Interview Josh Jones
Photography Dan Wilton
It’s impossible to explain just how infectious Christmas’ guitarist Patrick Scott-Walsh’s laugh is on paper. From the beginning to the end of this drunken, rowdy interview, his wails of laughter kept setting off his bandmates, and everyone else nearby, into fits.
The quartet, who met at college in Olympia, WA, are really hard to find out much about online. After all, their name isn’t exactly a unique one to shove into Google. But when you do eventually happen upon their blog, you’ll find on odd collection of films they’ve made of themselves, songs and the craziness that fills the rest of their heads.
Their music is urgent, with distorted, sometimes incomprehensible, wailing vocals from the sultry, siren-like lead singer Emily Beanblossom, over tense and brooding guitars coupled with Jake Jones’ drums. Christmas literally rock and roll you. They’re intense and fast – rarely pausing for breath – and will exhaust you.
We met at a house party in West Austin, during the mayhem that is SXSW, just after the band had played a set in the back yard. We were all wasted on Lone Stars and $6 André ‘champagne’ and the interview quickly descended into karaoke talk, what Pat does in his van, the TV show Skins and erections, but it started with bassist Dave Halegua asking if I’ve heard their debut, eponymous record.
I have. It’s my favorite of all the SXSW records I downloaded before I came here.
Dave: Really? That’s sick.
Yeah sorry, that was actually meant to sound a lot more complimentary than that. I listened to it four times on the way here from Dallas.
I think there’s a bit of a weird undertone of The Shadows in your music. Have you heard of them?
Dave: Who? No.
The UK guitar band from the ’50s. Hank Marvin? Cliff Richard used to be their singer?
Dave: No, I haven’t heard of them. They sound pretty awesome though.
Is ’50s music an influence? I fucking hate influence questions. I’m sorry.
Dave: You know, I listen to a lot of electronic music, and I guess mainstream rock when I was younger. Now it’s more rap and good electro and garage stuff – it’s all over the place.
Jake: I’ve turned from being a crappy guitar band fan into a metal head in like two days.
Pat: I listened to the Violent Femmes too much when I was in middle school (laughs).
Did you blister in the sun?
Pat: Yeah. Pretty much.
I used to sit next to a girl at a job I had who would listen to that song like nine times in a row. There are only so many times you can listen to that nasal whining.
Pat: I sing that song every time I sing karaoke. No, no I don’t, I sing “Add It Up” by them. Every time I do karaoke, I HAVE to sing a fuckin’ Violent Femmes song. It’s just like non-negotiable.
Dave: Elton John’s my favorite.
Do you sing “Circle Of Life”?
Dave: No way. I sing “Benny And The Jets”. Oh yeah. That’s the best fucking karaoke song ever.
Emily: No way. Whaaaat? That is TERRIBLE.
Pat: That’s a fucking terrible song. (Screeching) Bennny, Bennny. That song sucks for karaoke.
Dave: It’s got such a great beat to it.
Emily: The beat is dull and boring.
Pat: You just like the chord change in it.
[A guy walks past and tells them how good their show was just now.]
Emily: Ooooh. Thank you so much. That means a lot. I thought we sucked ass.
What she means by that is “Benny And The Jets” is a shit song. I read the subtext in her face.
Emily (laughing): I like to sing Patsy Cline at karaoke.
Pat: Emily has a really good, soulful voice (laughs).
I’ve only got one story about Patsy Cline and it’s got my brother in it – who’s actually called Jake Jones. Which is weird. Because so are you Jake. I’ve never met anyone else with that name.
Dave: His brother’s called Jake Jones.
Jake: Woah. Really?
Pat: It’s a bit too similar to Jim Jones. I actually had a different name when I was born and my name was changed later on. My name was Julian Kitson when I was born. But then I got adopted. Now my name’s Pat Scott-Walsh.
Erm… so your music’s really good. Did you see that swift switch back to your music? I could work in live TV. I’m really sorry I missed your show – I had to walk here, I couldn’t get a rickshaw for love nor money.
Emily: I’m glad you didn’t see us tonight.
Pat: We kinda killed ourselves making the record.
Dave: We recorded it all live in a tiny little studio all together.
Emily: It took about two days in all.
Pat: Pretty much all our songs we managed to get in one or two takes. We were like, ‘Done that. Next song.’
Emily: I just like free vocalled over it.
Did you rap?
Emily: Pretty much.
Pat: Yeah there was some rap. Then we got a hippie woman to come and dance for us.
Emily: To dance amongst the stars.
Dave: Actually the school we all met at was like a hippie college. There were no grades.
You went to one of those colleges where you call your teachers by their first names? I’ve seen documentaries on people like you.
Pat: It was just like Skins.
It’s nothing like Skins.
Pat: It’s like Skins where you go to high school and you call your teachers by their first names. That is all I know about where you’re from. I love the UK Skins – it’s one of my favorite shows.
Emily: I don’t know this show.
Pat (laughing): It makes me feel like I didn’t spend my time at high school properly – I should have been doing more drugs and partying a lot more. I should have been having sex with my teachers. I didn’t steal cars. Was I a loser at high school?
Yeah, I’m sorry you were.
Pat: Have you seen this? (Puts his cowboy hat on) We’ve learned this in Texas. If you push it forward over your eyes it means you’re asleep. Push it right back, you’re a retard (screams with laughter).
So where are you off to after Austin? I’m gonna try and bring this back to being an interview.
Dave: What? Are you asking us something?
Pat: This lot are going back to Olympia and I’m going back to Athens, Georgia because that’s where I live.
I thought you guys all live together on the West Coast? Do you play guitar by Skype?
Pat: No I just send vulgar text messages through.
Dave: Pat’s renowned as the infamous prank caller of Athens, Georgia. He got on Google Voice and rang an imam in Egypt during the riots there and asked them if they had any mummies in their gift shop.
Pat (laughing): I put $10 on Google Voice and I prank called Egypt so many times. It’s like, two cents a minute. Syria on the other hand is 24 cents a minute so I was like fuck that. That’s a total rip off.
Dave: He’s prank called all of us.
Jake: He rang me up once asking to get some weed for my friend who doesn’t even smoke weed, I was like ‘Who the fuck do you think you are?’ Then he texted me to tell me I’d been pranked.
Emily: You’ve never called me.
So you’ve got no plans to go on tour soon?
Dave: No we did a big tour back in September, which was across the whole country.
Shit. There was one question I was gonna ask you, and now I’ve forgotten. Any idea what it was?
Dave: Something about the tour? The tour was cool.
Pat: In the back of the van, I had a boner the whole time.
Emily: The whole time on tour?
Pat (laughing): Yeah, and I just didn’t want to have that.
Was it the vibrations of the wheels on the bus?
Pat: Yeah! We were driving and I was sleeping, and I just had an erection the whole time.
Emily: I spent a bit of time back there and the vibrations. Well, I wrote some really good songs back there.
Pat: Oh, it is arousing.
That’s the difference between a man and a woman. He got an erection and you wrote a song.
Emily: Whatever, I did say I wanted to rape someone at the end of the block.
Jake: That’s true.
Emily: It was a joke. It was a joke.
Dave: We had a policy that if you wanted to pee in the van, you had to use this old sweatshirt.
Pat (laughing): Oh yeah, you had to tuck it into your pants. And piss on it.
Dave: It would have dried out by the time the next person had to use it.
Pat: It’s my van. I bought that van.
Why didn’t you just stop and get out?
Dave: You can’t stop.
Emily: America’s too big.
Pat: Gas mileage, dude.
Emily: We were back in the van after this one show and we had bought a whole bunch of Gatorade. So I pulled one out and, usually they’re red or green or blue. But this one was yellow. I was like ‘WHAT IS THIIIIIS?’
Pat: I’d pissed in it a whole bunch. So what? It’s my van. I lived in that van for three months. That’s what you do. You piss in a bottle. You have no choice. And it’s so easy to connect it to my penis and go to bed.
That is quite weird. You guys stuck in a van sounds awesome.
Pat: We went to the Booker T, Tina Turner and Isaac Hayes rest stop while we were on tour in Tennessee.
Dave: That’s the actual, entire name of the place.
Pat: We had pulled up there and we were surrounded by a bunch of fat people – because fat people drive cars everywhere across this country. We were exercising – doing push-ups and sit-ups and the whole band was really exercising. I like exercising, it feels really good and— WHAT THE FUCK! Are you wearing YouTube socks?
Yep. We got them last night at the Beardyman showcase.
Pat: I wanna masturbate man. That is something else.
Emily: How is this interview going? Are you getting what you need?
This has to be my favorite interview I’ve ever done.
Pat (laughing): It’s awful. We’re awful.