Obsessed as I am with rockabilly and all forms of primal, rural American roots, blues, soul and country music, it is not hard to be in love with Philadelphia’s April Mae & The June Bugs. With a juking, jiving, rocking recorded catalog that includes “SUN Kissed! The SUN Studio Sessions” and “Grease It Up and Go” – plus they’ve got cool merch like its own branded Beer Soap – and a searing sound as Southern authentic and sweet as Georgia peaches, April Mae & The June Bugs never fail to truly portray the traditions of early American music. Incorporating elements of country swing and skiffle, to say nothing of the fact that this crew is younger than most rockabilly practitioners and Northerners to boot, give April Mae + Co. an edge on music already machete sharp. Adding a spooky Halloween session to their already scary rollercoaster-ing rock is just wild whipped cream on a very tall terror-and-tremolo-filled sundae.
Yet, that is what April Mae & the June Bugs dd with 2019’s “Boogie BOO!” and this week’s release, “Boogie BOO! Deluxe Edition,” with the latter including a tall tale-telling booklet of how the work got done, a handful of newly-penned tracks (“Swingin’ At The Séance,” the honky-tonk dirge “Graveyard Boogie” and “Race With the Devil”) and additional Memphis Sun Studio sessions with Rockabilly Hall of Fame drummer J.M. Van Eaton. Buy it HERE.
Plus, April Mae’s crew are dropping a new horror holiday’s video for “Swingin’ At The Séance” that dosage MAGAZINE has the exclusive on for first showings.
April Mae and I spoke together about what it means to make rockabilly in 2020 and keeping it scary for the Halloween season…
A.D. Amorosi: Tell me about the circumstances that led you to releasing the Halloween-themed album last year in the first place. -A longtime goal? A favorite holiday?
April Mae: I love Halloween, it’s my favorite holiday and has been since I was a kid. For a bunch of years, I hosted a local Halloween music event called “The Voodoo Ball.” I really loved developing the music for those shows. I loved it so much, I was inspired to create an entire album inspired by Halloween, and I was excited to write in that context.
A.D. Amorosi: I normally ask this question in regards to composers who write new Christmas music… What is the criteria for writing a piece of original music, themed for or by Halloween? What are all the boxes you have to check off? And tell me please about the process of making it as original as it is traditional to the form?
April Mae: To me Halloween has always been about magic and mystery, the archetypes, stories and mythologies that surround it. To me, it’s a spooky, metaphysical and beautiful time. I wanted to include fun campy themes, as well as Halloween archetypes, but also bring in more introspective mythic themes reflective of the supernatural. Pulling in sounds from nature, and working with the production to focus on telling the story of each song. In some of the songs, the spiritual characters move through the soundscape, illustrative of what’s happening in the story. These nuances are best enjoyed with headphones, they take you deeper into the magical qualities of the story.
A.D. Amorosi: “Boogie BOO!” isn’t the first time you recorded in Memphis. How and why and when did you decide to get down to Sun Studios and what was the first thing you realized or found out when you got there?
April Mae: Being at Sun Studios was an incredible experience. There’s an electrifying energy there. Coupled with the awareness of the musical moments that happened there, that changed music history, was very powerful. Standing on the X on the floor where Elvis stood during his recordings, felt surreal. The recording sessions we did at Sun spanned a three year period back when we were touring, way before the pandemic. The song “Race With the Devil” was recorded at Sun with very special guest drummer J.M. Van Eaton. J.M. is a Sun Studio legend. During his time as the session drummer at Sun he recorded with Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison and many other Sun artists. He’s been honored with the Founder of the Sound award and is a Rockabilly Hall of Famer. Getting to spend time with him and record with him at Sun was such a blessing. I love the energy, style and personality he brings to his performance on that song. It’s a devilishly fun rockabilly jaunt.
A.D. Amorosi: Does Sun genuinely give off a unique echo or vibe?
April Mae: Yes, I think it does, and I think the studio has such a unique sound that fans of the label will recognize when they hear “Race with the Devil.” We released a previous album featuring all the songs from our recording sessions there called “Sun Kissed! The Sun Studio Sessions” which is also available from our website, and all the usual places. Boogie Boo! Deluxe Edition has an indulgent seventeen songs.
A.D. Amorosi: Was recording this particular album a different sort of process for the band, or different from its usual approach?
April Mae: Most of this album was recorded at The Audio Lab, with Tony Mascara, which was great fun as well. In contrast to the recordings at Sun, I explored a different approach to this album, completing the writing of the original music as part of the recording process. Many of these songs came to me in phases. One, in particular, revealed itself progressively and in its own time. When all of the pieces came together I realized that the song “The Boogie Man” channeled in the epic story of Tam Lin, which is from a 15th-century Scottish ballad of myth and lore. That song still gives me chills, in a good way. Catfish Dave and I recorded “Swingin’ At The Séance” and “Graveyard Boogie” by candlelight at home in our little nineteen twenties bungalow. Musicians Doug Drewes, upright bass, and Tony Mascara, drums, recorded their tracks at their respective homes as well.
A.D. Amorosi: I know you guys can’t truly go out as you might like. What are you and Catfish Dave going to dress up as around the house during any big Zoom parties?
April Mae: We’ve had a lot of fun dressing up already! I’ve been inspired to create music videos to accompany these songs. But “Swingin’ At The Séance” has been a really fun one to sink our creative teeth into because we got to experiment with video in a way we never have before. We turned our living room into a set and costumed as ghosts from different time periods to illustrate the ghosts in the song, as well as a very magical storyteller. The video has a spooky, lyrical, and artful quality to it that we’re excited about. It’s also been fun working with my niece, Reno Iorio on the video editing and production. The “Swingin’ At The Séance” video will be released very, very soon. This month we’ve also released music videos for “Hoodoo Rocket” previously shot at The Gas House Dance Hall with the Iron City Swing dancers, and “Race With The Devil” which was filmed at Sun Studios in Memphis, with road footage from the Syracuse Nationals hot rod and rat rod car show, when we played that event a few years back.
A.D. Amorosi: That all of the additional songs and stories were pandemic made certainly had to shift the equation.
April Mae: Getting back to the creative process was like an elixir for my mind and soul. This time has been so challenging in so many ways, coming back to creativity and music uplifted me. The themes of magic, mystery and fantasy bring an element to the art of music that takes me to another place. I hope this music uplifts and transports listeners as well, and that it enhances their celebration of this amazing season.
“Boogie Boo! Deluxe Edition” is a digital edition that comes with all album artwork, including the .pdf insert, “Sharing the Stories ~ Songs by April Mae.” It’s available exclusively at www.AprilMAE.com and our Bandcamp page (Folks who purchased 2019’s Boogie Boo! can upgrade to the Deluxe version at our website for a discounted price, or can purchase the EP “Boogie Boo! 2” at the usual online retail music outlets).