A disclaimer: It is a stretch to describe the indie rock artist discussed in this week's column, John Roderick of the Long Winters, as a purveyor of "Roots & Americana." At the conclusion of our lunchtime interview, Mr. Roderick asked Border Radio why his band has been so well reviewed in alt-country publications like No Depression. We decided it was due to his very full beard, which rivals that of Iron & Wine's Sam Beam, members of My Morning Jacket, or that weird hermit on Gentle Ben. Lord knows, nobody ever questioned their Americana credentials.

This year, John Roderick of local ensemble the Long Winters learned the true meaning of Christmas: You don't have to appreciate--or even celebrate--the holiday to make a buck off of it. "For me, like for most people, Christmas has been a terrible experience over the years," says Roderick, wiping a fleck of pulled-pork sandwich from his beard.

"A few years ago, my Mom and I decided that we were just going to pretend to celebrate Christmas," he continues. If friends or relations called with well wishes, the Roderick pair would pretend to be hip-deep in holiday spirit. It was all a ruse. "We would actually do nothing. No decorations, no presents. We might put some Christmas lights in the windows, so people wouldn't torch our house, but that was it. And it's worked quite well."

So what did Roderick do when the music supervisor of the television show The O.C. solicited a Christmas song from the Long Winters for inclusion on the new Music from the O.C. Mix 3: Have a Very Merry Chrismukkah! compilation (on Warner Bros.)? Simple. What any good writer would: He drew on experience. His original, "Christmas with You Is the Best," a cheery jumble of loops and samples, posits that the best way to avoid crazed relations and packed malls circa December is to observe a "nontraditional, nondenominational celebration." That means no roast turkey, and no company; just sleeping in (and maybe a roll in the hay).

"Christmas with You..." represents an artist overcoming an array of obstacles in pursuit of his muse. To wit, a man in his late 30s, writing about a holiday he dislikes, for an evening soap opera on a network he doesn't watch, aimed at viewers half his age. "All of those parameters are so far outside of where I normally operate," he concedes. "But I meet these kids that enjoy the show, in the context of being on tour, so I know who they are, and I like them. I was trying to write a song for them."

The biggest challenge? "Now that I'm over 35, I'm turning into a curmudgeonly old dad," he admits. "So I was trying, frantically, not to be this hectoring father figure, who was simultaneously railing against political correctness, while pandering to Southern California mall culture." And let's not forget the "creepy, pedophilic" overtones of the final product, either.

"And I can't excuse or explain it," he concludes. "I'm not ashamed, though."

kurt@thestranger.com

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