The Skull Kids Play Exeter Phoenix's Voodoo Lounge

by Oscar Charles

Having seen this intriguing band once or twice before, I thought it was time to review them. The Skull Kids are very different to the type of typical music that’s shoved down our throats every day. Having deliberated over how to categorise the nine-piece into a genre, I’ve decided it’s near impossible; alternative/circus/carnival music is probably the most accurate description. Whilst watching The Skull Kids in action I couldn’t help but think that Tim Burton would be the man to call upon to make a music video for these guys, in some sort of Victorian-themed, quirky piece (that obviously starred Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter).

The band is certainly tight, their music is well-composed, and it’s all complemented by their very distinctive Victorian style of dress. After asking how many years they’d been together, lead singer Don White said, “We’ve been together for one and a half years, but preparing for much longer!” Originally four members, Don’s fantasy to expand and expand led to creative writing that continued way beyond the four founders, and eventually enough material was written for an additional five members. “The fantasy became reality.” Nowadays, The Skull Kids consist of a trombone, two trumpets, a violin, a clarinet, a bass guitar, drums, extra percussion, keyboards, and a lead singer/guitarist.

I listened closely to try and find a theme in the songs, or grasp where the band’s inspiration may have come from. Certainly the high vocals of Muse singer, Matthew Bellamy, could be heard in a few of the songs. Their fifth song of the night (which unfortunately wasn’t named) had a feel of Elvis Presley’s In The Ghetto mixed with Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, alongside the high vocals of Bellamy.

Another song, entitled Pierrot The Clown, encapsulated the Victorian-themed style, image, and sound of the band. The song is written about the pantomime clown that appears in many plays throughout history. The inspiration claimed the band, for their song ideas emerge from watching old films, such as The Servant, and projecting their own image onto the characters.

The only slight criticism I would give is that their stage presence was slightly lacking as there was not a huge deal of camaraderie between the nine of them. Yet that doesn’t take away from the music in any way, and these guys are a definite must-see for anyone living in Exeter. To be fair to the band, their genre of music could be slightly dented if they all sat there smiling at each other. Bearing in mind the fact that the average age of their audience for this gig (for some odd reason) was around 80, it’s hard to play for people who aren’t dancing and spurring you on (maybe for some of them, if they moved too much they might’ve broken a hip).

They’re not the kind of band you’d say “give em’ a few years to get their sound” to. These guys certainly have a definitive and well-established idea of what they want from music, and if they keep going they’re bound to get somewhere. They particularly stand out among the rest of the Exeter scene.