LIFE IN THE SLOW LANE

"I am the undisputed world champion of this band," says Mike Kirschmann about his group, the Christines. "And I play guitar and sing."
As any good bandleader should, Kirschmann has surrounded himself with talented musicians who are so happy to play together that the warm fuzzies could fly all afternoon. Shortly after he moved from the East Coast to Colorado in 1989, he met Nick White; he explains that he chose White as his drummer because "Nick and I work so well together that we decided to try to write some new songs--do all originals. I really liked his style because every song I came up with, he seemed to instinctively know where to be on the drums all the time."

Next, bassist Tim Hourigan came into the fold, even though he had no previous experience playing his instrument of choice. "I just never knew I had it in me," he admits. "I honestly didn't think we were going to do as well as we have."

Kirschmann is proud of Hourigan's musical progress. "Tim really picked up my style of writing bass lines," he says. "I tend to approach the bass like an important instrument melodically. He's got a really good sense of how to do that."

"It's almost like a separate lead," Hourigan adds.
By the early Nineties, this threesome was a bona fide band playing local dates under a not-very-good handle: Jolly Boat. They subsequently changed their moniker to the Christines (the name honors one of Hourigan's friends) and continued to ply their mellow musical approach, which combines Teenage Fanclubesque guitar noise with vocals that recall the Jesus and Mary Chain and Game Theory. A further refinement occurred earlier this year, when Eric Lowe, the former bass player for Denver's Trancemission, was added to the group as a guitarist and back-up vocalist.

"We feel a lot better since Eric's joined the band," Kirschmann says, "because we needed another guitar player--a good, solid musician. And Eric fit right in perfectly."

Still, Kirschmann hints that the newest Christine, who was known for zipping around the stage like a wind-up mouse while in Trancemission, has had some difficulty adapting to his current outfit's slower pace. Lowe, he claims, "has got a bit too much energy for this band."

"I've reformed to a shoegazer now," Lowe confesses, "and I move only a little bit--maybe to get a beer or something. Trancemission had more energy. The Christines make lack-of-sleep-and-still-hung-over-but-still-drinking-beer kind of music."

If this is true, Kirschmann says the blame lies with White's delicate drumming style: "Since Nick's the center of the band, this is like the Nick White-Quaalude approach to drumming. We have to mold our instruments to that sound." The results, however, are captivating--particularly on tunes such as "Tired," featuring a voicelike guitar lead from Kirschmann, and "Hollow," built around his lulling singing.

The latter track is to appear on the Christines' self-titled debut CD, to be released on Denver's Gift Records by the end of June. The match between label and band is ideal given that Gift creator/Twice Wilted frontman Kurt Ottaway is also Kirschmann's brother-in-law (Kirschmann met Ottaway's sister at a Twice Wilted gig). "[Kurt's] helped us out a lot," Kirschmann says. "He's probably one of the reasons we don't walk around with our heads bowed saying how much we suck, which we used to do a lot. I don't think about breaking the band up every other week anymore."

That's fortunate, since the seven songs that have been recorded for the disc are full of promise. They include "Just One More," "Too Close," "In My Dead World" (a crowd favorite) and "Drunk Driving Song," which, as Kirschmann notes, "has a snaky feel to it in the beginning--and there's just one verse. It's not pro or con drunk driving; it's just a statement of fact. We don't do it anymore because I got really sick of it."

In the meantime, the Christines are looking forward to their next slew of live performances. Unlike many of his peers, Kirschmann doesn't criticize the local music scene. "You might get the impression that people don't support local music enough," he says. "But I think it's just that there's so much going on that if you wanted to go see a good band every night of the week, you could. But not many people have the stamina to do that." Perhaps that's why he adds, "I don't care if people sleep through our damn shows as long as they pay to get in."

With wisdom like that, it's no wonder he's a world champion.

 
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