Much-loved by NZ’s remarkably big vintage crowd, Tāmaki Makaurau rockabilly four-piece Boom! Boom! Deluxe unleash their latest future retro classic, the positively brassy and sassy Leopard Print. It was written and fronted by Henrieta Tornyai, aka Hettie LaBombe, who lives and breathes the lifestyle that goes with the sound of the band. Arguably one of the country’s finest bassists, Hettie gave NZM a little more insight into the origins of Leopard Print.
I’m Hettie ‘LaBombe’ Tornyai from Boom! Boom! Deluxe and I wrote Leopard Print.
One peek in my wardrobe and you’d think you were deep in the African jungle. There’s something about leopard print. It’s empowering, versatile and timeless. When I wear it, I embody the spirit of the animal. It’s not something I would have felt comfortable in as a 20-year-old but now, well into my 30s, it’s second skin.
Being in a retro rock’n’roll band attracts a lot of vintage aficionados, alternative lifestylers and people who just refuse to fit into the mould. Leopard print is ubiquitous. Some even get it tattooed. These people come in all shapes, sizes, ages and genders, their common ground is uncompromising self-expression and having a damn good time. This song was written for them…
Inspired by 1950s instrumentals like The Stripper by David Rose, I pictured a seedy nightclub, full of smoke, with a burlesque dancer stripping to the sound of a sleazy saxophone. I wanted something that would swing but still be at a driving, danceable tempo. It began with a riff-based around a D blues scale written on the double bass, which is my main instrument. Right from the start I knew I wanted a baritone sax as the main feature. It really evokes the ’50’s and ’60s and I love that grunty sound!
The lyrics for Leopard Print came together rather quickly. Each verse represents a different marginalised voice; the plus-size body, the mature woman and finally anyone who dares to stand out. My favourite line is probably…
Boy or girl or somewhere in between…
It don’t matter coz now you’re gonna be seen in leopard print.
It sums up the message that flamboyance and glamour are for everyone.
We recorded the rhythm section live all in one room in Nate Judd’s studio Rageous Records. The incredible Hannah ‘Dactyl’ de Koster on drums brings jazz chops with punk energy. No click track necessary! Sammy ‘Mantis’ Swindells added jazzy hollow body guitar and Dunken ‘DD Deluxe’ Francis played blues harp. Nate used vintage RCA ribbon mics for that warm vintage sound.
The song really came alive with the addition of Pete ‘Frenchie’ France who played all the sax. The three-part tenor harmony in the instrumental section is his stroke of genius, and in my opinion absolutely makes the track.
When it came to tracking the vocals, I tried to radiate as much sass as possible. What would rockabilly royalty Wanda Jackson do? Nate stuck a bit of overdrive on my vocals to help thicken them up and simulate 20 years of chainsmoking. It’s mixed in mono to keep to the era!
Mastering was done by Paul Gomersall who has worked with Kate Bush and Peter Gabriel. He definitely understood our vintage vibe and made it sound like analogue tape.
‘Leopard Print’ fits into the tongue-in-cheek, retro kitsch style ofBoom! Boom! Deluxe and it’s a natural follow-up to my previous tracks like Slap That Bottom. Watch this space, we’ve got three more singles dropping this year!