Artist of the day: Michael Christmas
Michael Christmas takes a cue from the massive sludgy sounds of Jesus and Mary Chain and My Bloody Valentine, combined with the echo drenched facet of ’60s surf groups like The Safaris, The Beach Boys, and the Ventures. Together they form a dense sonic wall tinted with catchy sing-along melodies.
Michael Christmas is a musical vehicle for childhood friends Benjamin Saylor and Peter Kokkinakos. Drummer Saylor (formerly of The Sun Society) and guitarist Kokkinakos round out the lineup with Tom Dicks (of Alexander and the Grapes) on bass, and Vaughn O’Loughlin on guitar. Having only been together since July, they already have an impressive resume. They recorded a demo, which is available online, and have performed more than 30 shows.
Michael Christmas will perform Saturday night at Fubar (658 Central Ave., St. Petersburg) alongside Easybreezy, Friends of Giants and others as part of this year’s Pelican Pop Fest. Other venues include include the Local 662, Sake Bomb, Cafe Bohemia and Daddy Kool Records. Other artists include Sons of Hippies, the Equines, Al Torchia and the Tattered Saints, Dead Sound, Billy Summer and more. Access to all venues is $10.
Saylor and Kokkinakos let us in on some of their sludgy secrets.
How did this Michael Christmas business come to fruition?
Saylor: Me and Pete have been talking about making a band for our whole life. We’ve been best friends since sixth grade. We put some songs together and recorded some demos and put ’em up on Bandcamp. THX MGMT was like “I like your stuff, you wanna play a show?” and we said, “Cool.” It was just us two, we were both playing guitar at the time. I’m the drummer now. I was doing both drums and guitar, but I really couldn’t do that live, so we recruited some friends to play with us. That’s how we got the ball rolling. It’s me and Pete’s thing; we do the songwriting and everything.
Kokkinakos: We record on a four-track. We have old ’60s fender amps. We are putting out a split EP that will be released on the Nashville label Sturdy Girls. We hope to put out a full length sometime before the summer.
Do you specifically use vintage gear?
Kokkinakos: Fender Silverface.
Saylor: Fender anything and everything!
Kokkinakos: Late ’60s, early ’70s.
Saylor: We have a ’69 Fender Bassman that’s blackface-moded, a Fender Super 6, a ’74 Music Man HD 130, the loudest amp in the history of the world, and a Late ’50s Japanese Decca Kit.
Where did your love for vintage gear originate?
Saylor: From birth. It’s definitely innate.
Where did you come up with your band’s name and were you offered an uncanny amount of gigs over the holidays?
Saylor: No. (laughs) We picked the name Michael Christmas on a whim. Actually one of our friends is named Michael Christmas. We named it after him.
Kokkinakos: We were hanging out with him and were like, “Yo, we have a show in four days and we don’t have a band name yet.”
Where does Michael Chrismas fit into this world?
Saylor: Genere-wise, anything that entails garage rock. We have elements of lo-fi and surf, and punk.
Saylor: Definitely put The Stooges in there. The Stooges are the kings! Another influence: I know for a fact that my mailman is Jim Morrison. I see him every day; looks just like him, he has the long hair and the shades. He’s like “What’s up, man.” (waves a peace sign).
Have you ever approached him about this?
Saylor: No, but his nametag definitely says “Jim.”
If Michael Christmas were an animal, what would it be?
Saylor: Definitely a Thylacine. It’s an extinct Australian animal that’s a mix between a tiger and a dog. It’s large for a dog and small for a tiger. It’s a rare breed, very strange. Not anything else is like it.
-- Aaron Lepley, tbt*