Every now and then, a band comes along and stops us cold in our tracks. It’s always a singular moment, defined either by a recent live performance, where we were enchanted from their vantage point on stage or after their record starts spinning. Either way, there are moments when we fall in love with artists, and it’s exactly this type of admiration that’s inspired us to start our 190 Proof Artist of the Month.
This showcases musical acts that have truly done something special and are picked by several members of the PureGrainAudio staff. You can’t go wrong with anything by a band that has made it onto this esteemed list. For those musicians and artists out there that are looking to get some hard-earned recognition, we are always on the lookout for anything that melts our face off or tears out our hearts.
Month: February, 2019
Genres: Rock, Rock-n-Roll
Location: Johannesburg, South Africa
What better way to digest this article then by also streaming the band’s entire The Hex and the Healer album?
For a rock ‘n’ roll debut album, Hellcats’ The Hex and The Healer is quite the ride. Bursting at the seams with energy and swagger, it becomes all the more impressive when you consider there are only two dudes making all the noise. Comprised of drummer and vocalist Alessandro Benigno and guitarist Warwick Rautenbach, the Johannesburg, South Africa-based duo are as hard-hitting as many five-pieces claim to be, and with their modern yet distinctly ‘70s-rock-influenced sound a consistently full-throttle ride, Hellcats have no intentions of breaking you in gently.
Having already played alongside some huge names in the rock world, PureGrainAudio caught up with guitarist Warwick Rautenbach to discuss all things rock and roll. If you’re new to the group then definitely read on, but also check our album review here, wherein in John Morrow remarks: “Man, the Hellcats are dirty. Like, the poker room in the back of a seedy bar dirty. And that’s no disrespect, because they play rock & roll the way it’s intended – loose, groovy, pounding, and DIRTY.” Find The Hex and the Healer on all digital platforms including Deezer and Apple Music.
The band’s debut, The Hex and The Healer, dropped on January 25th, 2019.
Five Quick Questions with Hellcats:
You’ve already had the chance to play alongside some huge bands on their South African tours – was this ever daunting or was it just a case of diving in with two feet and enjoying the experience? Did you get a good reaction from the crowds at these shows?
Warwick Rautenbach: I try to never build any show up too much – if you do, you just get disappointed. Building up big shows in your head is like expecting too much from a new year’s eve jol – there’s all this hype around it and on the night you’re concentrating so hard on it being a great night, that you end up having a kak time anyway. So ja, we do just try and get on stage and be in the moment and enjoy ourselves – which is actually all that matters to us really – having a fucking jol. And yes, we’ve had great reactions from people at our international shows, where you get to expose people to your music that normally wouldn’t be exposed to it.
What’s the music scene like in South Africa? What would say the perks and/or disadvantages are of being based in a lesser-known area of the world for rock and metal?
Rautenbach: The music coming out of this country is second to none. We have some of the best bands in the world, in my opinion. Bands are really having to push themselves to stand out because of all the other genres like EDM/Hip-Hop, etc, that they have to contend with. So you can’t just be a formulaic rock garage band that’s the same as every other garage band – you have to push it musically, with you performance, the way you put yourself out there.
In that respect I guess there’s an advantage because there are so many bands doing the same thing so that when something different comes along it really stands out. Rock has taken a bit of a beating in the past couple years, but for those motherfuckers working hard at their art, there’s light at the end of the tunnel – I think it’s great that bands have to work harder – the music and the scene will be better for it.
Beware the vicious bite of the band’s own “Black Wolf”.
Do you find it more difficult to maintain a stage presence as a two-piece? Do you find you have to work harder to maintain energy levels throughout a show?
Rautenbach: Na. We don’t purposefully get out on stage and go “we have to play extra hard so that people will think we’re a real band.” We do what we do and we do it well for ourselves. Our main objective with Hellcats is to have as much fun as possible. We drink, we swear, we sweat, we spit and we play loud, invasive rock n roll. We do it for ourselves, to make ourselves happy and I guess people resonate with that. But, I won’t lie, we fuckin’ work that stage and give our body’s a beating doing it – but, fuck me, it’s a shit ton of fun.
The three producers you worked with on The Hex and The Healer decided to keep things true to a two-piece, yet the album still sounds huge! What was it like working with Nick, Paul and Craig and are you happy with the final result?
Rautenbach: We set out to make Hellcats’ biggest-sounding album with The Hex and The Healer. Our amazing producers at Audio Militia, Craig Hawkins, Nick Argyros, and Paul Norwood, worked super-hard to stay true to the two-piece band format. Still just drums and guitar, but they aimed to make us sound as big as we do on stage, leaving the listener floored after 22 minutes of listing to the album, like being hit by a rock n roll punch to the gut.
We’d originally set out to record 20 tracks for the album, but in the end, decided (in a true Hellcats vein) to strip everything down and make a shorter punchier album, that allows each track to have its own podium to stand on. We couldn’t be happier with how it came out and if the world ended tomorrow, we would die happy knowing that we made the best fucking album we could have made.
How has the reaction been to the album so far, and what are your plans for the rest of the year?
Rautenbach: The reaction has been amazing – we hit number 3 in the iTunes charts in the first weekend of release which was rad, and the response online and at gigs has been incredible. We had one bad review out of like a hundred good ones and to be honest, that was my favourite – the guy wrote like he was writing a grade 2 review for crayons – it was so hilariously bad and on the real, all a shit review does for us, is make us want to jol harder and prove them fucking wrong, so thanks to that doos for making our band better. xoxox