By Jack St. Clair
This is a case of which story to tell you? Or which story you would believe? Hanging out with The Hellions for a night should be everything their namesake and music encompass, right? Sex. Drugs. Rock & Roll. Booze. Broads. Bars. Strip Clubs. Partying into the early morning hours. An epic night of myth and legend. Or maybe it was just a few guys, drinking a few brews, playing some music and discussing those myths and legends? You decide.
Every tale starts somewhere. The Hellions really began as The Inquisition. Vocalist Christian Reyes, who at the time played bass, and Bob Llamas, who is the band’s drummer, but at the time played guitar, were jamming with local drummer Jeff Howe (now of Red Sanz) in 1998 when they met singer/guitarist Angel Lua, in a Sociology class at College of the Desert. “No you can’t say that!” says guitarist Jamie Hargate, trying to perpetuate the myth. “They met at Showgirls!” “Yeah. We used to go to Showgirls so much they knew us,” Llamas laughs. “Every time we left they would hand us a stack of passes to come back.”
Having rechristened themselves The Hellions, the group would jam at Angel’s place in Coachella until Howe left for college and Reyes moved away. “At one point it was just Angel and me,” says Llamas. He switched from guitar to drums when good friend Travis Rockwell picked up the bass. Hargate, who prior had played with Christian, Angel and Bob in a band called Ritalin, joined them after seeing their first real show (up to that point they had only played house parties) at the long since closed Frankie J’s. “I just told them ‘I’ve got to be in your band and you need a rhythm guitar player anyway.’” The band instantly welcomed him in. And though he briefly took time out to be in the band Vega, Hargate has been with them ever since. Eventually Reyes returned to the desert and became the band’s second vocalist. And thus The Hellions have been. But if you’d like to believe they all met at Showgirls one night, go ahead. They probably want you to believe it too.
The Hellions are Dirty Rock & Roll. The music is Ramone-ish punk rock at its core. “We almost got pigeon holed into the whole ‘Rockabilly’ thing,” says Hargate, referring to the bands perceived image. “But we’ve moved away from that.” Lua adds that “We’ll still go to play a show and people will ask ‘So does your bass player play an upright bass?’ And it’s like, ‘We’re not rockabilly.'” Rockwell speaks from experience: “I don’t know how many shows we’ve played where I’m the only one playing a regular bass guitar.”
Their lyrics spin tales of wild nights, crazy shenanigans and horny devils. Songs like “Cheap Lay”, “Horny Devil” and “Cruisin'” are evidence of how the band embraces its namesake. Llamas reveals that “All the devil and sex shit is just us getting hammered, laughing and making up shit.” “No. Those are all true stories of things that happened to me,” Lua chimes in with a grin. It is this tongue and cheek nature that defines this band. They are not out to offend, but just want to have fun with it. If you don’t get it, then you need to lighten up a bit.
Known as one of the valley’s most consistent draws, The Hellions excel in the live environment. For a band that has yet to release an official record (though they do have two Do It Yourself EP’s they occasionally burn and hand out at shows), it is impressive to see an entire crowd singing along with them to the likes of “Dirty Girl” and “Big City”. “That’s the perks of playing the same set for all these years,” jokes Hargate. But it really speaks of the fun they bring to every performance. “I think everyone in the audience can see that,” says Lua. And over the past few years this has led to the “Hellions Choir” – an endless group of friends and fans that take the stage to provide impromptu backing vocals. The band welcomes the support. “We love it. We don’t care if people are off key or whatever,” Lua says. “We just want everyone to have a good time.” “We really don’t look at them as shows,” says Llama. “More like parties with our friends.”
Their next “party with friends” will be Tuesday night, December 18th at The Hood as they open up for Supersuckers. They have been fortunate enough to play with several well-known bands including Throw Rag, Unsound, Los Infernos and The Dwarves. Playing with Supersuckers is another highlight for them. “I grew up with these guys,” says Hargate. “I saw them opening up for Social Distortion.”
The band is clearly stoked for the show. That it will be Lua’s birthday only adds to the occasion. He’s not the only Hellion with an upcoming birthday. Reyes will be celebrating his on December 21st and the band is hoping to play for that as well, but as of yet has not finalized any plans.
If the world survives beyond December 21st the band is looking to complete a full length album in early 2013 that will contain some of their signature material and hopefully new tunes as well. “We have at least 5 songs that are just about ready to go,” says Rockwell. The other members start thinking out loud and before long, the number reaches 15. “But we’re lazy,” Reyes laughs. Or maybe it’s that they don’t drink enough hard liquor as often, or as much, as they used to. They admit that some of the most creative times have been when they have consumed their fair share of Jameson or Crown. “Yeah. We’re going to have to bring that back,” says Lua. The band laughs at the thought. But Hargate adds that there really is more to it, “My opinion is we don’t stop playing live long enough to really get in here and work on them.” In the coming months the band hopes to put more space between shows so they can finish up some new material and get them on the record.
With all the myths, legends and preconceived notions that comes with being in a band called The Hellions, it would be easy to overlook that they are five very good friends who simply enjoy hanging out and playing music together – be that at a show with a crowd singing along or just practicing by themselves in the back of a warehouse.
“Ten years from now we’ll be doing the same thing,” says Rockwell.
“Probably in the same place. And probably giving the same interview,” adds Reyes.
Well here is hoping the same writer gets to be there too. I would like to hear how the myths and legends have grown.
After the interview, Jamie Hargate wanted to make sure that several people were acknowledged as being part of their dream, success, longevity and all round having a good time. “We so appreciate places like The Hood, The Red Barn & Date Shed for giving us cool venues to play at and to CV Weekly for all of their support. We also want to give a shout out to bands we love to play with like Blasting Echo, Unsound, Throw Rag, Mondo Generator, Supersuckers, Whiskey & Knives and so many more. It has been amazing growing up in the Coachella Valley and being part of the music scene and we thank all of those who paved the road before us.”
So check these guys out at:
The Hood – Tuesday, December 18th @ 9:00 pm with Supersuckers & Gun ‘em Down
Check them out on Facebook at The Hellions.