The Hellblinki Sextet
Eugene Weekly

Not Six, Not Finnish

As cool as the name sounds, The Hellblinki Sextet isn’t really a sextet. The “psycho cabaret” band from Asheville, N.C., with elements of folk, gypsy, free jazz, punk rock and swing mixed into its sound, is actually currently a trio or a solo act by bandleader Andrew Benjamin, who performs in a top hat and tuxedo, face painted white, eyes lined in kohl, a pointy goatee rounding off the look.

In the past, Hellblinki has performed as a true sextet, but nowadays Benjamin performs with Valerie Meiss, who contributes operatic vocals and plays the glockenspiel and various other instruments, and Brad Lunsford on bass and percussion. Their music is weird and quirky, with lyrics about the pirate’s life or bad kids who aren’t getting anything for Christmas. Many of the songs sound like they belong with something animated or made for kids but with a dark, sinister twist. This isn’t so surprising, since Sesame Street songs are some of the band’s biggest influences.

The band, created eight years ago, has been evolving for quite some time. Benjamin created The Hellblinki Sextet to perform live after a debut album, featuring music he and his friends recorded at a party, failed to gain as much attention as he’d hoped. Although the band has since shrunk to half its original size, it has actually been a bonus, allowing them to tour more and making it easier to find a good groove together.

The Hellblinki Sextet performs at 8:30 pm Sunday, Aug. 10, at Sam Bond’s Garage. 21+ show. $5. — Inka Bajandas

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.

”Really loud” is the key phrase, whether discussing the layers upon layers of sound on “Oratory,” or the band's live show, constructed with those three multi-instrumentalists.

“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?

”I 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.”

The 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.