PORT ANGELES — For Abney Park, steampunk isn’t a hobby. It’s a way of life.
Abney Park is an American musical project and life’s work of front man Robert Brown, who formed the group in the late 1990s, according to www.abneypark.com.
Since then, Abney Park has released 19 albums, three novels, a role playing game, a board game and a DVD.
The band has appeared on MTV and G4tv, licensed music to HBO’s “Trueblood,” and played all over the world, from Moscow to Montana.
The steampunk band — consisting of Brown, pianist Kristina Erickson, guitarist Josh Goering, bassist Derek Brown, violinist Mitchel Drury, trumpeter Carey Rayburn and trombonist Jake Sele — will perform Saturday night at The Metta Room, 132 E. Front St., in Port Angeles.
Steampunk is a subgenre of science fiction incorporating technology and aesthetic designs inspired by 19th-century industrial steam-powered machinery and the works of authors such as H. G. Wells and Jules Verne.
“Steampunk is a thriving community of artists who are nostalgic for Victorian era science fiction,” Brown told the Peninsula Daily News this week.
“This art covers everything from fashion, to literature, to sculpture and music.
“Honestly, I’d be surprised if there was any art yet unexplored by steampunk artists. Steampunks are eccentric, but not all in the same way.
“Some dress steampunk 24/7, some just for [gatherings], and yet others never dress the part and instead express themselves through their writing, or painting, or what have you.”
No onstage character
While the band explores fantastical themes, “I don’t have a ‘character’ onstage,” Brown said.
“I am me, and believe me, that’s unusual enough. The actual ‘me’ is a steampunk who tours the world — playing steampunk music in locations like underground Victorian power plants converted into nightclubs,” such as The Edison in Los Angeles; “or flying car factories owned by eccentric millionaires” such as the Moller International facility in Davis, Calif.
“We even sold out a concert on an actual Zepplin,” Brown said.
“We are real steampunks, not people dressing up as steampunks as a Halloween costume, and I think that’s even more fascinating than make believe.”
Brown encourages his audience to explore steampunk in their own way instead of emulating a cookie-cutter steampunk character.
“I’m much more interested in people expressing themselves than I am in encouraging people to cosplay someone else,” he said.
“Be you … if you lived another life — the life you wish you had.”
Cosplay, an abbreviation of “costume-play,” refers to dressing up in a way that imitates a usually fictional character.
“Cosplay is great, and I don’t discourage it, but it’s not what I’m shooting for,” Brown said.
“I encourage people to explore themselves, and their dreams.”
Brown explores his own fantasies through his music, which is described as a mix of Gypsy rock, EDM, electro swing, industrial dance and Western music, according to www.abneypark.com.
“For years I wrote these science fiction themed songs — 21 albums worth,” he said.
“After a while, fans started to note that they heard a larger epic story running through them all.
“About five years ago, we started a sci-fi novel series based on this grander story, with each chapter typing [tying?] into a specific song. There are three novels in the series so far, and they are a marvelous and imaginative adventure.”
Tortured by ideas
Brown said he writes lyrics “because I’m tortured by some idea, and I have to get it out of me.”
“Take our electro-swing song, ‘Two Elixirs.’ It occurred to me one morning while I desperately made tea — trying to get the caffeine in me to wake up. Many of us humans pour an ‘elixir’ into our bodies each morning to focus our brain, so we can work hard all day.”
Brown noted he was drinking a caffeinated beverage when he communicated this thought.
“Then, at night, we’ll pour a second elixir to slow our mind back down again — wine, beer, rum, etc.
“It’s a daily lifestyle for a lot of us, but change the words from ‘drink’ to ‘Elixir,’ and it sounds like science fiction.
“I had this idea on tour, wrote it down, and was nagged by the idea every day of the tour until I got home to my studio and could finish the song.”
Brown said while there are many messages in his songs, a common theme tying them together is for the listener to “follow your dreams,” he said, and to appreciate the way things were done in the past.
“Sometimes the old fashioned ways of doing things — although less profitable to major corporations — are much better for people, and the world.”
Brown promises Abney Park’s Saturday evening performance will be a bedazzling experience for the ages.
“Our shows are parties,” he said.
“They are fun, high energy, chaotic and crazy. Onstage, you’ll see steampunk outfits from head to toe — including some of the coolest steampunk music instruments you’ve ever seen.
“The music is an upbeat blend of modern dance music, mixed with old-fashion styles like swing, Gypsy and cabaret.”
The audience “is usually about 50 percent steampunk, as well,” Brown continued, “so this is a great opportunity to dress up in your old-timey best, or come and marvel at the creativity of all who did. All are welcome, from steampunk to looky-loos.”
Doors to the concert open at 8 p.m., with Swayze Train Reggae Rock Band opening up for Abney Park.
Tickets are $15 at the door or online at http://tinyurl.com/PDN-Abney Park.
Tickets to a VIP dinner with the band at The Metta Room before the show also are available online in limited quantities for $75.
A raffle drawing will take place during the show. The grand prize drawing will be for a $1,000 certificate for Mark’d Body Art at 119 W. First St.
For more about the concert, visit www.themetta room.com.
For more about the band, visit www.abneypark.com.
Features Editor Chris McDaniel can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56650, or at [email protected] peninsuladailynews.com.