What Does Steampunk Sound Like?

Illustration for article titled What Does Steampunk Sound Like?

Americans and jaded internet denizens may be getting close to being bored by Steampunk, but it's just starting to wash up on mainstream British shores . . . as a musical movement, instead of the visual/social phenomenon of elsewhere. But what, exactly, does steampunk sound like?UK Guardian music writer Caroline Sullivan explains that before we get a definition of steampunk music, we may need a definition of steampunk itself. Luckily, Britain's steampunkicians are happy to oblige. Sullivan reports:

"You can define steampunk as visions of the future that never was, as seen through the technology of the Victorian era, when things were made of pistons and steam rather than silicon and transistors," says [frontman of band steampunk Tough Love, Tobias] Slater, who is dressed in a ruffled white shirt, pegged trousers and spats. "It's an aesthetic, a geek culture, a craft culture." It's certainly all those things; steampunks take pride in their ability to make 19th-century-style clothes and gadgets from found objects, creating intricate gizmos from brass, leather and rivets. A London-based American musician called Thomas Truax even makes his own instruments: there's one called the Hornicator, made from a gramophone horn; another, known as Mother Superior, emits steam when played... "I don't mind being known as a steampunk, because it represents things I have a fondness for," says [Thomas] Truax, whose music can be said to typify SP. Though internet debates rage about exactly what constitutes the SP sound, Truax has the major components, including sonorous, half-spoken vocals and melancholy melodies influenced by Tom Waits and eastern European Gypsy bands.


So steampunk is Tom Waits playing Portishead songs...? Isn't that just, you know, Tom Waits? Tonight I'm gonna party like it's 1899 [Guardian]

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I like the idea of bands constructing their own instruments. It's very unique. But once again, steampunk isn't popular outside of the geek realm. Seriously, put it into perspective.