w/Visqueen, the Peels
Sat Jan 25, Graceland, 9:30 pm, $8 adv.
It's Friday afternoon in Auckland, New Zealand, and Jimmy Christmas, the co-guitarist/co-singer for the D4 (and apparently the only one in the band with a last name), is on the phone from his home, explaining his plans for the weekend. "Tonight we're going out to see some friends of ours play," he says. "Dead Moon, who are over here from Oregon. They're a really fucking cool band and friends of ours from playing in New Zealand. We're really looking forward to seeing them."
Dead Moon, the Northwest's ancient garage rock trio, hold a place of high respect in the hearts of many local rock 'n' rollers, so to hear someone 21 hours ahead of Seattle speak so fondly of this cultishly loved band is one of the many clues that Christmas has done his music history homework.
But one listen to his band D4's debut, 6Twenty (Hollywood/Flying Nun), reveals that these guys know which rock artists are due respect. Of the 13 punk rock 'n' roll party songs they've recorded, the band's originals blend effortlessly with three live covers. There's the Johnny Thunders hound-dogged heartache anthem, "Pirate Love"; a tribute to Japan's Guitar Wolf with "Invader Ace"; and the excellent "Mysterex" by New Zealand punks the Scavengers.
"The Scavengers are a late-'70s punk rock band," Christmas says. "And I think in New Zealand, people have a tendency to look at influences outside the country. For us this was a nod to New Zealand's musical roots and history, and hopefully if people liked that song they'll get into what was happening in New Zealand at that time. There were some great garage bands around then, and from the '60s--like the Bluestars."
Christmas--whose bandmates include guitarist/vocalist Dion, bassist Vaughan, and a drummer named Beaver--started collecting punk records at an early age, developing an appreciation for old standbys like the New York Dolls, the Dictators, the Dead Boys, and the Buzzcocks. "I saw the Buzzcocks play when I was like 16, and I was lucky enough to spend some time talking to Pete Shelley and the guys in the band afterwards," says Christmas. "It was really mind-blowing. I think I was just going [adopts a mocking voice], 'Oh, just tell me about the punk rock scene,' [laughs] or something equally useless, but they humored me, which was really cool. I was listening to a lot of punk records, and was into this scene that existed when I was really too young to be a part of it. But meeting [Shelley] was really a turning point for me to actually want to be in a band. I was into music, but after that I was really inspired to want to do it myself."
Christmas spent his early years hanging out with Dion in local music studios, soaking up guitar tricks from their local heroes. "Dion used to skip school and hang out at recording studios, and we ended up hanging out at this one place where there were recording studios, practice rooms, and places to play. There were always lots of people there making music, and our biggest influences were the local guys who made music and could play every instrument."
Four and a half years ago, Christmas and Dion started the D4, but it wasn't until this year that the festival circuit--Reading and SXSW--started turning heads and leaking the NME praise. Now the D4 spend enough time touring the world that Christmas can safely complain of watching Lilo & Stitch and Spy Kids 2 from an airplane seat more times than he'd ever care to. They have the major label deal in the bank, they've toured the Sun Studio in Memphis ("They started playing some old records, and we were getting shivers," says Christmas), and they supposedly have enough dirt for Dion to start writing his hypothetical book on the band, "Soiled and Dangerous." "I heard a quote from David Bowie when someone was asking him about fucking Mick Jagger, and he said, 'If I'm going to write about it, I'm going to put it in my book, so I'm going to make money off of it,'" laughs Christmas. "I'm not giving it away for free."
As for 2003, the D4 have plenty of plans: touring, writing new songs, and, Christmas hopes, finally getting to see New York legends the Dictators live. "It's a bummer--I haven't seen them because they've been playing recently," he says, "and every town we went to, they'd been there the week before us. This whole last year has been 'chase the Dictators,' so I'm hoping that this year we catch them and finally get to see their show."