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Abney Park Puts the ‘Punk’ in Steampunk

Seattle band of "air pirates" rock hard, terrorize the skies.

By Alexandra Notman July 7, 2010


If you’re feeling nostalgic for an era that never was, when dirigibles and airship captains ruled the skies and mad scientists traveled by time machine, consider checking out Abney Park, a Seattle-based steampunk band playing Little Red Studio on Saturday. It’s not news that Seattle has a healthy steampunk scene—the Erotic Steampunk Festival is this weekend, and there’s even an annual convention in November Abney Park is one of the few bands embracing the Victorian-era, brass-tinged aesthetic in its stage show.

Led by the raspy baritone of front man Captain Robert (aka Robert Brown), Abney Park is a mélange of rock, industrial dance, international and gypsy beats played by a merry band of “airship pirates.” There’s the dreadlocked, goggles-wearing strings man Nathaniel Johnstone, who switches seamlessly between electric guitar, violin and mandolin; a corseted Kristina Erickson on a Tesla keyboard; bassist and acoustic guitar player Daniel Cederman, pistol holster always at the ready; and vocalist Jody Ellen, who whirls around the stage in a ruched skirt and bloomers.

There’s a sense of rebellion in their songs, as “Air Pirates” terrorize the skies and technocrats walk the plank. “To hell with modern technology!” they cry in “Throw Them Overboard,” off their latest album Aether Shanties. But the most steampunk aspect of Abney Park is their DIY attitude. All the instruments (and the microphone) have been reworked by the band with brass embellishments, cogs and gears (see Johnstone’s clockwork guitar in the slideshow above). It’s Jules Verne role-playing at its finest: “a riotous, hysterical, and haphazard journey unlike anything you are used to,” Captain Robert tells us. “It’s no surprise to see fire breathers, belly dancers, aerialists, swords, snakes, net guns, shock wands…things…breaking…well, just come and see."

Abney Park play the Little Red Studio on Saturday, July 10, as part of the Erotic Steampunk Festival. Tickets are available at

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