INTERVIEW: Charlie Christmas

Hi Charlie, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?

I guess I’m holding up OK considering the smorgasbord of madness and chaos we’re all facing. Basically, I’m trying to figure out which wine pairs best with the apocalypse.

Out of all the songs, why did you choose to cover “Our House?”

I drum with a cover band called the Doublewide Kings. We were putting together a show of CSNY songs, and I said, Fine—but no ‘Our House’.  That one always seemed a little too sweet and precious to me. My bandmate and longtime buddy Johnny Pone suggested playing a non-precious, punked up version, so cut to me playing ‘Our House’ in front of a paying crowd, who seemed to really like it. That’s where the idea started. 

What was the approach you went after with this track?

I’ve always loved the way Joey Ramone handled “What A Wonderful World,” setting a beautiful melody against raw guitar energy, so that was a guide. And it felt right to mix things up with a Jamaican breakdown.

How did you go with balancing the original with your own take?

I’ll turn that one over to the lead vocalist on the track, Young Jimmy Christmas:

We were looking for ways to experiment and have fun, but didn’t want to do things just to be different— the song still had to work. Plus, genetically speaking I am essentially a cover of Charlie, so that informed my approach.

The single comes off your new cover album Spotty Coverage – what’s the story behind the title?

I live up in the hills where phone reception is always a bit of a gamble. The phrase ‘Spotty Coverage’ seemed like a good way to warn listeners that the music might also suffer from service outages.

How was the recording and re-writing process?

Here’s Jimmy again:

Recording together and figuring out the re-arrangements was a blast. There were a few hiccups, like the moment where I doubted everything I had ever learned about rhythm while recording a cajon part. But overall… smooth. I even got to answer the call when Charlie demanded “more cowbell.”

What role does LA play in your music?

I really do love the weird, dark history of this place, musically and otherwise, and that definitely makes its way into what I do. And, more directly, it gets hot as hell in the garage where Young Jimmy and I record.

Would you call this a departure or rather a continuation of your previous work?

I guess I’d consider it a lateral shuffle. Or a rude attempt to leave my DNA on other people’s music.

How would you say your other, sort of unusual gigs in the business, have found its way into your music?

The straight path will get you there faster, but the ridiculously winding, inefficient path can be a lot more interesting. I’m inclined to take the winding path in career and in songwriting.

Where did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?

This time around it was a matter of finding new twists on stuff that’s always grabbed me—like swapping synths for banjo on Yazoo’s ‘Only You’ or slowing the groove when we let our Beach Boys geek-flag fly on ‘Wild Honey.’

What else is happening next in Charlie Christmas’s world?

The pandemic means there’s plenty of home studio time right now so I’m doing a lot of binge writing and recording. And on the rare occasions I leave the house, I must say I look pretty damn good with a mask on.

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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