Interview: Christiansen

interview by mike bushman

Is life in Louisville that damn dramatic? It seems to consistently deliver bands that push this deep important sincerity to their music. The Louisville scene was first brought to my attention through the soft-indie rock emo croonings of Elliot. Elliot Singer Kevin Ratterman helped produce the Christiansen demo which provided the catalyst that developed into the bands first release, “Above Lunar Emissions”. The band shed some of the pretty and went more for their natural coming of age music and put out the slightly louder, “Emphasizing Function Over Design”, which is where I first absorbed the emo-tinged indie rock that Christensen excels in. The band is on Eulogy Records and the drummer works at Initial Records. Both labels are the forefront of what the hip indie kids are listening to and supporting some of the younger touring bands. Please explore further into all these worthy efforts. For now, let’s get some words with singer Brandon and drummer Terry of the Louisville Kentucky band Christiansen.

Bushman: The environment of Louisville?
Terry: There’s not very many bands that are totally active around here. So we are friends with all the other bands around here.

How big is Louisville (Kentucky)?
Terry: The biggest city in Kentucky.
Brandon: Just greater Louisville alone is over a million just for the city. And we live in the suburbs.

Do you think your sound is representative of what’s happening there?
Brandon: Not necessarily. I wouldn’t say Elliot or any of the bands out of Louisville besides, like Endpoint, who were like my greatest influence. Back in the day they were, but not really that much now.

So you see yourselves influenced by your own local scene than what the rest of the country was doing when you were growing up.
Brandon: I got turned on to indie rock really young. I went to see Endpoint and all the Falling Forward and starting out stuff, so it was definitely an inner social thing. I wasn’t listening to MTV as much.
Terry: I was just the total opposite. I was listening to MTV. Like, I’m black and I’m from Detroit so I was brought up listening to like Motown and shit and when I got into school I started listening to MTV and went through the whole grunge era.

So how did you end up on the path to something like Christensen?
Terry: I really couldn’t tell you. I guess I just hung out with people that were into this kind of stuff and that led to it.

Band was conceived in 1998. Was there a previous musical history to the members that is relevant to the sound that Christensen embraces?
Brandon: Not really relevant to this sound at all actually. We both came from pretty hardcore sounding bands. I came from a band called Flight 19 and it was pretty heavy and Brad and Terry came from another band.
Terry: We were both in young bands that kinda had a following. Actually me and Brad’s old band like hated the guys in Brandon’s band. They were total assholes to us. We always felt like they were talking shit about us. Somehow we ended up hooking up. It’s pretty weird how it worked out.

And what sounds do you tend to embrace?
Terry: A lot of stuff. I like a lot of techno stuff. And girl vocals. The Breeders and Portishead and stuff like that. Since I work at a record label (Initial Records) I hear all kinds of new shit so I’m pretty versatile.

Do you find working in the music industry has in any way shaped your direction as a musician?
Terry: It’s made me know what we have to do to be a band. We get demos in all the time from bands that want to get signed and stuff.

Things you have to do outside of just writing good music.
Brandon: Like it’s obvious you have to tour and put out records, but be active completely to make it.

I saw some pictures of you with bowling balls. You all high rollers?
Brandon: We weren’t trying to pass that message I guess. We played a show in Detroit and in the top was the venue we played and below it was a bowling alley. And they let us bowl for free.

I was on your website. Hit the pictures section. The first one I see is (roadie Kenny) I believe with a gun in his pants. Do you shoot a lot of things in Kentucky?
Brandon: No.
Terry: It’s a bb gun that he bought for $10 at Wal-Mart when we were on tour.

So it’s like self-protection for the band?
Brandon: Well, weren’t not gun-toting high rollers. Y’know, a lot of people ask me like, ‘Kentucky? Do you guys even wear shoes?’
Terry: No one really realizes…
Brandon: It’s the best kept secret.

Does it live up to its stereotype in its rural areas?
Terry: Yeah, anywhere outside of Louisville is totally redneck.

How does that work for you guys touring? Play some pretty unique places?
Terry: I’m always really scared when we are at a Redneck Gas Station. Totally afraid I’m going to get hung or something.
Brandon: Plus we are so centrally located. Indiana is right across the river. So we usually are heading north. When you get around the geography, Kentucky is not that big of a state. You can drive right through it,

What keeps you there as a home base?
Terry: It’s probably all our friends. Most people that grow up in Kentucky hardly ever move out. If they do go to school, they end up coming back.
Brandon: I guess it’s just the ties we have to our families and stuff. We really don’t have anywhere we need to go yet. The scene treats us really well. There are a lot of people that have been coming out to shows recently. We feel comfortable here. Instead of packing up and going somewhere else… it would feel awkward. I don’t think we are ready for that right now.

I heard they have good fried chicken. Is it better than other places? If one were to stop in Kentucky, should they get the chicken?
Brandon: Oh yeah. You have to.
Terry: If you come to Kentucky you have to eat Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Do you have KFC’s in Kentucky?
Brandon: Yeah. All KFC’s are becoming hybrids. Like KFC/Taco Bell or KFC/PizzaHut. It’s like everything is merging.

Speaking about your last album: “The Reformation Takes hold” has these great stop/start accents. What reformation are you referring to?
Brandon: All right… now we are getting serious, huh? I guess it’s a reformation of our music more or less. Our older CD was a lot poppier, ’emo’ if you will.
Terry: A lot less aggressive.
Brandon: Yeah, we tried to make everything sound pretty and blah blah blah. And I with this new record, we were reforming and just trying to get away from roots and look for different angles of playing music and changing the style that we play.
Terry: With our first record we were trying to be something, sort of, like because that was the cool thing to do. But now for me personally, I’ve gone back to listening to a lot of old records that I didn’t listen to before. Like all this grunge stuff that I sold because I didn’t like it because the grunge period was over. And I ended up going and buying them back and just totally going back to what comes natural and what we feel.

Who writes the tricky breaks?
Brandon: I’d say pretty much everybody.
Terry: We all live in the same house. So whenever we practice it’s totally like one big snowball of ideas that just keeps going.

The band seems very intent on the separation of each of the instruments.
Brandon: A lot of times I think that each part that gets incorporated into the song has it’s own unique element to it so we try to just make that prominent with all the tracks.
The lyrics seem to be very concerned with the efficiency of their meaning. They aren’t structured to rhyme and flow to deliver what needs to be said.
Brandon: A lot of it is stuff that I have written before the music was there. So it relied on me taking my words and putting them to the music and also trying to add a harmony to it.

‘The Concordance of Worms’ even has a more spoken word breakdown. Is that all Brandon? (Terry has some vocal credits)
Brandon: I wrote the lyrics, but Terry did the screaming in the background. He does basically a lot of the screaming you hear on that record.

What band changed your life completely?
Terry: Bjork. I listened to her when I was younger. I was in one of those phases like, “um I’m not indie rock or whatever and I like punk now, and I don’t wanna listen to this” and I ended up selling it to a used CD store. Then I had to buy it back with all her newer stuff, and the Sugar Cubes stuff.
Brandon: I don’t think necessarily the band, but the record that has changed my life and the way that I listen to music, is The Refused “Shape of Punk to Come”. I mean that one is incredible. I still listen to it frantically.
Terry: I wonder if they knew it was going to be “The Shape Of Punk To Come”?

Where was your social rung in high school? (Like if you were in the Breakfast Club movie, which character would you be?)
Brandon: Terry and Brad played football.
Terry: And we were in the marching band. Me and Brad were the only people in the county that would play football, and then during halftime, march with the marching band. With our football uniforms on.
Brandon: There wasn’t a skate kid in the Breakfast Club, but I was really big into skateboarding. I didn’t really hang out with anybody from high school. I hung out with people from other high schools that didn’t go to my own. I didn’t hate high school at all. But the people that I graduated with weren’t my cup of tea at all.
Terry: I was pretty much friends with everyone in my school. I got along with the thugs well, I got along with the grunge kids well and the preps well. I was actually on homecoming court.

What is Christiannsens drug of choice?
Terry: Alcohol.
Brandon: I mean.. ah.. yeah, that’s got to be it.
Terry: Should we really name all the…
Brandon: What are you talking about! You’ll make us sound like a bunch of drug addicts.

Best show ever was…?
Terry: The Red Room in Valdosta, GA. For some reason, the kids go nuts when we play. It’s a small city in Georgia right before you hit the northern tip of Florida.
Brandon: They’ve got a great scene down there. We recommend any band that’s on tour make a stop there.
Terry: It’s one of those places where they don’t get a lot of bands coming out, so when they do get a band, they are like, ‘Oh my god!’

What has being on the road taught you?
Brandon: That your van WILL break down.
Terry: Kenny our roadie getting more girls than the band.

Where do you find hope in today’s overly sensitive climate?
Terry: I find mine in music. I just sit down and play drums.
Brandon: There are always things to look forward tour. We are either going on tour or recording. I look forward to everything we have just because you forget about everything.

And last impressions you’d like to leave with the masses?
Brandon: Come check us out when we play your town.
Terry: And print some posters and flyers.