring the bodies they belonged to.

Nekroman’s wife, HorrorPops singer Patricia Day, seemed hyped by the worship. Backed by two spastic backup “screamers”/go-go dancers, she wiggled, wailed assertive anthems like “Psychobitches Outta Hell” and Billy Idol’s “Rebel Yell,” and slammed her upright bass like it was a whipping boy, giggling with her bandmates and egging on the vibrant throng.

A few days later, before leaving for Denmark to clear up INS problems (the band had to cancel a U.S. tour in support of their Hellcat Records debut, Hell Yeah!), Nekroman and Day took a break to chat near the Silver Lake abode they’ve been sharing with ’Pops and Nekromantix bandmates since both groups came to L.A. some years ago.

Though both are originally from Copenhagen and talk like it, their music doesn’t necessarily evoke their homeland. “There’s no real rock-roll scene in Denmark,” says Nekroman. “It’s more about dance music there.”

Before acquiring U.S. work visas, Nekromantix were forced to play other parts of Europe to gain exposure; Day’s previous band, Peanut Pump Gun, also played the European circuit. The two converged at a ’96 European music festival, and it was love at first sight — not for each other, but for each other’s instruments.

“That was the first time I ever saw a band play an upright bass,” recalls Day excitedly. “I’ve been playing instruments since I was 6, and I just have to play everything. I was just like, eeeh, I gotta touch!”

 

With ink-etched biceps, streaked black hair and striking blue eyes, Day visually and vocally conjures a sassy meld of Betty Boop and Siouxsie Sioux; her command of the standup bass (exhausting to play, says her spouse) seems effortless.

Nekroman is decidedly less overt, though even more tattooed. He calls his much-copied angular hairdo “a mutated form of the good old Elvis Presley”; Day calls it a “Kool Flattop” on Hell Yeah!’s bubbliest track, a rollicking follicle ode that’s all over Indie 103.1.

Other tunes are skidmarked with sputtering ska beats (“Julia,” “Girl in a Cage”) that come off like No Doubt from the dark side, and sexed-up surf grinds (“Psychobitches,” “Horrorbeach”) that conjure a more kittenish — and more cantankerous — Cramps. While Nekroman insists the band are “not psychobilly,” the presence of the standup bass (covered in its own tat-flash art) will likely see the ’Pops smacked with that label despite their other obvious influences: new wave, goth, pop, even metal.

And of course their image, which incorporates as many skulls and daggers as it does hearts and flowers, epitomizes today’s “psycho” look. Day, who makes her outfits and her dancers’ matching ones, may even find herself a style icon soon — she and her hubby chuckle and roll their eyes when their recent appearance in Vogue comes up.

Despite the obvious effort their image requires, the band are decidedly unperfectionistic when it comes to performances. Lanky, glammy guitarist Karsten, drummer Niedermeier, and punky go-go girls “Mille” and “Kamilla” (all from Copenhagen) create colorful chaos behind Nekroman and Day, who say they wouldn’t have it any other way.

“We’re just a bunch of friends onstage having fun,” says Day. “We never know what’s going to happen. We write a set list, but we always have to change it. We just laugh too hard to be able to play the songs.”

HorrorPops play the Troubadour on Sunday, April 25. They’ll also be on Jimmy Kimmel Live on Tuesday, April 27.


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