[Interview and Article by Andrew Barry, Photos by Christopher Andrews]
Meeting with the members of Christian Rock at their spiritual (and in some cases literal) home of All Plastics Recording it is immediately clear that the band is no marriage of convenience, or mere side project.
The three musicians in Christian Rock are all at ease with each other as coffee, cigarettes, easy banter and self-deprecating wit flows. Rhett Copland, Jamie Larson and Brian Feary are all well-established members of Christchurch’s Indie scene, and despite busy musical schedules they get plenty from this latest endeavour.
I’m with them, ostensibly to discuss the lack of music venues in Christchurch but conversation jumps from left to right with ease and a sense of fun.
Topics covered include;
- Withering (and deserved) put-downs of sacred local music cows [for names of whom, send me a fiver].
- The ups and downs of the internet for musicians.
- The horror that is Nelson, (“It’s shit, and too many people hate me” – Copland)
- The merits of various member’s potential careers as gigolos, and broadcasters, Rhett not so great – (“I’d be a shit gigolo, id care about myself, not her needs”) and Jamie, pretty good (he’s a student at the New Zealand Broadcasting School).
This is before concluding finally in a revealing run through of the inside the actors studio 10 questions. That might just come later, and it’s a superb little pop psychology quiz.
This many paragraphs in is probably a few too late, but it’s perhaps about time to explain quite who and what Christian Rock are. They’re good friends, music obsessives, and to boot (as Copland says); “Everyone’s having fun playing.”
This sense of fun, and slightly warped humour is evident from the off, the band’s name and song titles have been described as Brilliant by Russell Brown, and I’m not about to pick a fight on such a clear-cut issue, he’s right, plus, regardless who am I to argue with the doyen of New Zealand’s blogosphere.
Rhett says the name partially comes from memories I’m sure we all share of Rockquest days where “When you’re 16, anything rock or from out of town is legit” and the inherent humour which surrounds everything in that competition,
Call me cynical or a pushover but once again I’m not going to argue that point, because for all its good, there’s something adorably and endearingly witty about Rockquest, even if it’s often by accident. Furthermore it’s hard to take issue with Copland when he says “I found Christian Rock (The genre) really funny then, and I do now”.
Christian Rock the band though, are funnily enough, a Rock n Roll group made up of atheists, described by their drummer as basically “Being more of a child-like form” than the member’s collective and numerous other projects, and “A return to guitars after the Sonics of the likes of Phobos Eros” by their vocalist.
These quotes aren’t meant to imply the band isn’t taken seriously, but rather that it opens up avenues for three talented guys to scratch musical itches they otherwise might not be able to reach.
Punk, psycho-Billy and garage rock feature on the menu, with Bob Log III cited as a key influence. All of the above can be heard in the strident ‘We’ll meet at Riccarton Mall to fuck” some would argue the band’s legacy is safe already, just through having had a song of such a name grace the airwaves of National Radio.
But there’s more in store, the irreverent sensibilities of the band saw the first practice yield three songs from the ether, with multi-instrumentalists Copland and Feary enjoying the challenges and excitement of (surprisingly after so many band’s each) playing as a duo of guitarists for the first time.
The band is featured on [Joe Sampson’s new Christchurch-based label] Melted Ice Cream’s brilliant recent compilation, Sickest Smashes from Arson City. Sampson sums things up perfectly by stating of Copland “It’s the most energetic I’ve heard him”
Rhett Copland, self-described as musically skitzo, but better known for languid psychedelica, superb shoegaze and introspective soundscapes is firmly in more of a rowdy mode here, backed up by the equal parts perfect time keeping and machine gunning of Larson’s drumming, not to mention the versatility and force of Feary’s guitar playing.
The aesthetic of the band at this stage in their early development is just as tightly formed and well-rounded as the lack of fat on the bones of their tunes -pieces that are more missives than songs really.
Christian Rock themselves claim that it’s simply “Been fucking fun, and it’s too early (for the band) to be anything” but the early songs and presentation hint at a manifesto, and plenty more incendiary musical nuggets ahead.
Artwork features the takes of several celebrity fans about the group and the knowing touch of ‘Professional band’ is added to their official Facebook handle.
This band is simply three guys having a good time making music together; and that is about as pure a motivation as there is left in contemporary music (which on the whole is just “There to sell cars”). However, because of the intelligence and passion of the members it transcends what in lesser hands could be a cliché.
Rhett’s right in saying Its unusual to be this invested – especially in a time where the general public aren’t and so much music is simply there (as Feary puts it); merely “Written to be played to a crowd”, this is not to mention Copland’s point that “No one in New Zealand music’s made money except Dave Dobbyn”.
However, we should be thankful for the trio’s investment, as short, sharp, fun but fiery bursts of Rock n Roll courtesy of Christian Rock might just be the kick up the ass a willing, but still broken and tired Christchurch City needs.
Copland says that listening to music “You can tell when there’s genuine intent.” Those who have taken to Christian Rock so far know that intent is unmistakable, but Garden City listeners’ best make the most of this, at least in the live arena while they can; a move to Auckland, for greater access to festivals, and a more receptive audience is pencilled in for 2014.
Click here for more images from the Sickest Smashes from Arson City compilation album release party.