Seventh Heaven Bucolics
Despite occasional attempts by yardstick-makers to place them in any of the various genres that rose & fell in their musical proximity, Charalambides have remained dedicated to a vision of spiritual music (in all its forms) as transformative force. Their sound is uniquely personal and consistent, even through some outwardly extreme shifts in tactics.
Charalambides formed in Houston in 1991 amid a flock of fearlessly exploratory (and often drug-induced) rock bands, when Tom, Christina, and Kyle Silfer put down their beers and picked up their instruments. Eventually Kyle went home to New York, and Christina & Tom assumed the name Charalambides for what eventually turned into a flood of releases- beginning with 1992's Our Bed Is Green on their own Wholly Other label, and continuing with dozens of LPs, CDs, and cassettes on labels such as Siltbreeze, Eclipse, Time-Lag, and Kranky.
Despite occasional stints as a trio (first with guitarist Jason Bill and then with pedal steel guitarist & vocalist Heather Leigh Murray) and flourishing solo projects, Charalambides remains constant as the core duo of Tom & Christina Carter.
From their 2006 & 2007 Kranky releases A Vintage Burden & Likeness onwards, Charalambides has renewed their concentration on song-as-mantra (with intermittent guitar solos). But earlier recordings (like 2001's Unknown Spin) whisper of interstellar voids full of silence, or howl with ecstatically-received gnosis (2004's Joy Shapes).
Charalambides' live shows sometimes (and unpredictably) continue this latter thread, which often startles fans familiar only with the band's deceptively low-key reputation. Charalambides began playing sporadic gigs in 1992, making annual or semi-annual forays into other parts of the world from 1993 to 2005 (with the occasional year or two off). In 2006, Charalambides hit the road in earnest, touring the US/UK and making appearances at that year's Terrastock, Arthurfest and the Thurston Moore curated All Tomorrow's Parties: A Nightmare Before Christmas.
In 2008, after months of incessant solo and duo touring in the US and Europe, Tom settled in New York City, and Christina went to Austin, leaving touring aside (for a finite yet undetermined period of time) to concentrate on writing and recording. Their upcoming shows in Amsterdam and Hasselt (Belgium) are their first European performances since 2008.
Charalambides continue their recorded collaboration with Exile, a double LP of new recordings now available on Kranky.
Hello, how are you?
What are you currently listening to?
Christina: Last night I listened to Cesar Franck “Prelude, Chorale and Fugue” and “Prelude, Aria and Finale” as played by pianist Joerg Demus.
Who were your biggest influences when it comes to sculpting your current sound?
C: We don’t have a current sound. We have a permanent sound - and that is our sound. Our biggest influences have been all of the artists who have been driven to find out what their sound is/can be/will be, and who have done what it takes to realize that vision.
Is there a theme on your latest release?
C: Yes, 'Exile' has to do with subversion, inversion, decadence, dissolution, withering, extinction… A lot of reviewers try to find messages of hope on the record, but there really aren’t any messages of hope, per se. There is human fortitude in the face of these things, like on “Pity, Pity Me” the protagonist is not going to work at the factory any more because she has been physically crushed by the conditions of the job, and is dying. She begins the song seeming, yes, like she is asking for pity in a conventional sense, but by the end she is demanding pity, transformed into acknowledgement, from a position of right-minded anger. She is a ghost-voice haunting us with her death and her anger…. But, she still was only able to find release in death.
Will you be doing some extensive touring for said release?
C: No, we might do a couple of short jaunts in the late spring, early summer. Touring costs too much money these days and takes too much time away from earning money at our jobs and living actual day-to-day life. We’re done spending our own money to support touring at this point. I went into debt in order to travel and do what I love to do, but that isn’t sustainable over time. So now, we will play festivals and do a few geographically strategic shows and a few limited tours every so often. It will be interesting, I think, because it will create a different playing dynamic. The high-energy shows are best, when we, with the audience, are creating this feeling. My legs shake and I feel like we are all about to levitate. But maybe a new, different feeling will come out of this more limited travel.
Got any side projects/collabs coming up?
Tom: Christina doesn't do them so much but I do:
Tom Carter/ Dora Bleu / Sam Shalabi "Circle Of Crosses" LP on Tequila Sunrise / Bardo Pond/ Tom Carter 2xLP+CD reissue on 3 Lobed / Tetuzi Akiyama/Tom Carter/ Christian Kiefer LP on Monotype / still trying to find a home for Tom carter/ Robert horton "Nyida Days" ...and a whole bunch of solo LP projects I can't quite solidify yet. Also, looking forward to playing a live trio with Sandy Ewen and Sabir Mateen on 11/21 in Brooklyn... and releasing me & Sandy's next album (project name: Spiderwebs). I'm also doing some more recordings with Eleven Twenty-Nine (my project with Marc Orleans and Michael Evans, first LP on Northern Spy).
If you could re-score a movie soundtrack which movie would you pick?
T: Cocksucker Blues
Got any weird/interesting talents?
C: Yes. Singing, playing guitar, writing, spending time making and creating… seems to be weird and interesting in this place and time… United States, 2012.
You can only keep/listen to ONE album for the rest of your life. which album would it be?
T: John Coltrane 'Meditations'
Are you living your dream?
T: I'm balancing my own dreams and others' nightmares.
Thanx Brian, Christina & Tom Carter!
Charalambides are currently taking a breather from music, but I'm sure once they return ours ears will be graced with bliss yet again...