The Stompin’ Riffraffs! Japanese-based 50s style rock ‘n’ roll band.
The Stompin’ Riffraffs! Japanese-based 50s style rock ‘n’ roll band.
Legendary founder of the California-based record label Wild Records, Reb Kennedy.
Rockabilly musician Pat Capocci from the Wild Records label.
Ponyboy considers twenty-five year old Josh Hi-Fi Sorheim to be part of the next wave of up-and-coming rockabilly musicians to take the world by storm. With a rural midwestern upbringing and classic good looks, Josh signed with Reb Kennedy’s Hollywood based Wild Records and now considers California his new home. We met up with Josh in Las Vegas where he was booked to play the “Young and Wild” musical showcase for Wild Records at the annual Viva Las Vegas 17 Rockabilly Weekender.
PONYBOY: Josh, tell us about your upbringing in Minnesota.
JOSH SORHEIM: I grew up on a small, hobby farm in very rural Minnesota. My family owned a small concrete business where I had worked since I was a small boy. We are a very close family and we love working and hanging out together. It’s great that they are so supportive and are behind me 100 percent.
PONYBOY: How did you get into music?
JOSH SORHEIM: We had a piano in the house and I used to play little tunes I heard on the television. One time my mom noticed this and she asked me if I wanted to play an instrument. I chose the violin and took lessons, but abruptly quit because I hated them so much. So, I moved on to the piano and quit again because I hated taking lessons. I gave up music until my senior year in high school, when I found a piano under the bleachers. On my free hour I would go plunk on that piano and eventurally I got addicted. I looked up everything musically and I stumbled upon rockabilly. Naturally, I saw that upright bass that Bill Black was playing and I just had to have one! I got an upright and taught myself how to play, then eyeballed that guitar player. Needless to say, I got stuck on the guitar.
PONYBOY: Would you say your music inspiration is primarily 50’s rock-n-roll?
JOSH SORHEIM: Well, 50’s rock-n-roll is a big part of the music I love and play. My true love is American music from the 1890’s to the 1960’s. I love western swing, jazz, ragtime, jug bands, rock-n-roll, rockabilly, blues, swing, gospel, country, and honky tonk. I like to pull from every which way, so everybody gets something they like and some people can get introduced to music styles and songs that they haven’t heard before.
PONYBOY: How would you describe your sound?
JOSH SORHEIM: I’d say fast, fun and you can dance to it! I like songs that have a good boogie beat and people can really cut a rug to it. It’s all about having a great time at a show, so I like to play songs that are a lot of fun. I try and mix in some boogie woogie, western swing, blues, rockabilly and rock-n-roll in my songs because that’s the stuff that I think we all get a real kick out of.
PONYBOY: You relocated to Los Angeles recently. How has that been for you?
JOSH SORHEIM: It’s been a blast, besides the traffic and earthquakes. The friends I’ve met out here have been instant family and there is something fun to do every day and night. I was terrified being a country boy from the mid-west moving to the big city, but so far, I’ve loved every second. It also helps having Disneyland and the movie studios down the street. For a Disney, history and movie buff this is practically heaven for me.
PONYBOY: And, you also signed with Wild Records. Tell us how Reb Kennedy discovered you.
JOSH SORHEIM: One of the Wild guitarists saw some of my videos I was posting online, showed them to Reb and the next day I got a call. He asked me if I could fly out to LA for a tryout show and I said heck, yes! I flew out, did the Wild Weekender, and I was accepted into the Wild Records family. It’s been a real honor to meet, hangout and play with all the amazing and talented musicians on the Wild label.
PONYBOY: Is playing music your primary occupation?
JOSH SORHEIM: I’d say music is one of my occupations. I can’t sit still, so currently I’m starting my own business. I also freelance in handyman services, as well as being a car mechanic that makes house calls. And, I do restoration and sales of all kinds of vintage goodies. I have big plans in the works for other ventures, as well.
PONYBOY: Who would you say are your favorite musicians?
JOSH SORHEIM: That’s like asking what breath is my favorite to breathe. I love them all because each one is different and keeps me going.
PONYBOY: How many instruments do you play?
JOSH SORHEIM: I dabble in guitar, piano, clarinet, upright bass, harmonica, accordion, and lap steel.
PONYBOY: Do you have a release date for your Wild Records album? And, do you have any touring planned?
JOSH SORHEIM: We just recorded some tracks for a new 10 inch record coming out, as well as having a new 45 in the works. And I have a few European tours coming up this year, which I’m really excited about!
PONYBOY: Will you settle in California or eventually go back to Minnesota?
JOSH SORHEIM: I love California, but I also love a good road trip. I have plans to get a 1940’s trailer and hit the road for a while. I have family and friends in Minnesota, New Orleans, Texas, Arizona, and Wisconsin, as well as on the East Coast. So, my home is all over the United States. There is way too much to see and too many people to meet to settle down anytime soon.
We can never get enough of Tom Ingram’s Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekender. Year 17 was chock full of tremendous music! Classic favorites of Ponyboy’s were the 80′s neo-rockabillies legends including Robert Gordon, The Rockats and Tim Polecat. The original “teddy boy” band Crazy Cavan and The Rhythm Rockers played for the first time in the US in over 30 years…well worth the wait. The next generation of UK Teddy’s known as Furious were a smashing success with their debut VLV performance. And we are sure that many more are to follow for these extremely talented gentleman. Imelda May, the Irish export that has risen to rockabilly fame more recently, played to a packed lot at the Viva car show. We are extremely passionate about anything that is brought to us by the genius of Reb Kennedy’s Wild Records. The heavily anticipated Australian trio known as Pat Capocci did not disappoint, the boy can play guitar like no one else can. Other Wild Records standouts included the elegant Mary Simich on guitar and vocals, the angst-ridden youth of The Desperados, wholesome new comer Josh Hi-Fi Sorheim, soulful 60′s garage band The Hurricanes, the always electrifying Luis and The Wildfires, the young emotional lead singer from The Blancos, and we also must mention the intensity of rebelious rock-n-roll known as Will & The Hi-Rollers. Also, Wild Records “buzz” band The Rhthym Shakers kept the crowd invigorated with the strong willful voice of lead singer Marlene Perez , swinging that big beautiful red hair all over the ballroom stage. The Wednesday night pre-party had Japanese legends Stompin Riff Raff’s; we’ve seen them before and just can’t get enough, with an exhilarating lead singer whom seems high on music, and three kick ass female musicians singing backup and playing instruments. Of course we also love The Rip’ Em Ups with the newly svelte Javier tearing up the stage and Jittery Jack’s slapstick moves. BUT one plea from Ponyboy: PLEASE bring back Bloodshot Bill next year! By MARIA AYALA. Photography Alexander Thompson.
California musician Mary Simich on the Wild Records label.
This trio hail from the streets of Liverpool and are being tipped as the UK’s break-out band. With a relentless touring schedule, Furious have been cemented as one of the hardest working and wildest live acts around. Their appeal crosses so many borders and with their self penned songs about teenage life today, they are turning the world’s kids onto a wild rock ‘n’ roll beat.
Even from their early days playing in youth clubs around Liverpool, they caused a big stir. They have starred on MTV as ambassadors for the Liverpool music scene. Their debut album reached number 10 in the UK vinyl charts (above Elton John & Thin Lizzy). They have been featured on the computer game ‘Rock Band’ with one of their songs ‘All Night Long’. And more recently, they’ve just joined Wild Records label with a new album From the Cavern to California destined to cause a stir.
They have played countless gigs abroad, all over Europe. And following two successful tours of Russia and America, it looks like Furious are about to take Viva Las Vegas by storm. The critics are already comparing it to the arrival of The Beatles. So, prepare yourself. This isn’t for the faint of heart. This is the real roots of rock ‘n’ roll!
Editor’s note: Ponyboy was pleased to have Mike Lewi, co-creator from New York City’s infamous “Midnite Monster Hop” as our guest interviewer, as well as photo contributions by the very talented Elisa Gierasch.
MIKE LEWI: You’re on the eve of performing at the 2014 Viva Las Vegas festival to thousands of people, a primarily American audience. How do you anticipate a teddy boy band being accepted by that audience?
FURIOUS: If it’s anything like our shows around New York or California, it’s going to be crazy! We haven’t been let down by American audiences yet, so we’re expecting “crazy” on a big scale!
MIKE LEWI: What do you bring that may be considered new to American audiences?
FURIOUS: Ugly, out of control rock ‘n’ roll! We’re the anti-pretentious, anti-poser rock ‘n’ roll that seems to be everywhere these days.
MIKE LEWI: Can you explain for Ponyboy readers the history of Edwardian culture?
FURIOUS: Teddy boys were working-class teenagers who bought expensive threads on layaway to better themselves when they had nothing, and to show the upper classes they wouldn’t bow down and be quiet – to then go and drink and brawl in them. Basically, they were the scallies of the 50’s and it’s been going right through the years since then as an underground sub-culture.
MIKE LEWI: You’ve met and been inspired by many men and women that grew up in the bombed out rubble of post WWII England, at the birth of the original teddy boy movement. How did those originators of the first teenage rebellion wave define themselves at a time that actually even preceded rock’n’roll?
FURIOUS: It was the clothes and the attitude, to look smart and answer to no one. They had no blueprint or predecessors to base themselves on. These were the first “teenagers” to leave bomb-raids and rationing behind and they were going to make the most of it.
MIKE LEWI: You started your band at a very young age. Please tell us how that came about.
FURIOUS: We were just kids in school dying to hear some rock ‘n’ roll, but there was none about so we started a band. There was never a plan, we were just lads having a bit of fun. And that’s what it still is. We’d play the dives and dirty clubs around Liverpool, anywhere that would pay an underage band in beer. And then the word spread.
MIKE LEWI: I have heard that your parents grew up within the ted culture, so is it safe to assume you’ve lost touch with the world outside of rock’n’roll?
FURIOUS: That’s not really the case. Rock ‘n’ roll was the soundtrack to our childhood, but we were just scallies growing up. We looked like skin heads as well, because there wasn’t much money back then and our grandad would “style” our hair with his old army clippers. It was a skinhead every time!
MIKE LEWI: Are your parents proud of you?
FURIOUS: We hope so, but they party every time we leave the country. Don’t know what they’re trying to tell us!
MIKE LEWI: Considering the amount of original teds still regularly supporting rock’n’roll events, and many of the original rock’n’roll revival bands consistently still playing live, what has been the reaction towards Furious by UK and European audiences?
FURIOUS: It’s been great! Better than we could have ever expected. Right from day one, the original teds took us under their wing. And wherever we go, there will be a good crowd of them going crazy til’ the early hours.
MIKE LEWI: I know over the years you’ve had some various line-up changes. Tell us about Jimmy.
FURIOUS: We met Jimmy at a gig in an old ted pub in London where he was playing with another band. We were going through drummers like bog roll at the time. So after a few pints, he foolishly agreed to play some shows with us in Sweden and that was him trapped! He slotted in like an old mate we’d known for years.
MIKE LEWI: Is it strange to bring what, in some respects, is American music back to America?
FURIOUS: There’s so much talent stateside, we were surprised there was room for us. The music we go mad for happens to be rock’n’roll and that just happens to be American. So as strange as it is, we enjoy the challenge and look forward to dodging the old tomatoes and beer cans!
MIKE LEWI: You’ve just recorded your second album. How was that process different from recording with Nervous Records?
FURIOUS: Well, this was a strange thing for us! Normally, we record locally or wherever Roy Williams can book us into a studio in between our live shows. So, every time it’s been a different process. But we gained some attention from the gigs we played up and down California last summer, which lead to an exciting invitation by Reb Kennedy from Wild Records to join his label! The entire experience was mental! One day we were in Liverpool, and then all of a sudden, we were in his studio recording new tracks at a lightning pace (16 songs in 10 hours). Hours later, we were flying out of Hollywood back home! We haven’t heard the mixes yet, but Reb is really excited and we hope you’re all going to love it.
MIKE LEWI: You’ve recorded a cover on your first LP, Punk Bashin Boogie, originally recorded by Don E. Sibley, who wrote the song at the height of the teds versus punks war in the 1970’s. Have you ever met Don? Are there teds that still hold these views?
FURIOUS: Yeah, we met Don. He came to a show we played in Southampton years ago. The drummer out of the Dixie Phoenix was a punk as well, so the song was just a bit of fun back then, like it is today. And I can’t say we know of teds who still get wound up by punks. A lot of the anger towards punks came from them wearing signature ted clothing (creepers, drapes), and covering Eddie Cochran songs and claiming them as their own. Today teds, punks, mods and skins have got a lot more in common with each other, than not.
MIKE LEWI: Are we living through the rock ‘n’ roll revival revival?
FURIOUS: We’re not sure if anything is being revived, but we’re living through some amazing times. We’re playing shows right across the world with the music and people we love! We can’t get any more lucky than that, can we?
MIKE LEWI: How do you feel sharing the bill with Crazy Cavan at this upcoming Viva Las Vegas?
FURIOUS: We’ve been lucky enough over the years to share the stage with these ted legends on loads of occasions. But this feels a little more special. Not only were these rockers a massive weapon in orchestrating the 70’s revival, they have played a big part in what we are and the music we play too! So, seeing our name on the same bill in Las Vegas is a huge honor!
MIKE LEWI: Do you have any future plans for Furious?
FURIOUS: We just want to make that perfect rock ‘n’ roll record. We might never do it, but we’ll keep on trying until it kills us!