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BANDS BANDS BANDS BANDS BANDS. Man, there are a lot of them. Just look around. Yikes. A couple years ago, before myspace logged into the tar pits, I would occasionally click on the bands on there and listen to almost three seconds of some of them. Listening to music perched and bored in front of a little computer tends to wear on your patience after a while. Eventually I'm navigating away from a new band before the fourth stick-click of the count-in happens. One little diamond in a sea of Dave's popped through though. Starting with a great name. Then, like The Urinals or Hank Williams, the songs get right to the point, make the point and end when the point is made. And the singer? Get this....he sings!

How often do you get haunting and punk at the same time? Never, that's when. Well, except for right here...

As has become his interview M.O., Lars begins with a track-by-track analysis of the LP. -Ed.

Lars: 'Blackout Summer' - Side A - "Pre-Apocalyptic"
Brian: One of our oldest songs. Faust’s “It’s a Rainy Day (Sunshine Girl)” and The Urinals’ “Hologram” were the chief inspirations. The song has a really wonky structure because when we first recorded the song, it wasn’t really written yet. I told Lucy to just play the beat for an indeterminate amount of time, then I went back and wrote everything over the recorded drum tracks. “We’ll figure it out later...” has pretty much been our band motto. The song ended when Lucy lost the beat so I masked that with the sound effect of an explosion, which was appropriate considering the song is about the end of the world. The version on the LP is more “finished” than that early demo. I like how atmospheric it turned out.

Lars: "Black Cloud"
Brian: A song about drinking to excess. My first stab at writing something Kiwi-pop influenced. “14th Floor” by TVPs was another vague inspiration. Lucy’s favorite song to play.

Lars: "I Don’t Care"
Brian: An “Us against the World” love song. Musically, I was trying to do a breezy, Tropicalia type thing. I’m really proud of the solo on this one. The other day, Lucy and I were talking about how the drums sound like slowed down dancehall reggae. I know you prefer the drumless demo version, Lars, but this was the way it was meant to be heard!

Lars: "Anxiety Attack"
Brian: Our most overtly Urinals-sounding tune, right down to the “ack” in “attack.” I used some of McHugh’s toys on this one — toy piano on the verses and a Radio Flyer wagon to accentuate the snare hits on the second half of the song. I guess the Radio Flyer was donated to the Distillery by Gitane Demone from Christian Death. Basically, if you bang the bejeezus out of it with a rusty wrench it sounds really cool. The Distillery is rad like that, each piece of equipment there has a story. It’s like a museum or something.

Lars: "Egypt"
Brian: Not much to say about this one, really. A song about the absurdity of an afterlife and the weird shit that people believe. The organ part was fun to play. The drums, not so much, according to Lucy.

Lars: "Bed Island"
Brian: When I was a kid and I was drifting off to sleep, I used to imagine that my bed was a desert island and that I was totally isolated on it. The vocal melody is based on the version of “Darling, Let’s Have another Baby” by Stef Petticoat and Robert Crash. “Sandpaper Lullaby” by the Virgin Prunes and “Mister Sandman” by The Chordettes were other influences. The song wasn’t finished when we went into the studio so I wrote a lot of it on the spot, like the guitar solo.

Lars: Side B - "Dinosaurs"
Brian: McHugh says this is our “Sesame Street song.” Yeah, I know, it’s really cutesy and twee. What can I say? I never grew out of my dinosaur phase. The song is obliquely influenced by “Tulpen und Narzissen” by Die Doraus und die Marinas, a super catchy Neue Deutsche Welle tune. I played the synth lines on the Distillery’s temperamental ARP Odyssey. I don’t know what “portamento” means but it makes the keyboard sound cool.

Lars: "It’s True"
Brian: Probably the most “confessional” lyrics I’ve ever written. Ha ha. It’s a song about being a moody asshole. Lucy spent a whole day trying to nail the drums and I think we ended up just using the first take. The Bats and The Clean were big influences. My favorite song on the record.

Lars: "Weird You Out"
Brian: I really like how the drums came out on this one. Definitely our noisiest song. One track is just guitar feedback. I was going for a dark pop sound, kind of like Joy Division meets The Chills. The lyrics are about being on the same page with someone in a relationship and not creeping them out by saying something too crazy too soon.

Lars: "Doin’ Swell"
Brian: We did this one for Mike Sniper. He was instrumental in hooking us up with In the Red. Sniper’s one stipulation was that we put “Doin’ Swell” on the record. We didn’t want to use the same version as the World’s Lousy 7” so we re-recorded it with McHugh. Personally, I think Harry got the better version. Somehow the one we did in Lucy’s bedroom on a digital 8-track with everything panned center came out better. Figures.

Lars: "My Baby"
Brian: This is a really old song, one I wrote back in my pre-Island days when I would stay at home and pine away into my 4-track. Sixties girl groups are the obvious influence. I wanted to change the subject matter of the lyrics because it wasn’t applicable to me anymore, but it didn’t sound right. So instead I tried to tie it in with more of an apocalyptic theme so it would be a good bookend with “Pre-Apocalyptic.” Besides, a lot of those old girl group songs have a real sense of finality — “Dressed in Black” by the Shangri-Las for instance.

Lars: "Blackout Summer"
Brian: I like it when records end on the title track. A song about summer heartache. We doubled two separate organ tracks and played both through a tiny guitar amp so they’d sound really blown out. The Leslies of the two organ parts are out of sync, so it produced a nice effect. That faint yell at the end is Lucy.





Lars: What's an ideal day in San Diego like?
Lucy: Walk to the grocery store with the dog, make breakfast, band practice, listen to records, party with buds and/or go to a show.

Lars: What's your diet like?
Lucy: I cook most of my meals at home but I can't drive past an In-N-Out without wanting to stop.
Brian: Shit, for the most part. Pizza, burritos and hamburgers, washed down with coffee and booze. I’ve been trying to eat healthier and exercise more, though.

Lars: What inspired you to start recording yourselves?
Lucy: Brian had recorded a version of “My Baby” before we met and I loved it. When we started playing music together he recorded the demos in my bedroom.
Brian: Home recording has been a hobby of mine ever since I got my first 4-track in high school. I didn't really think I'd do anything with it but when I heard bands like The Urinals and Desperate Bicycles it kind of legitimatized that type of recording for me.

Lars: Tell me about recording with Mike McHugh.
Brian: McHugh’s the best. It was kind of awkward at first because we'd never been in a studio before and I think he was trying to get a feel for us, but after that we got along great. He's a lot of fun to hang out with. He has a wry and vaguely offensive sense of humor. Larry described him to me as a “mad scientist” and I would have to agree. Some of his recording methods are unconventional but he definitely knows what he's doing.

Lars: Talk to me about The Urinals some more...
Brian: I love The Urinals. Their early stuff was a huge influence on Christmas Island. 100 Flowers for that matter, too. I like the idea of taking one or two chords and beating them into the ground with a simple, rickety drumbeat.

Lars: What's your take on cigarettes?
Lucy: I smoke too much.
Brian: I dabbled for years but quit for good once I felt that I was getting addicted.

Lars: What's life in San Diego like? Are there good shows? All of ours have been rough!
Brian: It’s like anywhere else except with better weather. There are good shows but typically only on the weekend. San Diegans in general, though, aren’t very enthusiastic about music or art. I’m a fucking nerd about that shit; I’m always checking new bands, films, books, etc. It seems like no one investigates anything or takes chances or goes to shows to listen to music. It’s all about what your friends are doing and being social and getting fucked up.

Lars: What new bands do you like?
Lucy: Tyvek, Eat Skull, So Cow.
Brian: The Mantles.

Lars: What older stuff have you been listening to?
Lucy: Lots of Ethiopian and Cambodian music. I've been obsessed with P.I.L., Crass, and Neu! lately, too.
Brian: The Terminals, Alex Chilton, X (Australia), The Embarrassment.





Lars: What do you guys do for work?
Lucy: I work at a gelato shop and I moonlight at a steakhouse.
Brian: I have a 9-5 office job in the advertising department of a local alt-weekly.

Lars: How often do you practice?
Brian: 2-3 times a week. It doesn’t sound like it sometimes.

Lars: What's the worst show ya'll have played?
Lucy: Probably the Victim of Time showcase last year at SXSW. We were really partied out. We got offered to play a BBQ but after our set the person told us we were too slow.
Brian: Our LP release show with you guys and Wounded Lion in San Diego. The turnout was dismal. I was expecting more of our friends to show up. I mean, it was our record release show! Granted, it was a Monday night but still…what the fuck?

Lars: What was the best show?
Lucy: My favorite was when we played San Diego last December with Braaiins!!!, Cowabunga Babes, and Woah Hunx. It was my first time playing to a mosh pit.
Brian: Last year’s SMMR BMMR in Portland was awesome. We played well and there was a good turnout. People were singing our lyrics in the audience, which was a trip. Plus, sharing the same stage as Fred and Toody was pretty mind-blowing.

Lars: What's your relationship with your folks like?
Brian: Embarrassingly good. They’re still together after 30 years and they’ve always been super supportive.
Lucy: Good, but my family is crazy.

Lars: What kind of movies do you guys like?
Lucy: I love big budget action movies and low budget comedies.
Brian: I’m a movie nut. I own way more DVDs than records. Probably close to 500. Lots of Seventies and Eighties horror, spaghetti westerns, Gialli, exploitation, sci-fi, etc. Some high brow, artsy-fartsy stuff, too.

Lars: How did you come up with the name?
Brian: I stumbled across it somewhere and it sounded like a good name for a pop band. Then I read more about how the Christmas Island in the Pacific was a nuclear bomb testing site and that kind of solidified it for me. It was a hard sell, though; Lucy hated the name at first.

Lars: Can you tell me about the Christmas Island tattoo?
Brian: Our friend Mike Bova from the Cowabunga Babes called us one night and told us he was getting a Christmas Island tattoo. Next thing we know, he sends us a pic of a drunken stick and poke. The logo was all his idea.

Lars: And tell me about the Butthead tattoo too...
Lucy: It's on my arm. It's a friendship tattoo with Mike Bova. He has Beavis.

Lars: What's the worst music you like?
Lucy: Whitney Houston.
Brian: Eek-A-Mouse. I used to listen to him in high school and out of curiosity, I recently downloaded some of his LPs. I was surprised how much I still liked it. Bidi bong bong.

Lars: Talk to me about Craig.
Brian: Craig's the dude. He plays guitar and keyboards with us live. He runs Volar Records. I also play in Spirit Photography with him.

Lars: What's in the future for Christmas Island?
Brian: Bass. We're adding a bass player. Lucy's brother will be handling those duties. In July we're touring the West Coast with So Cow. After that, we're recording a 12" EP or something for Woodsist and then LP number two. Hopefully a UK or Euro tour as well.

END INTERVIEW






DISCOGRAPHY
split 7" w/Le Jonathan Reilly (FDH Records/Shit In Can Records)
'World's Lousy With Ideas Vol. 5' 7" comp (Almost Ready Records)
'Blackout Summer' LP/CD (In the Red Records)
'Nineteen' 7" (Captured Tracks)

Christmas Island on the web here.

Pics provided by Mr. Finberg and the band, if anyone would like a credit please contact the editor.

To read other interviews in the 'Lars vs...' series, go here.

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