In the glamorous world of music journalism, the angle is everything. If you don't have an angle, you can't make the millions and score the chicks. I suppose it could parallel rock 'n' roll in that way. You need an angle there, too. Put on some kabuki makeup and spit fire. Play two chords and scream naked. Those types of things will certainly give a potential record company something other than your music to market, help score groupies and also make music writers like me take notice.
But bullshit and sarcasm aside, when every band on the block has something, anything other than the music to latch onto, local band Christmas Island just has the music. Seriously. Sure, there are some things that I could focus on: The fact that the core of the band is a couple? That's precious enough for domesticated 30-somethings to go “Awww, honey, look at the cute little artsy couple playing music together. Let's skip Mad Men tonight and go watch this band instead.” Or, the fact that they were mentioned in Rolling Stone? That's something, even if it really was only to say that their house in North Park is the place where all the hot bands hang out.
Christmas Island play really cool, often catchy indie rock that defies genre classifications and comparisons. That's all I'm gonna give you. That's my angle. What a concept.
Brian Carver didn't start a band to score chicks. The guy all but admits he's an über music geek and spent years working in local record stores before ever contemplating playing in a band. When he met Lucy Wehrly four years ago, she was playing in a band called The Cowabunga Dudes (“We had songs about farting,” Wehrly says), and after the two started dating and that band broke up, making music together came naturally, Carver says.
“I was really inspired by her playing in [Cowabunga Dudes] because they were really having fun,” he says over coffee and cigarettes on the patio of North Park's Claire de Lune coffeehouse. “That's what I wanted.”
With Carver on guitar and vocals and Wehrly on drums, they recorded some tracks and started posting them on MySpace and sending them to friends. One day, a friend sent them an e-mail saying that he loved their stuff and he was going to talk to a friend at a label. Next thing they knew, In the Red Records, an L.A.-based indie label that gave bands like Vivian Girls and Black Lips their start, was contacting the duo about putting out their record. They hadn't even played a live show yet.
“It was, uh—it was,” Carver says, pausing, still seemingly shocked at the way it went down. “We were thrilled beyond belief.”
But even in Christmas Island's early recordings, it's easy to see why In the Red saw something. Their music isn't poppy in the same way that, say, a Britney Spears song is considered poppy. I mean, hell, there's no bass, Carver's voice isn't exactly Stevie Wonderish and the lyrics are as sad as a three-legged dog. But there's just something about it that sticks in your head.
Their new record, Blackout Summer, is the perfect middle ground between that lo-fi sound all the cool kids love and something that could also appeal to a wider audience. “Black Cloud” is a beautiful blast of early-'90s-style indie rock that could have been one of Pavement's greatest hits, and “Doin' Swell,” one of their earliest recordings, sounds fuller now that the band recorded it in a studio. Even their live shows have come together, playing as a three-piece with Craig Oliver on guitar and keyboards.
“We draw from everywhere,” Wehrly says. “I just feel like with each song it's different, and we haven't been able to pinpoint our sound.”
“Really, we just make the music we want to make,” Carver says. “Our only limitations are as far as our own talent. But other than that, no matter what we do, it will be on the pop-music end of things. It always ends up more poppy than I think we intended.”
He chuckles, then adds, “I've been threatening Lucy that we're gonna do a ska song next.”
Christmas Island plays with Jeremy Jay on Thursday, Oct. 22, at Soda Bar. www.myspace.com/xmasisland.
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