"It’s a very inspiring experience. You go and you dress up, and you see what other people are wearing, and you see the amazing cars – it’s just this big festival of colour and style and tattoos and awesomeness."
Prior to forming The Sugar Shakers four years ago, Emma-Louise Wilkins' wardrobe contained none of the fabulous outfits made famous by pin-up girls of the mid-twentieth century, though a peep through her hanging space today would reveal just how much these style icons have become a defining influence.
“I guess it's about what we consider to be great style in regards to music, and the fashion, and the cars – it's just a really awesome time to have been living,” gushes Wilkins about The Sugar Shakers' focus on yesteryear. “Everyday it's even in the way that I do my hair when I go to work; the boys are the same, they've got their greaser hair and that's how they go to work. It's reflected in the way our homes are decorated, and we go out to gigs and dress very '40s/'50s as well. We're not purists; there are a lot of people who just really live their life by it, but it's nice to combine old with new.”
With the release of their debut album Red Rocket Baby in recent months, The Sugar Shakers have been pleasantly surprised about the crossover appeal of their toe-tapping style.
“We found that outside of the people who are strictly into that style we've actually sold a lot of our albums to people who just happened to see us playing around,” Wilkins offers. “We did a gig at X&Y Bar about six months ago and we had no expectations, and by the end of that night, the place was just packed full of people that I could picture dancing to club music just going crazy on the dancefloor. It's stuff that everybody's familiar with, it's just not music that they're exposed to all the time.”
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Though the ability to reach varied audiences is a bonus, the highlight of their calendar is of course a performance at Brisbane's annual celebration of cars and culture from the '50s era, now in its thirteenth year.
“GreazeFest is great. The first time I went was before I was in the band and I just was like, 'What is this?!' I was new to it, and I was like, 'I wanna look like this, I wanna be a part of it'. I just loved the music, and I loved the style. I loved that every second guy can dance, and so that's actually when I met Toby [Mellonie] the bassplayer, at GreazeFest… I was in another band called The Gamble Sisters at the time, and he'd seen me and friended me on Facebook, and then I saw him on the dancefloor and said, 'I know you'. And he was like, 'Oh I've been thinking about putting a band together with a rockabilly girl'” Wilkins says, the female-fronted variety given the term fillybilly.
“It's a very inspiring experience. You go and you dress up, and you see what other people are wearing, and you see the amazing cars – it's just this big festival of colour and style and tattoos and awesomeness,” she laughs. “And you don't have to look it to be a part of it, that's where everybody starts. Like me – I can't remember what I wore the first time I went, but it certainly didn't reflect the wardrobe that I have now!
“We've got quite a strong following now, so this year we're really gonna be featuring our original work which is important to us 'cause a lot of what is played at GreazeFest is a tribute to the songs and musicians of yesteryear, but being able to bring original music is quite important as an artist, and people are really embracing that.”