Sasquatch Prom Date’s schtick succeeds

Boys, better buy Brylcreem to plaster that pompadour. Girls, time to pick up a poodle skirt. Sasquatch Prom Date's CD release party is coming.

Boys, better buy Brylcreem to plaster that pompadour. Girls, time to pick up a poodle skirt.

Sasquatch Prom Date’s CD release party is coming.

It’s the debut album of the Whitehorse rockabilly outfit, which features Ryan McNally on guitar and vocals, Genesee Keevil on standup bass, Ian Stewart on guitar and Patrick Singh on drums.

(Full disclosure: Keevil and Stewart work at the News. Small town, many hats, yadda yadda.)

It’s been more than two years since the band formed. Keevil offers a creation myth that centres on McNally’s pompadour: “I saw Ryan’s hair and I thought, ‘That guy probably knows how to play rockabilly.’ And he did.”

Why rockabilly – that swinging lovechild of rock ‘n’ roll and country music that exploded in popularity in the 1950s? Because it’s eminently danceable, says Keevil.

Their swinging sound helps explain how the group has inspired a loyal following of young ‘uns who have raided local thrift stores for retro outfits to wear to the band’s shows. And their appeal extends up to bluehairs who can still recall the beehive doos and saddle shoes popular in rockabilly’s heyday.

Performance is more than playing music, of course – an insight never lost on this band. When they hit the stage, they’re inevitably dressed in costume, with Keevil wearing a prom dress and an electric-pink wig, Stewart in a too-tight tuxedo, and McNally and Singh also sporting retro suits.

McNally, whose solo act is as a smooth bluesman, launches into yelps, growls and other histrionics to driving drums and bassline.

These rockabilly alter-egos seem to give the crowd permission to abandon inhibitions to cut a rug. The dance floor quickly fills.

But how do you bottle this live sound in a recording? It’s a question the band struggled with in the studio.

One solution was to record “live off the floor,” with the band playing together, rather than recording each instrument in turn.

Another was to use old-school, analog equipment. They recorded with ribbon microphones and tube amplifiers, which, said McNally, produce a warmer, more forgiving sound than digital gear.

These throwback approaches are at odds with today’s era of popular music that’s been carefully sculpted by computers: more often than not, beats are snapped to a grid, and voices are Autotuned to be free of quirks. Not so here. It succeeds in capturing the vibe of their live show.

So does the self-titled album’s artwork, drawn by Stewart to mimic the cover of an old horror comic. In it, the band members, in costume, fend off a monstrous, hairy hand bearing a corsage.

(The band’s name was created during a brainstorming session in which the members tried to come up with a title that conveyed something Yukon and something 1950s. “We’re still looking for a fifth member of the band, willing to wear a furry suit,” said Keevil.)

The album includes 10 songs, eight of which are originals. Among them is the crowd favourite Hillbilly Highway, the Latin-styled Black Mary Tattoo and the punk-tinged psychobilly Wasp Woman from Outer Space.

The album also includes two covers. One, I Lost My Gal in the Yukon by Ray Condo and the Ricochets, is a reinterpretation of I Lost My Girl in Memphis by Peter De Rose and Charles Tobias. It proved too perfect a fit for Prom Date to pass up. To round the sound out, they brought in Grant Simpson to play the musical saw and banjo for the number.

The other, Red Hot by Billy Ray Emerson, is another of the band’s bigger crowd pleasers when they perform.

The band has received promising exposure over the past six months. In February they performed during the Vancouver 2010 Cultural Olympiad. And, most recently, they played the Dawson City Music Festival. A tour of BC and Alberta is in the works.

The album was recorded with a $5,000 grant from Yukon’s film and sound commission. CDs should be available in Whitehorse music stores soon, selling for $15.

The CD release party is on Friday, August 6 at Foxy’s Cabaret. Cover is $5. Show starts at 9:30 p.m.

“We’re playing all night,” said Keevil.

Contact John Thompson at

johnt@yukon-news.com.

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