INTERVIEW

“Ceratosaurus are my favourite dinosaur,” says Brian without a second thought. “It was basically like a T-Rex but with a horn on its nose. Pretty badass.

christmasisland

Dinosaurs, beach melodies and girl groups inspire this duo to sound smarter than your average rad garage band… sometimes

There’s a moment on Christmas Island’s debut album, ‘Blackout Summer’, where the dating duo of Brian Carver and Lucy Wehrly add an extra fistful of twee to their Tronics-inspired Cali garage. Boyishly pondering the existence of scaly prehistoric monsters, ‘Dinosaurs’ is also the track you’ll sing for the whole of the following day, flatly, if you’re doing it right.

“Ceratosaurus are my favourite dinosaur,” says Brian without a second thought. “It was basically like a T-Rex but with a horn on its nose. Pretty badass. I also like the really huge dinosaurs like Seismosaurus, Supersaurus and Argentinosaurus. It boggles my mind that things that big ever walked the Earth.”

He’s not making these names up – I’ve checked. Brian is simply a man with the kind of childlike wonderment you’d expect from a Christmas Islander who chose their name “because it sounded like some magical, imaginary place,” and Lucy, whose old band were called [best put your slice of pizza down for this] The Cowabunga Dudes, clearly tows the same youthful line. Together they’ve been stoking the San-Diego-is-so-rad-right-now fire for a little over a year, along with Wavves, Dum Dum Girls and Crocodiles. ‘Blackout Summer’ is their dude-licious take on west coast, summer jams, and a record that buries a sizable booty of different influences along its shoreline.

“I’d like to think we have our own sound,” says Brian. “We’ve been kind of lumped into the whole ‘lo-fi’ thing going on right now and I don’t really know how to address that. On one hand, I like a lot of bands that fall under that umbrella and it’s helped us achieve some degree of success, but it’s also frustrating because we never set out to be a part of some bigger movement, especially one where the unifying factor seems to be shitty-sounding recordings. Initially, we were going to record the LP ourselves but then I thought, here’s a great opportunity and why sabotage it by doing something I know will sound like shit. That’s why we ended up recording with Mike McHugh at the Distillery. The bands that inspired us initially were The Urinals, Tronics, Television Personalities and The Clean. Lately, I’ve been really into artists/bands with really strong, up-front guitar like Alex Chilton, The Soft Boys and Television.”

So far, so DIY, which is exactly what Christmas Island are, but on tracks like ‘Bed Island’, Brian’s melodies are more Beach Boys than Strange Boys; it’s slowed down surf pop about “a mattress made of sand” somewhere between Nodzzz’s horny no-fi and a Brian Wilson high school love song. ‘Egypt’, semi-slurring to a snake-charming organ doing a convincing impression of The Stranglers’ ‘No More Heroes’, sounds not unlike our own Graffiti Island; ‘My Baby’ is Shangri Las tambourine bashes and a big girl group swoon for those who’ve been dumped at the prom. The point is, Christmas Island really aren’t a lo-fi garage band in the cheese-burger-and-boners, carton sense, not like Black Lips or The German Measles are. They know more than two and a half chords and bands between them, and yet their logo is a candy cane crossed with a bong, and their debut album can’t help but include a handful of big, dumb summer tunes about Southern California, getting stoned and jumping into swimming pools. It is called ‘Blackout Summer’, I guess.

“Our friend Shauna coined the term,” explains Brian. “A couple of summers ago she said something to the effect of, “This will be our blackout summer,” in reference to how it would be an epic summer for getting wasted. I thought it sounded really cool and it seemed fitting for a song about the summertime and how it brings back heartache, hazy memories, etc.”

Hazy because they were long ago, or for some other reason, Brian? Your logo is a candy cane/bong emblem, after all, even if it only exists on your front cover in the form of a crude ankle tattoo. And whose ankle is that, exactly?

“Actually, it’s our friend Mike Bova’s, and yes, it’s a real tattoo,” nods Brian proudly. “He wrote to us one day and said he was going to a get a stick-and-poke Christmas Island tattoo. We were just like, ‘Uh…OK.’ Next thing we know he sends us a picture of the tattoo. We were really flattered to say the least. The logo was all his idea. It’s kind of a goofy album cover but there was no way we weren’t going to use it. I’m glad you noticed it was a bong because people always confuse it either as a penis, blow dryer or crack pipe. It seems pretty obvious to me that it’s a bong.”

Mike Bova, it seems, knows Christmas Island as well as Brian knows Jurassic beasties. His own handy-work might mean that his stick of striped candy looks as if it’s being crossed with a particularly unpleasant wang, but it is a bong, and that logo says a lot about Christmas Island. It says they’re innocent but dangerous; sweet but corrupt; naïve but wild. It describes them pretty accurately. They consistently write melodies superior to a lot of the American DIY set, but we can’t help but notice that one minute they’re about Stegosauruses and the next they’re about “acting like a fuck-head” (‘It’s True’), puking in the deep end (‘Blackout Summer’) or shear petulance (‘I Don’t Care’). Maybe it’s this schizophrenia that, in the year that has given us more lo-fi punk bands than you can shake a blow dryer/crack pipe/cock at, has made Christmas Island stick. Unlike so many others, we’re still talking about these ones.

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Originally published in issue 13 (vol. 3) of Loud And Quiet. December 2009

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