| Asheville Citizen Times
Hellblinki brings stage show to Rocket Club
Jill Ingram • take5 correspondent
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.
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
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.
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.”
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
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.”