Christine in the Attic Comes Out With Album That De-Emphasizes the Electronic Sound
The record company contingent in the crowd was unmistakable. A limousine had brought it to the rock club to hear local act Christine in the Attic, and now the company executives were standing in the middle of the dance floor, “all sort of lined up like hit men,” joked singer Christine Russell.
Christine in the Attic had worked for years to generate just this kind of label interest. But these executives had come only after hearing a track from the band’s independent, five-song EP on the “Local Licks” radio show on KLOS (95.5 FM).
The Morgan Creek Records people had actually tuned in to hear another band, and so it was only a fortunate accident that Christine in the Attic had been heard at all. The result of all this finally materialized for the band last week, when producer Chris Tsangarides (Concrete Blonde’s “Bloodletting” album) completed the final mixes to the band members’ still-untitled debut album.
The record’s 11 tracks, due for release early next year, spotlight the band’s newer, guitar-heavy sound alongside Russell’s rich, throaty wail. “It will probably be a little more raw, a little more directed,” Russell promised, comparing the upcoming record to the EP’s largely synthetic groove.
That first EP, produced by Ken Scott (David Bowie, Missing Persons), had earned Christine in the Attic an audience through college radio, putting the band in the top 20 of several college charts. But it will be the newer work, mixing rough guitar and smoother keyboard rhythms in a complex arrangement not unlike recent music by Siouxsie and the Banshees, that the group brings to its local club gigs beginning next month, including an Oct. 24 show at Club Lingerie in Hollywood.
Strangely enough, the newer music marks a slight return toward the harder ska-rock sound that keyboardist Scott Sigman played when he was with the Boxboys in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
“When I met Christine I was totally into the electronic thing,” Sigman explained. “When I saw Depeche Mode play in 1980, it was just four guys and a tape machine. I said, ‘Well, this is cool,’ because I didn’t feel like dealing with other musicians for a while. And it seemed to make sense. And now it’s back the other way.
“I think it was just a reflection of the times and what music was going through. The punk alienation sort of thing seemed to go straight through to electronic music.”
By then, Russell had sung lead and backup vocals for three years on the local club circuit with Play the Siren, a band that released an independent album before disbanding near the end of the 1980s. Russell soon joined Sigman in his garage for several months of songwriting and recruited Play the Siren drummer Jimmy Dijulio and guitarist Alex Gibson, formerly of the B People, in time for Christine in the Attic’s first gig at the Lingerie in 1989.
But friends and even fans seemed less intrigued with the band’s early recorded efforts, painstakingly orchestrated, programmed and sampled into their synthetic keyboards and rhythm machines.
Ultimately, Christine in the Attic chose a more organic style, dumping much of its dependency on computers, adding input from all the band’s members. Bassist Angelo Barbera and saxophonist Michael Barbera, who are cousins, are now part of the group. (Michael Barbera also plays with Mary’s Danish.)
Whereas Sigman had before constructed a complex orchestration of keyboard and synthesizer lines, the new “Fallen Oasis” track has him playing only one note throughout the song.
“There were times before when Scott would have had everything programmed, and he wouldn’t even be there during the session. Press a button, and things would roll,” Russell said. “And Scott would come back two days later and say, ‘Yeah, I sound good.’ ”
For the new record, producer Tsangarides had also persuaded Sigman to use some of the old organs and Moog synthesizers to recall the massive organ sound of the Deep Purple records of his high school years. It was blended with live drums and such accents as violin. “The record now sounds like what we sound like live,” Dijulio said.