|Arcata Northern Lights
The three-piece sextet
For the Times-Standard
can generally be assumed that the word “sextet” as part of a band's
name can be attributed to the number of members of the band.
Not so with the Hellblinki Sextet.
each of the current members of the band play enough instruments to make
six members' worth of noise, there are only three solid players right
now, plus or minus a few, when old band members and friends call and
ask to play an upcoming show.
The so-called sextet has been
through a rotating cast of characters over the last 10 years, when the
band, started by Andrew Benjamin in Augusta, Ga., took root. Benjamin
named the band and wanted to call it a sextet, in order to give it that
jazz feel. The actual number of band members was secondary, and thus
the name stuck, even after the group expanded and contracted, ending up
at the current line-up, featuring Benjamin on guitar, vocals, and
drums, simultaneously, Valerie Neiss on vocals, accordion, toy piano,
and melodica, and Bradley Lunsford on bass.
Sextet is on their first cross-country tour, following the release of
their new album, “Oratory.” The album was put together over a long
period of time, while Benjamin moved from Augusta, the home of James
Brown, to Asheville, N.C. The recording features 23 folks from both
cities and beyond, including a “crazy guy” the band calls Ferndando,
who used to call into the Augusta N.P.R. station and leave messages on
the answering machine, and a tuba player from Canada.
”I put a
message up on Asheville's Craigslist looking for a tuba player to
record these tracks,” says Benjamin. “And happened to get a response
from a guy in Canada who e-mailed me the tracks, and there it was -- we
Then there are the fiddle parts.
”There's a guy,
Ian Moore, who's an amazing fiddle player, and he's an amazing
musician,” says Benjamin. “He's a street corner busker with very happy
feet, and just an amazing personality.”
And Moore's personality,
along with Fernando, the Canadian tuba player, and all of the
contributors to “Oratory,” shines through. The album is very high
energy--a mix of vaudeville, Eastern European influence, and the punk
music that Benjamin grew up on, in the '80s.
”We're just a really loud punk-folk band, I think,” says Benjamin.
loud” is the key phrase, whether discussing the layers upon layers of
sound on “Oratory,” or the band's live show, constructed with those
“I like the analogy that the song
is kind of like a coat hanger which you can keep piling stuff onto,
until it completely falls apart,” says Benjamin.
But how does that sound translate in a live show?
feel that the live show and recording are two completely different
media, and they really should not sound alike,” says Benjamin. “What we
do live is very different. The songs are there and recognizable, and
someone who has listened to the record will not feel out of place or
like it's a different thing entirely, but it's a different experience.”
Hellblinki Sextet can be experienced with Fresno's James Brittain Gore,
this coming Monday, Aug. 11, at the Jambalaya in Arcata. The show
starts at 10 p.m.