Interview with Calabrese
Imagine, if you will, visiting and old Mom and Pop video store on Halloween night, the shop is dark, smokey and intriguing. You scan the walls looking at the lurid art work of all the B-Movie and creature feature movies whilst munching on candy corn, and that my dear uninitiated friend is what listening to Calabrese is like. It’s Halloween for your ears. Calabrese was formed in 2003 and in that time have produced three gorerific CDs full of shock ‘n’ roll, the latest being “They Call Us Death”. I caught up with brothers Bobby, Jimmy and Davey to talk horror, art and unfortunately, Twilight.
Lips: Firstly, let me get this out of the way, when on sweet earth are you coming to the UK to tour?
Bobby: Soon! Hopefully soon! I know, at this point, that seems like a total stock answer, but it’s the Goddamn truth. Would I lie to you? No, I wouldn’t. And that’s the TRUTH!
Lips: Calabrese is the pure embodiment of a DIY band, do you think you can achieve all the goals you have for the band this way? I know a lot of UK DIY bands are struggling in the current economical climate.
Bobby: I don’t know, it IS pretty fucking tough to be DIY, but in this day and age, it’s the only way. Unless you think you’re gonna be picked up by a multimillion dollar record label, you gotta do it yourself. Granted, if your goal was to sell out Madison Square Garden, yeah, it might not work to your favor. Ha! But you CAN be successful, and you CAN do whatever the fuck you want (something I relish in!) so don’t get down on yourself, stay in the game, kick ass, so on and so forth. Hell, now I’m starting to sound like a motivational speaker. Curse on you, Horror Extreme!
Lips: The look of Calabrese is a very strong one, and very uniform, did this happen by chance, or was it a thought out process?
Bobby: A little bit of both, really. When we first started, we realized we wanted a “uniform,” ’cause we fucking hate seeing a band that looks like they just got off work at the local convenience store. Yeah, it works in some bands’ favor, but I think we’re all a “visual” group of guys, wanting something more out of live shows than a group of dudes in baggy jeans and t-shirts. So we started wearing the same thing, added a few finishing touches…and here we are today. A rag-tag gang of bad-ass motherfuckers!
Lips: The band works with some amazing artists in regards to the albums and the merchandise you sell, do you come up with the ideas or do you give the artist free licence to produce what they think represents you the best?
Jimmy: We usually have a general idea of what we want, but we let the artists run with it. We try not to dictate EXACTLY what it should look like, ’cause we get better and more unexpected artwork when the artists give their own creative input.
Lips: You all come across as true ‘Monster Kids’ who and what are your personal influences in music and movies?
Jimmy: There’s so many it’s hard to choose. Music, of course, is Danzig! And movies it would be ‘œEvil Dead.” When we played at the Horror Hound weekend I was mesmerized by the vendor rooms. I kept thinking to myself, “this is the greatest thing ever!” But why? Why do I love horror and the macabre? I guess it’s because I AM horrible and macabre!
Lips: To give the UK fans a taste, describe what a typical ( if there is such a thing!) Calabrese gig is like, set length, props etc.
Bobby: We don’t have too many gimmicks these days, save for smoke, strobes, sample machines, lights…okay, forget that, we have tons of shit going on! But I think our live show is really about energy, about having fun and rocking out. We want everyone to go nuts, like a seventh mug of strong, black coffee. And you can pretty much expect to see Davey jump out from behind the drums and go apeshit in the crowd. It’s kinda what we do. When the music hits ya, it hits ya hard!
Lips: Would you ever want to play huge theatrical shows, say at the level of Alice Cooper and Rob Zombie? Having seen Wednesday 13 he brings that aesthetic to a small crowd on stage.
Bobby: Of course! That would be awesome. We do what we can right now (aside from fireworks, which is pretty a big no-no these days) but anything larger would be amazing. I would kill for some lasers, giant robot-men walking the stage and a bunch of wires that’ll suspend me in air for the most high-flying, ear shattering guitar solo…ever!
Lips: There is quite a large horrorpunk/psychobilly/gothabilly scene now, with many just becoming Misfit-alikes, where as Calabrese have stayed fresh and new. How have you managed to show your influences through your music AND stay original?
Bobby: It must be a subconscious thing, really, ’cause I have no idea! We write what we wanna hear…and hope for the best. We do a lot of fine tuning when writing songs, so I’m sure that helps. We spent three years writing 12 songs! But hey, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…no filler, all killer!
Lips: Your lyrics, album art and some might say your looks are steeped in Vampire lore, how do you feel about the new wave vamp tales, e.g Twilight, The Vampire Diaries?
Bobby: We really do like the vampire stuff, since you can pull some really great imagery and ideas and whatnot out of it. But hey, as far as those films are concerned? Whatever floats people’s boats! We’re just gonna have to keep it real with films like “Fright Night” and “Near Dark!”
Lips: Do you think to survive as a DIY band you have to involve your fans in the creative process?
Bobby: I’m not sure, ’cause we really haven’t done it any other way. Personally, we try to be the band that we would’ve wanted to see, known and listened to when we were younger. Or even now! Involving all our fans in any sort of way is gratifying and fun. For a lack of a better term, we like to keep it real. Keep it legit. We don’t pretend to be rockstars!
Lips: Calabrese has garnered some amazing press and praise, from the likes of the wonderful Blasko, Fangoria and Rue Morgue magazine, how does it feel to be so accepted within the very culture you are celebrating in your music?
Bobby: What can I say? It feels great!
Jimmy: It’s cool, but we’re not trying to impress the critics, it’s the fans that buy our music and it’s the fans that come to our shows!
Lips: Have you seen and good horror films lately?
Bobby: Nothing too crazy. “House of the Devil” was cool. Anything with Satanic shit is a-okay with me!
Jimmy: Lately, most horror flicks I watch are a let down, but I was impressed with “The Orphanage” (2007) and I watched “From Dusk Till Dawn” again — which is always awesome!
Lips: What are your current projects? Anything cool lined up?
Jimmy: Of course! You will be seeing Calabrese starring in ‘The Graves,’ on the SyFy channel in the near future (by “starring in,” I mean we have a few minutes of screen time!) And speaking of ‘œThe Graves’ (currently available in stores via Lionsgate) we are working on another music video with Brian Pulido (director/writer of The Graves and creator of comic book icons Evil Ernie and Lady Death) and there’s a Calabrese comic book from Modern Mythology Press that will be available around October. And more shirts and merch to come!
Bobby: We’re gonna melt your mind with merch! GET PUMPED!
All photographs used with kind permission of Calabrese.
“I think CALABRESE is one of the top Horror Rock bands I have heard.” - BLASKO (Bassist for ROB ZOMBIE and OZZY OSBOURNE).