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Psychobilly :: The Kapowder Room Secrets

by Folksy Support

The Kapowder Room Secrets is a fortnightly column in which Konnie Kapow investigates the various themes and styles to be found on Folksy.

Let’s uncover some masterpieces, blow off the dust from those ole boxes and switch on the big light over there…
… eek! What’s this? In a dark and dusty corner where things can be heard scurrying about and the light starts to flicker is that a….coffin? On it someone’s scratched the word “Psychobilly

What is Psychobilly?

Psychobilly’s roots are in music.  Lore has it that the first ever usage of the term was in the lyrics to “One Piece at a Time” written by Wayne Kemp for Johnny Cash but it’s more closely associated with The Cramps who used the term on flyers in the late 1970s.  Along with Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, they are considered to be the origins of Psychobilly.  A chat with Sam of Quirkyville however, teaches me that “a band called The Meteors really kicked off the Psychobilly movement. The three-man band included a punk rocker, a rockabilly and a horror film fanatic. A combination of these three cultures defines psychobilly”.

The music style is a fusion of rockabilly (country / rock n roll) and punk, there’s usually an upright double bass and may well include some naughty or taboo lyrics (gosh!).  The topics covered include horror, sci-fi, sex and violence often using lurid imagery and language in a tongue-in-cheek manner.

What does it look like?

Psychobilly fashion is great fun and very distinctive incorporating elements of 1950s rockabilly glamour with punk.  Anna of The Little Shop of Monsters says for her, “psychobilly/horror fashion is combining the classic ’40s/’50s pin up style with modern animal prints and gory extras such as fake blood splatters, plastic bones, and old movie monsters such as Frankenstein and zombies!  Zombies especially are a very prominent part of psychobilly/horror fashion…It could be a necklace that simply says ‘Zombie’ in some creepy horror writing or literally dolling yourself up like a member of the undead, blood, guts and all.  Tight pencil skirts for girls and even tighter drainpipe jeans for boys seem to be the uniform. Band t-shirts or horror movie t-shirts, ripped and customized for ultimate originality! Girls adopt classic 1940s victory rolls and boys copycat Elvis’ slicked back quiff.”

Natasha Morgan admits that it’s quite hard to define – “sort of like the twins from The Shining all grown up in tight sexy Burtonesque stripe wiggle dresses with fab 40’s hairdo’s, killer make-up and a full arm of great skull and roses tattoos, or a pink tipped high spiked wedge and a sharp suit – very glam, but with a lean towards the classic Vampire / Frankenstein / Werewolf / Zombie films and legends with a hard rock edge and a Scooby Doo sense of humor and a touch of burlesque”.  Phew!  Well done Natasha!

Quirkyville adds that “the style draws heavily on horror movies and the b movies of old.  Girls draw heavily on the 50’s pin up girl’s style and favor Betty page hair or bandanas as headbands for a punkier edge.  Girl’s clothing features heavily black red and pink and more polka dots and animal prints than you could shake a stick at!  Zombie and b movie horror t-shirts and band t-shirts are also seen a lot in the fashion”.

Why is it popular?

There’s clearly a 50s revival going on right now in mainstream fashion as well as ‘non conformist.’  From my own point of view this means clear feminine / masculine images (although girls can wear boys’ and vice versa!) and well cut defined shapes.  The Little Shop of Monsters believes Psychobilly is popular “because of how much fun you can have with each outfit. The options are limitless, and you can look as crazy and as freaky as you want, all in the name of horror!”

Similarly, Quirkyville thinks “that the style itself has grown so popular because not only is it connected with a genre of music but it allows you as a person to be creative with your style, it’s all about self expression too.  Trends may come and go but the Psychobilly style is full of fun and vibrancy it allows you to be unique mixing up pieces to suit you whilst not being afraid to allow both men and women to show a darker side with the horror edge.”

Natasha Morgan is of the opinion “that Psychobilly / horror has become popular as more and more people these days just don’t want to conform to the norm, and the look is still considered to be somewhat rebellious… And I think that the style appeals to a wide range of ages, as you’re pretty much free to do what you want and be yourself. There are always elements of it, more and more often now, on the high street in all of the big shops”.

How can it be applied to crafting?

Type psychobilly into the Folksy search box and you’ll find an impressive and vibrant array of wares.  Quirkyville says that she’s “inspired by b movie horrors and the rockabilly/Psychobilly skull tattoo styles and that influences a lot of my designs.  Also my Zombie hand design is inspired by all the b movie horrors I have watched where you think everything is safe but suddenly a grimy zombie hand comes bursting out of the ground and I wanted to draw a design that was homage to that”.

Psychobilly can be so easily applied to crafting according to The Little Shop of Monsters “because of how iconic and striking the imagery is. Although, it doesn’t have to be scary. For example, a zombie’s head can be transformed into something strangely cute. All you need is your imagination!!”  She’s right, I’ve seen some pretty cute zombies on Folksy which would be perfect for keeping as pets!

Natasha Morgan joins in with these thoughts when she says “Psychobilly Horror can and is applied to any type of art or craft. It can go from the truly fascinatingly gruesome, to the quite cute. Just a darker edge, a zombie eye, stripes, metal and leather, studs and black lace, a hint of Tim Burton-ness, maybe a vampire fang or touch of the traditional tattoo shop about anything you make and you’re away!”

So there you have it children (she says in the creepiest voice she can muster), Folksy is officially a breeding ground for all sorts of nasty (but pretty and cute also) things.  I’ll leave you to think that over, and yes I’ll leave the light on for you!

Images from top:
Sold! – Deadly Pretty Things
Oxfam, Large Zombie Head – The Little Shop of Monsters
Psychobilly Frankenstein’s Monster Cameo Necklace – Heroine Industries
The Prom Date, Vampire Art Doll – Natasha Morgan
Psychobilly decoupage coffee table – Nova + Lorsten
Zombie horror goth hand pop art style emo necklace – Quirkyville
Sugar Skull day of the dead tattoo necklace – Kitty Noir

About the Author of this post…

“Konnie Kapow sells handmade greetings cards and some knitted jewellery she makes when she finds the time and Mr Kapow! her enigmatic and secretive husband paints stuff too! Kapow! Whap!” Connie has a great sense of humour which combined with her talent in design, is what makes her greeting cards so popular! Pay a visit to Connie’s shop to see what she’s been making recently.Twitter :: Blog :: Facebook

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Gemma September 7, 2010 - 4:13 pm

Wow! Fantastic read. Thanks Connie. Looking forward to the next installment

Hilary September 7, 2010 - 7:29 pm

Another interesting read Connie – must remember to search for psychobilly near halloween too!

Shaz from OddSox September 7, 2010 - 7:59 pm

Natasha Morgan = Pyscobilly!

Elissa @ Not Just Handbags September 8, 2010 - 10:06 am

Ooh good post takes me back to my mis-spent youth, aah the music of King Kurt those were the days!

50s pin up clothing November 11, 2010 - 7:49 pm

Oh wow, this puts me back on memory lane. I miss those days, they seemed so worry less. Great post, thank you for sharing this info!


Folksy Blog – The Kapowder Room Secrets – Craft trends and genres May 24, 2011 - 6:04 am

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