The Mysterious Freakshow

by Nickie Shobeiry

(Image credit: Paul Ligas Photography)

Hi Fey! Could you share a little about the band’s history? We’re a Devon-based alternative rock and Steampunk band, formed in 2012. We’re a four-piece ensemble, although we do have guest musicians popping in occasionally. The current band is myself on vocals, Kye Godfrey on bass, Tom Rosenbloom on guitar and Tracy Austin on drums; Con Harries was our former drummer who worked with us since our inception – unfortunately due to her work as an international jewel thief, she had to take some “time out” to work on her career. We are very pleased to add Tracy to our line up – her spirit, power. and charisma bring a whole new dimension to the band.

What is ‘Steampunk’ and ‘darkwave’, and in what way is The Mysterious Freakshow these things? “What is Steampunk?” is the question we hear most often, and it’s not an easy one to answer. The term itself comes from science fiction novels, allegedly coined by author Kevin Jeter as a way of distinguishing him and fellow tetro-tech, sci-fi writers from future-loving ‘cyberpunks’ like William Gibson. Now, it’s grown into a whole visual style and philosophy about mixing old and new, fusing the usability of modern technology with the design aesthetic of the Victorian age. The way I often describe The Mysterious Freakshow is ‘Victorian Punks’ - and I mean ‘punk’ in the truest sense of the word, bending and breaking rules as we go!

Darkwave adds dark, introspective lyrics with sorrowful undertones. Although many of our songs can be uplifting, we seem to always have a slightly cynical edge, so even the sweetest of love songs will have a darkness to them. I guess it’s a reaction to all the sugar-sweet, X-Factor, pop rubbish the public is fed at the moment.

What was the inspiration for the band name? Anyone who has ever been in any band will tell you that one of the most difficult things to do is choose a name. We went through a variety before we settled; Gran Fiesta, TrouserPunk, Stinky & The Smell – but we finally decided on The Mysterious Freakshow. Initially, we felt a little genre-less, as we had elements of so many different styles, hence the ‘Mysterious’ part. We’re also all incredibly different people – true individuals – and with that came a freaky side.

The classic question – if you had to pick five artists that have influenced your sound, what would you pick? Wow, just five. All music inspires in its own way, even if it just makes us turn the radio off! I’ll give you some of the artists we all like: Siouxsie & The Banshees, Kate Bush, Bikini Kill, David Bowie and The Doors (the first band that made me think of songs as poems).

If you had to explain the essence of The Mysterious Freakshow in the dreaded ‘3 words’, what would it be? Quirky, eclectic, unpredictable.

How has your sound evolved since you first came together, and can you remember your first gig? Our first gig was at West Town Farm in a barn! Not the best acoustics, but it was an interesting experience. Strangely, our second appearance was also in a barn, in Cornwall this time – we were nicknamed the “Rural Steampunks”.

In terms of how our music has evolved, becoming more musically confident with each other has allowed lots of weird and wonderful threads to emerge (as you will see on our second album, due for release in 2015). We’re more focused on the style we want to create now, and spend a lot of time in contemplation of Steampunk concepts.

As the lyricist, could you tell us about your writing process? For me, inspiration can come at anytime, so I always carry a notebook for ideas that pop into my head. Occasionally I’ll take a theme and brainstorm it for words that relate to the subject, and some of my earlier solo numbers [performing as Miss Pinkski] were written this way. The things that stir me are generally based around inequality, prejudice, and injustice – but then suddenly a love song will pop out and I’ll remember that the world is about balance, and to look into the light as much as the dark.

Do you ever change your lyrics during a live set? Which songs do you love performing the most? Not if I can help it, although I do sometimes change the lyrics in our song International Mongrels depending on which horrible racists have been in the media recently. The songs I like singing best change depending on my mood and the crowd; however, I really love singing Run Nazi Run – it has a real kick to it.

What has been your favourite performance? My favourite gigs are always at the Phoenix – we have a home audience, the sound and stage are excellent, and the crowd are fabulously engaging.

You’ve recently released an album – could you tell us about the experience? We’ve got so many songs to choose from, so we tried to make the album a taster of our eclectic style. We recorded it with the Sound Gallery at the Phoenix; it was a great adventure and we did it with lots of laughter, a bit of huffing, and hell of a lot of persevering. Some of the tunes I also recorded electronically with my producer, KIKI, in France – it was interesting translating them from electro to rock. I think my favourite track to record was Wise Words – it has a real Spanish feel with lots of texture in the vocals and music.

Do your songs often have underlying messages? What’s the message behind International Mongrels? Music is an excellent vessel to provoke thought about important issues – International Mongrels and Run Nazi Run were both about racism. I’m of mixed origin – Polish/English – and have had a lifetime of fitting into neither culture, giving me a unique outlook on society. I’ve never understood the whole ‘We are British’ thing; Britain is an island that’s always been invaded and diversified, so there’s really no ‘true blood’ British – we’re all a mix of something, somewhere along the line, hence the title International Mongrels.

How often do you take inspiration from poets of the past? All the time – I love poetry, particularly the musical style of Victorian poets like Lewis Carroll and Alfred Noyes. Carroll was a true punk in every sense of the word – pushing boundaries, dressing differently, questioning the world. I also incorporated passages from Shakespeare’s Macbeth into Hedge Witch; I love the thought of keeping poetry alive by presenting it in a different way to a new generation.

How do you feel about free music downloads? A very hot topic at the moment – we do give some music away for free, particularly for charity albums. We know many people rip our music online, but our main philosophy is we’d rather be heard than paid – although it’s nice to be paid sometimes.

Could you tell me a little about the clothes you wear? Would you say you all have stage personas? “Victorian Punks” would cover the way we dress – crazy hair, big boots, top-hats, corsets – and not forgetting our goggles! We all find our own Steampunk style; Kye and Tom are real opposites, Kye with his grimy Victoriana ‘Jack the Lad’ look, and Tom more the gentleman. On stage, we all have our personas – I’m the slightly deranged Fey Pink with the big voice, Kye is the ‘cog of the machine’, keeping us going with his bass-y riffs, Tracy is our heartbeat, happiest when she’s hitting something, and Tom is our ‘automata’, always with darkened spectacles, wind him up and watch him go. The ladies seem to really dig Tom – much to our amusement.

Does Steampunk effect your everyday life? Steampunk is a part of who I am, but not necessarily how I dress all the time. It’s part of what I read, and how I think, reminding me to always think outside the box, to be creative with the way I live my life.

What’s your advice to bands just starting out? Do it for the love and need to make your music, not for the fame and fortune – your love will only get stronger, and you’ll be grateful for whatever breaks you’re given.

And finally, if you could have any rider request in the world (expenses be damned) what would you ask for? Ha ha ha! I won’t tell you what the boys answered – needless to say it was filthy! If I could have anything, then it’d probably be a massage therapist with us at all times, someone to make me sushi, and lots of gorgeous smelling flowers… and maybe a robotic cat!

Don’t miss The Mysterious Freakshow as they play the Exeter Oxjam Takeover at The Kings on 18th October @9pm.

Alternatively, listen to The Mysterious Freakshow here.