Local musicians share their sounds of Christmas
It’s no secret that we in the music section have a soft spot for all things Christmas. Heck, we even erected an eight-foot Douglas fir in an empty sub-cubicle a few weeks back and festooned it with twinkling lights. And we’re not talking those newfangled, low-wattage LEDs that the Power Smart fascists foisted on us all a few years back and that everyone has dutifully adopted despite the fact that they possess all the warm seasonal glow of an iPad screen. No, we’re talking about salvaged-from-Grandpa’s-attic Noma Bubble-Lites. Sure, the cord is a little frayed, and a small shower of sparks erupts every time it gets plugged in, but a lightly scorched carpet is a small price to pay for bringing a bit of seasonal cheer to Georgia Straight HQ—especially since neither of us will actually be paying for the damage.
We like to think our coworkers appreciate our efforts to brighten the place up for the holidays, although admittedly we haven’t bothered asking any of them. But we have observed a distinct spring in everyone’s step when they pass the boom box we have set up in the middle of the editorial department. Or at least they’re walking a little faster, and can you blame them for the added pep? Who wouldn’t want to hear Bing Crosby’s Merry Christmas album on repeat for eight hours while they work?
It turns out that we’re not the only ones who get a little misty-eyed when December 25 approaches. A lot of our fine local musicians have also been known to don their gay apparel (not that there’s anything wrong with that) and deck the halls. Whatever that means. We were wondering about their favourite Christmas songs, and also about their best-ever presents. So, being the nosy bastards we are, we went ahead and asked them.
Marc Blaquiere is the frontman for Kill City Kids. He and his bandmates, Jessica Blaquiere and Rob Leishman, make a demented sort of future-shock electro rock that you can imagine playing in the background while you get the living shit stomped out of you in the alley behind the Korova Milk Bar.
Favourite Christmas song: “A Charlie Brown Christmas, ‘Christmas Time Is Here’ [by Vince Guaraldi] is my favourite song of all time. Striking a fine balance between nostalgic happy memories of Christmas mornings with its soothing dark melodies and ‘Another Brick in the Wall’ harmonies. Ho-ho-ho—a shameless plug, but my band Kill City Kids just released ‘Now That’s the Christmas Spirit’, along with a holiday stop-motion video.”
Best gift ever: “Last year, we had a gift exchange with local band Antiparty and bass player Rhys [Lillo] gave me a handmade coupon that stated that I had a 30-minute foot massage with a homemade banana-scented and -flavoured hot oil. I have yet to cash in and am mos def thinking regift.”
Rykka is a scarily ambitious alt-rock siren whose smart blend of grunge-scarred guitars and new-wave-of-new-wave synths helped her win top honours in this year’s Peak Performance Project.
Favourite Christmas song: “My favourite Christmas song is the entire Boney M. Christmas Album because it’s the best Christmas album ever made. Also, I just watched ‘Mary’s Boy Child’ live from 1992 for the first time and if that doesn’t confirm it, stop ruining Christmas.”
Best gift ever: “P.J. Sparkles doll when I was five. A button on her back made her light up. I was a super-hyperactive child and I exploded with excitement. And she was still my bb long after Christmas time was over.”
Ben Collins sings and plays the guitar in Gnomadics. Along with Liam Kendall (bass, vocals), Max Wainwright (guitars and sounds), and Devon Parkin (drums), he is on a quest to find the middle ground between lo-fi ’90s rock and ’60s pop.
Favourite Christmas song: “SNL’s ‘I Wish It Was Christmas Today’, featuring Horatio Sanz on guitar, Jimmy Fallon on the organ, Chris Kattan holding said organ, and Tracy Morgan just hanging out and dancing. If you haven’t seen the video, you should definitely check it out—it’s hilarious. Since the clip first aired, there have been a number of attempts to re-create the original, but like most cases, nothing can outdo the original, not even Julian Casablancas’s chime-filled rock version. Nice try, J.C.”
Best gift ever: “Tough question. My family gives fairly ridiculous gifts on a regular basis, but I have to choose the paintball gun I received when I was 11. Shortly after opening the gift, my dad and I set up a shooting range in our back yard, with a tarp, some pop cans, and an old cardboard cutout of Santa. (Think six-foot-tall, vintage Coca-Cola-advertisement Santa.) Our neighbours in Kits didn’t really appreciate their Christmas being filled with the sounds of gunfire and the occasional paintball going through our fence and hitting their garage, but it was great.”
Laurie Biagini gives every indication that Brian Wilson and Cass Elliot rank high on her Christmas-card list with her fourth and latest album, the sunny ’60s-pop-soaked Sanctuary of Sound.
Favourite Christmas song: “I’d have to say my all-time favourite would be ‘Little Saint Nick’ by one of my greatest musical influences, the Beach Boys. It’s whimsical, festive, and brings enough sunshine to combat any form of seasonal affective disorder. I dig the melody, the chord progressions, and especially the vocal harmonies, and find myself subconsciously singing along when I hear this song being played. It’s a bit embarrassing when this happens in a mall or grocery store.”
Best gift ever: “When I was two, growing up in Coquitlam, I got my first toy piano—it looked like a miniature grand, all shiny and gold, and thanks to home movies, my dad was able to capture the moment when I first opened it and started making noise on it. It was barely out of the box and I was already pounding the keys. You can see this footage on a video for my song ‘Can’t Wait for Christmas’ on YouTube.”
Hannah Georgas explores the worlds of hard-candy rock and thinking person’s dance-pop on her eponymously titled sophomore album, released earlier this year. Based on her answers below, she’ll be spending December 24 watching The Nightmare Before Christmas surrounded by scarier-than-Halloween dolls.
Favourite Christmas song: “ ‘Carol of the Bells’ is Christmas if you ask me. I had a piano book of Christmas carols when I was little and that was my favourite one to play and sing. I love the haunting melody lines and choir that sings along. It has that Tim Burton/Edward Scissorhands vibe.”
Best gift ever: “I used to collect china dolls when I was a kid, and every year my mom would surprise me with a new one. I had at least 10 of them and would keep them in a huge glass cabinet and show ’em off to my friends. They would come with a name and their own story. I was kinda obsessed and now I think it’s absolutely hilarious and creepy. Oh, Mom—you’re such a good sport.”
Daniel McBurnie sings for Good for Grapes, whose just-released debut Man on the Page proves to be a winning, harmony-kissed entry into the international modern-folk sweepstakes.
Favourite Christmas song: “I usually loathe Christmas music, but there’s one tune called ‘I Took Some Time for Christmas’ by Belle and Sebastian. There’s only one live session recording of it, and because of the lack of official lyrics and the group’s slurred words, you sort of have to make up your own when singing along.”
Best gift ever: “Because my birthday is so close to Christmas—and has been since I was very young—I could always count on a dusty vintage guitar from my uncle. Those were always the best presents. Since then, he’s deemed me too old to play guitar, and opts to bring me tequila or other such delicacies back from Mexico.”
Bodhi Jones delivers seamless, radio-ready guitar pop on his latest, Bones, cuts from which you might hear while he’s busking on the streets this holiday season, presumably playing every Xmas song ever crooned by Bing Crosby back-to-back.
Favourite Christmas song: “I love any Christmas carol sung by Bing Crosby—the classics are where it’s at. If I had to pick one, I’d have to go with ‘White Christmas’. It paints a beautifully romantic picture of the holiday season with a subtle touch of sombre reflection.”
Best gift ever: “As far as most memorable Christmas gift goes, it’s a tie between getting Castle Grayskull with He-Man and Battlecat when I was six, and the mind-blastingly awesome moment when I opened up a box containing the original Nintendo Entertainment System with Super Mario Bros. and Duck Hunt when I was nine.”
Jeffrey Josiah Powell is part of the two-man opulent-pop crew known as Fine Times (Matthew Moldowan copilots the tour van). Give someone the duo’s synth-steeped Fine Times for Christmas, and they’ll be a hell of a lot happier than if you gifted that latest MGMT atrocity.
Favourite Christmas song: “Edward Bear: ‘Coming Home Christmas’. Gotta give it up to the band that soundtracked the early days of my parents’ romance. If not for that band, I might not be here! And, really, my parents’ Xmas card this year said that I am one of life’s great gifts. My brother and I remain in a contentious debate on exactly which of us is the greatest gift, even though we both quietly know the answer. Wink.”
Best gift ever: “As an adorable young boy, I was gifted the role of Rudolph, the leader of the rapping reindeers, in my first elementary-school play. Flanked by an eight-piece crew and sporting a lipstick-painted beak, I spat out the feature line of our song: “My name is Rudolph with the bright red nose.” It was my first and only taste of universal critical reception for an artistic endeavour. ‘You were absolutely delightful,’ said someone’s mom.”
Ari Shine and Adrienne Pierce make up the Royal Oui, whose debut EP, Forecast, walks a dreamy line between soft-jangle pop and languid country-noir.
Favourite Christmas song: (Adrienne) “I am a big fan of holiday music and love everything from Boney M to Elvis, but my favorite Christmas song is ‘Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth’ as performed by David Bowie and Bing Crosby. This unexpected collaboration between Bowie and Mr. White Christmas is really beautiful. Apparently, it almost didn’t happen, as David didn’t want to sing it, so they wrote a new part for him and he agreed at the last minute.”
Best gift ever: (Ari) “As a kid, books were my favourite present and that hasn’t changed. For this Jewish musician, the rock biography has always topped my wish list during the holidays. I have received books by Sting, Dave Mustaine, Joe Jackson, and countless others. This year, I hope to find the new Morrissey autobiography under the tree. The famously cranky singer apparently insisted it be published on the Penguin Classics imprint, which makes me love him even more.”
Jarrett Kobsesses over obscure bands from New Zealand that you’ve never heard of, but rest assured that the music made by the Tough Age singer-guitarist and his musical partners Penny Clark (guitar), Lauren Smith (bass), and Chris Martell (drums) will appeal to all those who like their pop jangly and fuzzy.
Favourite Christmas song: “Besides every super-religious carol (they stole all the best melodies years ago!), I’m totally in love with the madness that is ‘R2-D2 We Wish You a Merry Christmas’ from the totally worthwhile and insane Star Wars Christmas album, Christmas in the Stars. The record also features other ‘hits’ like ‘What Can You Get a Wookiee For Christmas (When He Already Owns a Comb)’. As if it couldn’t get weirder, ‘R2-D2’ has Jon Bon Jovi singing lead. What the hell is with this record?”
Best gift ever: “Most Christmas gifts I receive from my family tend to reflect things I was interested in briefly as a teenager and then never again. (Note to my mother: please do not buy me any more books by Kevin Smith, thank you.) Last Christmas, however, I was living in a freezing-cold attic I never wanted to enter, so Penny bought me a portable turntable for the main room. That way I could live my life without four sweaters on and still make my roommates listen to the John Denver and the Muppets Christmas LP [A Christmas Together] on repeat for a month.”
Adam Grant lends his voice and his six-string skills to Three Wolf Moon, which is undoubtedly the world’s best psychedelic-folk-rock outfit named after a T-shirt that became an Internet meme. And possibly the only one.
Favourite Christmas song: “I’m gonna have to say hands down it’s ‘All Alone on Christmas’ by Darlene Love and the E Street Band. It was on the Home Alone 2 soundtrack, just a jammer of a tune in general, and the Clarence Clemons sax solo is a serious ripper.”
Best gift ever: “One year, me and my brother Max (who plays drums in Three Wolf) got this wicked set of toys called Karate Fighters. They were like the ’90s version of Rock’em Sock’em Robots. Pretty sure we ended up rockin’ those more than the Nintendo that year. If anyone can find a set, I’ll actually buy ’em from ya, ha!”