The Phantom Playboys, Alex Culbreth bring country punk to The Jinx
by Larissa Allen, SavannahNow.com
The Phantom Playboys will prove to the Savannah rockabilly crowd that the genre isn’t so black and white.
With the combination of different musical backgrounds and instrumental additions like the stand-up bass and trombone, the band has stylized traditional rockabilly into a more hybrid sound.
“Not all of us come from a background in rockabilly,” says drummer Jim “Jungle Jim” Kaylis. “Our guitar player (Jake “Hot Rod” Horton) likes blues a lot, as well, and our upright bass player (Jones “Jonesy” Smith) is actually into a lot of bluegrass music.”
The Phantom Playboys have been around for about five years, but in the past two years, the band has made one addition that has affected their style for the better: Maaiki Brender à Brandis, a trombone player.
“We did a show and asked her to sit in with the band and after playing one time, I was like, ‘Oh my God, this is what we gotta do,’” Kaylis says.
But the band had to wait a while before calling Brender à Brandis one of their own.
Before she jumped in with the Playboys, she was playing in a different band that wasn’t quite getting along. Eventually, the band broke up for good and she became the full-time trombone player for the Playboys, making the band stronger than ever.
“It was from that moment that we started our chemistry and it was just right between these particular five members,” Kaylis says. “I thought, ‘Oh man, this is it: The chemistry is right, everybody’s happy, we’re all on the same page and we’re writing music.”
With song titles like, “Devil’s Socks,” “The Stalker” and “Pretty Corpse,” the band’s lyrics are a big part of what separates the Playboys from bands within the rockabilly genre. Lead vocalist Eric “The Phantom” Lawson has the creative task of writing all of the band’s lyrics.
“Our lead singer is a wild man and he comes up with the craziest lyrics,” Kaylis says. “He just spits lyrics out. He’s got lyrics for like 10 more songs that we can’t even catch up with because he’s writing all the time.”
The fast pace of Lawson’s writing could be part of the reason why all of the songs in the band’s most recent album, “Baby’s Got Booze,” were written in less than three months.
Visually, the Playboys create a vibrant atmosphere — a leopard-print drum set, a tattooed trombone player and pompadour haircuts — adding more to the aesthetics of what makes the band’s performances so interesting.
“It’s kind of a variety show with us,” Kaylis says. “We’re really fun to look at and we’re all energetic on stage.”
Opening for the Playboys is Alex Culbreth, a musician who adds punk and rockabilly influences to acoustic country music.
Culbreth uses both the acoustic and electric guitar during shows, as well as the kick drum and kick pedal, in order to make a dirtier, grittier country/blues sound.
What makes Culbreth’s punk/country combo so unique isn’t just the fusion of genres — it’s also his concentration on writing thought-provoking lyrics that may go over some listeners’ heads.
“I’m a big fan of punchy writers, so I try to focus on lyrics with a deeper meaning and a punchy line,” Culbreth says. “I draw an influence from so many different styles and genres, but I really focus on the lyrics.”
IF YOU GO
What: The Phantom Playboys, Alex Culbreth
When:10 p.m. Aug. 23
Where: The Jinx, 127 W. Congress St.
Info: Facebook events page