Danish rockers Volbeat take on North America
As a Danish quartet with metal roots that integrates liberal dashes of rockabilly, Volbeat isn't about to be pigeonholed.
"We're not the typical metal band who tries to look tough, because we're all momma's boys," said vocalist/guitarist Michael Poulsen with a laugh via telephone from Denmark. "There's no image, no cliches."
The band is coming to the U.S. in support of its Universal Republic debut, "Beyond Hell/Above Heaven," which hit stores in December. As is the case with many European bands, the CD was released first abroad and then in the U.S.
"However, people [in the States] were able to get the album somehow," Poulsen said. "It's our new release and stylewise we're doing pretty much the same as we did on the three previous albums, flirting around with a lot of different styles. It's not easy to say what kind of style Volbeat actually is. You have so many different elements from punk and metal and rockabilly and country. For us, it's never been important to be 100 percent one genre or one style."
Poulsen explained that the premise of sounding like a cross between Metallica and Elvis Presley rockabilly sounds ridiculous on paper. But the sound evolved out of his parents' love of music.
"Mostly my parents would play all music from the '50s," Poulsen said. "We were listening to Elvis, Johnny Cash, Fats Domino and Chuck Berry and Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis all the legendary singers from the '50s. They were listening to them all the time. All those kind of melodies, they were always spinning in my head. Even though as a teenager I was really dedicated and hooked on heavy metal, it seems like later on all the melodies form the '50s continually showed up in my mind. So, it was very natural to mix it all up."
Poulsen achieved success in Europe with the heavy metal act Dominus. But when he yearned to experiment a bit more, he started Volbeat.
"[Dominus] was straight metal," he said. "On the third record, we were starting to flirt around with making a little bit with some rock 'n' roll stuff. What I wanted to do was keep the door wide open and see what happens. I didn't want to paint myself into a corner. If I wanted a song to start like a country song and let it burst into a metal song, that's what I did. Right now it comes very naturally. That's the most important thing -- that you don't sit and try too hard to provoke it out of you. It has to come as a normal flow, and that's actually what happened."
Volbeat -- which also includes bassist Michael Anders Kjolholm, drummer Jon Larsen and guitarist Thomas Bredahl -- started on a small label. Poulsen said they did "a very fine job," however, as the band outgrew it and it pursued a label in the U.S.
"I'm happy we started on a small record label where we were able to build it up from scratch," Poulsen said. "We're a big act in Europe. We can easily pull around 10,000 people. The label said, 'There's nothing we can do for you anymore.' We definitely needed to be on a bigger label. We were [talking] with a lot of different labels and Universal came up with a really cool deal. They didn't want us to change anything. They really didn't want to be in command of anything. 'The way you do it is amazing. We're not going to touch that. You tell us what to do and we work around it.' That's the way to do it."
Overseas, "Beyond Hell/Above Heaven" debuted at No. 1 on the sales charts in Denmark, Finland and Sweden, and in the Top 10 in a half dozen additional countries. International sales to date are approaching 300,000 units.
Volbeat opens a North American tour March 23 in New York, and will visit more than 20 cities over the next month.
"We're there for the music," Poulsen said. "We're there for the audience. We have to show them that we appreciate that they're there. We're definitely going to have a party with the people.
"Live, you can expect a lot of different styles combined together," Poulsen continued. "You can expect good moods, blast of energy. We always appreciate our audience. We're in good contact with the audience between the songs. We talk to the people and we mostly go out and say hello to the audience."
23 - New York City, NY - Irving Plaza
24 - Philadelphia, PA - Theatre of Living Arts
25 - Toronto, Ontario - Sound Academy
26 - Detroit, MI - St. Andrew's Hall
27 - Chicago, IL - House of Blues
29 - Englewood, CO - Gothic Theatre
30 - Salt Lake City, UT - The Complex
1 - Missoula, MT - Wilma Theater
3 - Vancouver, British Columbia - Commodore Ballroom
5 - Sacramento, CA - Ace of Spades
6 - West Hollywood, CA - House of Blues L.A.
8 - San Francisco, CA - The Fillmore
9 - Anaheim, CA - House of Blues
10 - San Diego, CA - House of Blues
13 - Dallas, TX - House of Blues
14 - Houston, TX - Scout Bar
16 - Atlanta, GA - Center Stage
17 - Lake Buena Vista, FL - House of Blues Orlando
22 - Baltimore, MD - Sonar
23 - Clifton Park, NY - Northern Lights
25 - Boston, MA - Paradise Rock Club
27 - New York City, NY - Irving Plaza