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The Arkhams on The Art of Psychobilly, H.P. Lovecraft & The New York City Scene

The Arkhams
Photo Courtesy of The Arkhams

With their name straight out of an H.P. Lovecraft novel, the New York-based band The Arkhams play psychobilly. Matt “The Knife” Goldpaugh, who also plays bass for Lara Hope and the Arktones and The Gold Hope Duo, and Bobcat sat down to talk about The Arkhams past, how the band is not your typical psychobilly and, and the release or Almost Hits, a compilation of highlights from The Road to Arkham and The Road to Arkham with unreleased tracks. 

How did the Arkhams begin?

Bobcat: In 2005 we started making music together. 2006 is when The Arkhams original three guys started writing songs. 

Matt: Bobcat and I had a band with another friend called The Black Market Band. The lead guy for that band was interning at a studio. He was working like 80 hours a week, so he didn’t have time. Then Bobcat and I started a whole other band. That was back in New York City. I lived out in Queens and so did our drummer and Bobcat still lives in Long Island. There was actually a pretty decent sized psychobilly scene in New York City back then. There were several monthly nights at bars or clubs. It was an offshoot of the punk scene. People used to go to a lot of live music events.

I think what made us want to start a psychobilly band was because the scene there. Bobcat already had a band called The Devil Spades

Bobcat: We all played in bands before and Jeff had the studio job. At that point, we jelled with our drummer, Sean, really really well. The three of us jelled and we wrote some great songs together. 

Matt: Sean’s no longer in the band, but he was one of the founding members. He was with us eight or nine years. 

Tell us about the psychobilly scene in New York City.

Matt: Like Bobcat said, we were all around it. I was playing in punk and garage bands. There were monthly nights. One of them’s still does it, COVID aside, there’s a bar called Otto’s Shrunken Head on 14th street between avenues A and B. 

Bobcat: It’s still going.

Matt: They have a barroom in the front and there’s a really small music room in the front. The music there is always free. They pass a bucket around. They have a bunch of different stuff there. Last Saturday of the month was always this party that our friend threw called the Midnight Monster Hop. There would be out of town bands coming through and DJs in the front room. It was like a monthly get together hangout night. 

Bobcat: It varied too. It’s not just psychobilly. They had garage bands, a straight punk rock band, straight up rockabilly. They really run the gamut. And there’s other nights at Otto’s. There’s a surf night where they have just instrumental bands. I don’t know if they’re doing anything during COVID.

Matt: They’re definitely not. 

New York City’s shut down pretty much entirely.

Matt: I moved away from there nine years ago at this point. Bobcat and I stay in touch a lot. We still do this band when either of us get a little time. We’re actually about to put out Almost Hits. We’re putting out a vinyl edition of highlights from the first two albums and some unreleased stuff. We’re really excited to have a full-length vinyl coming out because we did a 7-inch a bunch of years ago. This LP is put out through Crazy Love Records. And we have a tradition of writing a title track for an album that is an instrumental. We still need to do some rerecording, but we had a third album called Thunder Over Arkham, which was another instrumental. 

Bobcat: I would say about 20-25 percent of our set is instrumental. 

What is the origin of The Arkhams name?

Matt: It’s from Arkham, Massachusetts, a fictional town in the writings of H.P. Lovecraft. We had some songs about Lovecraft kind of stuff. And a lot of the themes of our songs deal with mental illness and madness, which is a recurring theme in Lovecraft’s fiction. 

Bobcat: It’s not intentional really.

Matt: You know psychobilly has that vibe. We went out of our way to write songs about fairly real stuff that was spooky. 

Bobcat: It’s more coincidental. We write a song, the theme is kind of up in the air. He’ll usually write the lyrics. I’ll usually write the music. The songs if we like the theme and we like the music; then, we go with it. We’re not trying to all commit to the same theme. 

Matt: I feel like the music is the primary focus in our band. I love psychobilly music, but sometimes all the over-the-top horror lyrics mean nothing. That doesn’t speak to me as much and I always try to write things form the heart form my own experiences or friends’ experiences. 

Bobcat: That’s exactly what The Arkhams is. It’s very much not psychobilly in terms of writing horror themed lyrics. We’re not going to write songs about drinking in a graveyard. We’ll write a song about shit that we go through, not some theme from a horror film. 

Matt: Even when you use those images, you use theme metaphorical as a vehicle for a point or a message. It’s hard to sing with conviction about something you feel is silly. It’s still fun and we love a lot of bands that do that. It was our personal choice to go in that direction. 

What’s next for The Arkhams?

Matt: We have a backlog of songs that we need to re-record, as things progress in the next year or so we’re going to get to some unfinished musical business. We still want to put out a couple more records. This band hasn’t been super active the last couple of years, but that doesn’t mean we’re not still into it. We’re learning to self-record more. Hopefully, we’ll be able to self-produce entirely.

To support The Arkhams, you can stay up-to-date on the band’s activities at: https://www.facebook.com/thearkhams/ and purchase previous albums and merch on Bandcamp: https://thearkhams.bandcamp.com/ 

Allison Lips
Allison Lips
Anglophile, Rockabilly, Pompadour lover, TV and Music Critic


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