Wigs, ferraris and porn moustaches: How Electric Callboy became 2022's ultimate party band

Electric Callboy
(Image credit: Will Ireland)

Under neon pink and green lights, 8,000 fans are going berserk inside Oberhausen’s cavernous Rudolf Weber-Arena. As streamers blast into the rafters and fountains of pyro burst upwards, a hardstyle beat spurs the kind of mass rave you’d expect from fellow German club veterans Scooter. Moments later, Electric Callboy, the band orchestrating the carnage, dressed in furry white gilets and bowl cut wigs, tear into a breakdown meatier than Till Lindemann’s left thigh, and the mayhem kicks up a notch, with seething pits sucking up bodies like a black hole.

Chaos like this has been commonplace in Electric Callboy’s world ever since they released their adrenaline-charged anthem, Hypa Hypa, in 2020. A perfect blend of EDM anthemia and brutal metalcore, it had an immediate impact, but it was the song’s ridiculous mullet-shaking, crotch-thrusting, moustache-stroking video that turned them into viral sensations, clocking up 26 million views and counting on YouTube – and since then, it’s been a rollercoaster.

Hilarious music videos for singles We Got The Moves (concept: pigeon-neck bopping and bush trimming) and Pump It (tight lycra and getting swole) followed, the band pitching the latter as Germany’s Eurovision 2022 entry, although it was turned down – a decision that presumably haunts the German judges to this day, given their lacklustre final entry ended up with nil points.

It’s all indicative of the increasing momentum that has seen the band boosted from small venues to sold-out arenas in a matter of months. Today we’re hanging out with them in an arena, while their 2023 tour schedule now includes a stop at London’s iconic Brixton Academy – hold up, how the fuck did this happen?!

“I think we released Hypa Hypa at the right time,” says affable bearded singer Nico Sallach, trying to explain the band’s sudden jump in popularity. “Everyone was pretty fucked up because of the pandemic, and while a lot of bands wrote songs that were really deep and melancholic, we just wanted to do something fun and put a smile on people’s faces. “The first scene [in the video], when we turned around with the little jump, that was something we didn’t plan. It was just spontaneous.”

“The song told us what the video would look like,” adds co-vocalist, keyboardist and all-round goofball Kevin Ratajczak. “We said, ‘We need palm trees! We need lights! We need a FERRARI! We need a roller girl!”

He first became aware of the band’s steep upward trajectory when he noticed the video views rising at warp speed while he was on holiday in the Netherlands in 2020, and admits he’s been running to catch up ever since. “I don’t even dare to move anything,” he says, motioning in disbelief to the arena’s swanky, spacious dressing room, where we sit perched on leather couches, mere hours away from Electric Callboy’s biggest headline show to date. “Everybody thinks we take all this for granted. Like, it must be OK and totally normal for us. But it’s absolutely not.”

Electric Callboy

(Image credit: Will Ireland)

Ahead of releasing their sixth album, Tekkno, in September, today also marks the day of the band’s inaugural Escalation Festival, where they are topping a self-curated bill of genre-hopping, mostly German bands, including Samurai Pizza Cats – which includes EC guitarist Daniel Haniß – Annisokay and 257ers. It’s an event they have serious plans for, excitedly telling us they’re already looking ahead to next year when they hope to take it outdoors.

As Nico passes us a neon can of ‘Electric Callbeer’ emblazoned with the band’s faces – “a gift from the venue” to mark the occasion – it hits us just how far the band have come since they started out in the town of Castrop-Rauxel 12 years ago, as a fairly basic screamo band peddling juvenile metalcore about sex and booze that was embraced by few outside of their home country. After spending a decade slogging around youth centres in Europe, everything changed in February 2020 when their previous singer, Sebastian ‘Sushi’ Biesler, left the band and was replaced by Nico, a long-time friend whose former band, To The Rats And Wolves, had just announced their split.

Watching them together now, it’s clear Nico and Kevin have developed an unbreakable bond as they joke around, often finishing each other’s sentences, totally on the same page. Hypa Hypa was the first song the new line-up wrote together, and it set the tone for their vibrant, fun new chapter. “We have some serious songs,” argues Kevin, when we ask if they’re worried they might get pigeonholed as a novelty. “It’s not that we think there are no problems in the world, but we are not the right band to tackle them. Our power and talent is making people forget about their problems, just for a couple of minutes.”

Noting how the band’s music has brought people together, he smiles, referring to the hordes of fans braving the 34˚ heat outside the arena dressed in homage to the Pump It video. “So many people come to the shows dressed like us in the moustache and the wigs.”

Nico nods in agreement. “A moustache is the sexiest thing in the whole world.”

An hour before our chat, we watch as the band have their photo taken for this feature, outside the arena. Egging each other on, between high kicks, muscle flexes and general silliness, they pose together for group shots, looking every inch a proper gang. It’s a world away from 2020, Kevin tells us, when the breakdown in relationships and creative spirit almost forced them to quit.

“It ended up in a total crappy situation where no one was comfortable anymore,” he remembers of the recording sessions for the band’s 2019 album, Rehab, their last record with singer Sushi. “I counted down the minutes until we could leave the studio and go home. I mean, it had some cool songs on it and we can be satisfied with the music, but it was not from the heart. It was pure work.”

What went wrong?

“It was very heavy to deal with our old singer,” Kevin continues. “It was always the same situation. Five guys agreed and the one disagreed. And it was so hard to deal with each other that you couldn’t even focus on the music anymore.”

Accounts of how Sushi departed the band differ depending on who you talk to. “From his point of view, of course, he left us,” Kevin shrugs. “For us, we kicked him out.”

He and Sushi haven’t spoken since. “I don’t want to talk shit about him at all. He’s doing his thing. We’re doing our thing. Everybody’s happy, so it’s the best situation for everybody.”

Kevin credits Nico’s arrival with bringing “an easiness” back into the ranks, although there was further change to come. In December 2021, the band announced via Instagram that they would be removing some of their old material from official online platforms, due to offensive lyrics (case in point, 2010’s Monsieur Moustache vs. Clitcat: ‘Rub her clit, cumshot tits / On dirty backseats in Mom’s car’ – and these are the lyrics we can print).

“I don’t even want to say too much about those songs,” says Kevin, shifting uncomfortably in his seat. “When we created them, it was 2010 and we were little boys in the studio.”

He admits that the band’s distasteful approach had been mostly for shock value. “This is not an excuse, and shouldn’t be an excuse, but the world has changed completely and it’s good.”

At the same time, the band announced that, following comments from fans, they were considering changing their name from their previous moniker, Eskimo Callboy, acknowledging the word was unacceptable and widely accepted as a slur towards the Inuit community. Making their process of self-reflection as transparent as possible, they posted educational videos, bringing their fans along on the journey, finally changing their name to Electric Callboy in March 2022. It was a serious side to the band many fans had not seen before.

“There were bands who said, ‘If [Electric Callboy] play this festival, we won’t,” says Nico, although the band maintain that there was much more behind the brand change than just fear of damage to their burgeoning success.

Electric Callboy

(Image credit: Will Ireland)

“It was actually more an ideological reason,” says Kevin. “With increasing popularity, we had more responsibility. Our band, and music in general, has always been there to connect people and we absolutely realised we split people with this.”

“For me, our name is Electric Callboy, that’s it,” continues Nico firmly. “If there are people out there who are saying, ‘For me it will always be the other name,’ then a really big fuck you, because that is not the way.”

With our interview over, the clock slowly ticks down to show time. We watch as bandmembers in varying states of nerves, rails of sequin shirts and wigs start making their way out of the dressing room and towards the stage. Then before you know it, it’s time. As AC/DC’s Thunderstruck blares from the speakers, the boys, who have changed into in 80s shell suits and sweatbands, get in the zone. There’s time for one last huddle before the curtain covering the stage drops to the floor, and in a hailstorm of neon confetti, the band tear into Pump It and all hell breaks loose.

Immediately, we’re struck by just how much this feels like a community, as fans from all ages and walks of life – parents with kids, fans of metal, dance and everything in between – are flung together into one massive, raving, moshing Europop party, and suddenly, Electric Callboy’s position as metal’s most unlikely success story doesn’t seem that strange at all.

“A big plus of our band was we were always allowed to do whatever we want. We’re a living playlist,” Kevin tells us, explaining that while they’ll never take themselves seriously, the music is another matter. “Our music and our videos and shows are bringing people together; there are no boundaries anymore.”

“I think we can be pretty proud of ourselves,” agrees Nico. “We’ve achieved a lot of things but I’m still hungry. I just don’t want it to stop.” 

Tekkno is out now via Century Media

 

Danniii Leivers writes for Classic Rock, Metal Hammer, Prog, The Guardian, NME, Alternative Press, Rock Sound, The Line Of Best Fit and more. She loves the 90s, and is happy where the sea is bluest.