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Helen Kelter Skelter offers trippy textures with new album


  • Doug Schwarz Photography

There is a moment when a band transitions from a group of guys from high school talking about a band to actually becoming a band.

Sometimes, the only result is annoyed neighbors, but occasionally, serendipity steps in or hard work pays off and that band becomes more than a group of friends; it becomes a single identity. The difficulty is in recognizing when or if the moment has arrived.

Oklahoma City-based Helen Kelter Skelter seems to be stepping across the demarcation point at which a group of friends making music for the sheer joy becomes a band that people talk about. It will have two release parties — one in Norman and one in Oklahoma City — to launch its new self-titled album.

Tim Gregory and Eli Wimmer talked about starting a band when they were still in high school, but after graduation, Gregory headed for the University of Central Oklahoma to major in music and Wimmer went to the University of Oklahoma to major in art. Years later, the friends recruited other friends, and the result was Helen Kelter Skelter.

The band has gained success quickly, and Gregory attributes some of that success to Tyson Meade, frontman for Chainsaw Kittens.

“Tyson has added us to his Shaking Shanghai label, and he’s really been helping sort of lift us up and get noticed,” Gregory said.

That included helping the band get booked to open for The Polyphonic Spree in Tulsa. Helen Kelter Skelter only got a short set, but it paid homage to its patron by covering a couple Chainsaw Kittens tracks.

Categorizing its music is difficult, although many people insist on calling it psychedelic rock. Gregory is comfortable with the classification, especially for the new album.

“It definitely has a more psychedelic, trippy feel than our first album,” he said.

Three of the new songs were posted to the band’s website as an EP, and they will be part of the 10-track release. In addition to the CD, the band has already released the project on vinyl in conjunction with Record Store Day. Gregory said they printed 250 vinyls, and Guestroom Records in Norman and Oklahoma City has the album already.

The EP is promising and showcases Helen Kelter Skelter’s eclectic musical tastes and inspirations, moving from wall-of-sound metal to trippy, atmospheric compositions. The songs have a family resemblance, but they clearly represent different inspirational geneses, and that makes sense given the members’ eclectic tastes.

“I grew up listening to all kinds of music,” Gregory said. “Jimi Hendrix was one of my first influences, but I also listened to Nick Drake and Philip Glass.”

That list tells a great deal about the band. A psychedelic rock icon and guitar legend, a moody singer-songwriter and one of America’s great modern composers — those three choices highlight the musical complexity, cinematic scope, rich textures and multiple layers of Helen Kelter Skelter’s sound.

Print headline: Psychedelic moments, A local rock band offers up trippy textures and complexity with its new album.

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