Gothabilly is an offshoot of psychobilly influenced by the goth subculture. The name combines gothic and rockabilly, and was first used by The Cramps in the late 1970s to describe their somber blend of rockabilly and punk rock. Since then the term has come to describe a fashion style influenced by gothic fashion.
The term gothabilly was not popularized until the release of a series of international gothabilly compilation albums released by Skully Records in the mid-1990s that featured bands like Deadbolt and Mr. Badwrench. Occasionally, The Cramps have been associated with gothic rock, primarily because of their use of fetish clothing and outlandish makeup, including heavy, dark eyeliner on both male and female members of the band, which is also popular in the gothic subculture. The Cramps are considered to be equally influential to the psychobilly genre.
The Cramps first used the term “gothabilly” in the late 1970s to describe their musical sound. The Gothic Cowboys and Fields of the Nephilim were sporting western gear while belting out somber tunes in the mid 1980s. They too, could be described (by sight) as gothabillys. Bands like Dave Vanian (singer of The Damned) and The Phantom Chords helped forged the sound in the early 1990s but the musical genre really stayed under the radar. Gothabilly is often confused with its cousin genre psychobilly. First becoming popular in the 1980s, psychobilly formed a combination of traditional 1950s rockabilly with a 1970s punk sound. Psychobilly is much faster and aggressive but shares the same themes of horror, monsters in distress, and all the drama of the dark side with gothabilly.
A great way to describe the gothabilly sound would be to try and imagine the soundtrack for a gothic western hanging or the music for a funeral sock-hop. The musical style is a combination of 1950s bluesy rockabilly mixed with creepy gothic piano and guitars creating a slow tempo with moody melodies. Lyrics are often about vampires, the paranormal, dark love, and themes of sadness yet have an element of kitsch. The use of B-rated horror movie samples is prevalent and adds a certain macabre je ne sais qua.