The Hellblinki Sextet
 Asheville Citizen Times
Hellblinki brings stage show to Rocket Club
Jill Ingram • take5 correspondent

The brainchild of musician Andrew Benjamin, the Hellblinki Sextet has been around for more than a decade. Three years ago, Benjamin moved the band from Augusta, Ga., to Western North Carolina, where the band comprises Benjamin (who sings and plays guitar, drums and accordion), Valerie Neiss (who sings and plays accordion, toy piano and melodica) and Bradley Lunsford (on bass). The band just released its third full-length CD, “Oratory,” and will tour across the country this summer. Before you catch the live act Saturday at the Rocket Club, here are some things to know about Hellblinki.
Mixed up

Critics have called Hellblinki “a mix of Tom Waits, Nick Cave, Marilyn Manson and Frank Zappa.” Benjamin describes Hellblinki this way: “Avant jazz. Psycho cabaret. Deep South rhythms infused with punk madness. We’re a really loud folk band.” Despite its name, the Hellblinki Sextet does not have six members. “There used to be a rotating cast of characters,” Benjamin explained. It’s been everything from a one-man band to a 12-piece ensemble. “We had six people when we first started to do the live shows,” he said. “It wasn’t sustainable.” These days, the band travels as a three-piece unit with others occasionally joining the group.

In the studio, it’s not unusual for as many as nine or 10 people to participate on a single track, said Benjamin, a proponent of using the studio to achieve sounds that would be impossible during a live show. “I feel like you should do as much as you can with those different circumstances,” he said. For “Oratory,” Benjamin explored Internet collaboration, putting an ad for musicians on craigslist. “We got a tuba player from Toronto to send tracks,” he said.
Write away

Just as he does in the studio process, Benjamin invites others to contribute to the songwriting process. While he writes most of the band’s songs himself, “There have been contributions from other members,” he said. “One thing that’s fun about collaborating is creating the basic structure of the song like a coat hanger, and then the other members hang their own fabric on it.”
Signature style

Hellblinki’s style is “carnivalesque,” from its costuming to its sometimes circus-barker sound. Its flair for the dramatic is a hallmark of Hellblinki’s live act.

“I want the audience to have a good time. I want them to dance. You always know you’re doing a good job it they’re dancing,” Benjamin said. At the same time, he said, “I want them to think a little bit. I want them to feel like they’re in a different atmosphere.” Entering the world of Hellblinki (the band name comes from a drunken perversion of Benjamin’s signature) should feel “deep, dark and dirty,” Benjamin said.
Bringing up baby

Hellblinki began as a studio project with the live act following. In the future, Benjamin just wants to see his creation grow. “I created it to be the output for my musical impulses,” Benjamin said. “Hellblinki is a loose platform that can go whichever way I go. The goal is to make it self-sufficient, and so it can support itself, and me. It’s the sort of platform that can go in any direction. It’s so eclectic and not defined by any genre that it can go any direction it chooses.”