So this entry is a little odd. I asked Christine some questions, cause about 13 years ago we were in a band called Chickpea together. It was your typically small-time Canadian band, there are hundreds of them forming and folding each year – making enough money to get by, but never breaking through.
There was a CD that was recorded in a real studio and we did laps around the country in a Chevy Cavalier. All of our equipment – drums and all – were pulled behind the car in an uncovered utility trailer.
Anyway, as I read her answers it kind of reminded me of doing interviews for college papers, which were pretty much the only papers that ever interviewed us. And since we don’t really talk much about what happened back then to each other, I decided it would be interesting to answer the questions too.
When did you first want to be in a rock band?
Christine: I was born to rock.
Steve: I had some drums and a guitar when I was five or six. I formed a little band with neighbourhood kids, and when we needed a name I was digging cats and thought panthers were pretty cool. So, I decided on Black Panthers. My dad made stickers at his work, and nobody mentioned that it was not a very good name for a bunch of white kids in the suburbs.
Chickpea was our big shot – there was a CD, we toured nationally. At what point did you know it wasn’t going to work out?
Christine: When you left the band, it was hard to keep up the momentum. Didn’t have the same flavour. Missed you too much, asshole.
Steve: The biggest show we played, maybe, was at Barrymore’s one night. It was an AIDS benefit, and I remember thinking that if we could even take home a couple hundred bucks it would have helped a lot. The ridiculousness of playing for free when nobody had held a job for at least a year was overwhelming. There’s a line in a Hold Steady song about how every show can’t be a benefit, I think of that show every time I hear that.
What was the high point?
Christine: Opening up for Frank Black, Lunachicks, Swingin`Utters.
Steve: We played a show in Woodstock, New Brunswick. The band that had been through town the week before bullshitted all the kids and convinced them we were a really huge deal. They went crazy for us. There was a girl there, and she asked if I’d drive her to the store to buy cigarettes or something, and she spent the whole time explaining how she was going to make it out of the small town someday and be a successful something or other. It was such a strange, strange, fabulous weekend.
Christine: Being vegetarian on the road, not having many opportunities to eat good food.I remember asking why some cream cheese tasted weird. Bassist: Maybe they made it with breast milk. I almost took his fucking head off. In my mind at least.
Steve: Driving through Saskatchewan, and it was just three guys in the car cause you jumped into another one. We hadn’t showered in days, I had to throw my socks out the window because they smelled so bad. But that was shortsighted, I didn’t have any others. Again, moments like that really illustrate why the economics of low-level rock stardom just don’t make sense.
What was it like once the band folded?
Christine: It was really painful to be out of the music scene. You really find out who your friends are. Some people seem to just drift away when you don’t have any cool factor. On the up side, I went back to school, became a college professor and found out I am kinda smart.
Steve: I didn’t pick up a guitar for almost 10 years. It was like a bad breakup – if I wasn’t in that band I didn’t want to play music, period. It felt like I took my shot, and to start over again would be too much work. I was never interested in playing guitar in my bedroom, I learned to play so I could be in bands, period.
What’s it like to be playing again in a different band, all this time later?
Christine: Playing music again is like manna from heaven, if it exists. I play because I want to. Not because I think I am going to make it. What is REALLY cool is rarely do I have to take lorazepam before a show. The Secret Loves fellas have been so fucking amazing at being my support system. That support has made my life in The Johnnies so much better. I am able to be a calming influence to some of my other new bandmates.
Steve: My bandmates are jerks, so I take extra drugs before we play. The difference now is that I can afford decent equipment, and there’s no pressure to succeed. And, we can afford to record without a label, which is pretty revolutionary compared to 10 years ago. There’s also no pressure to be talented anymore – if I make a mistake at a show, I’m not going to spend the drive home worried about it.
What advice would you offer a 20-year-old rock-star wannabe?
Christine: Hot Crow on a hot tin roof. My advice is to LISTEN to all constructive criticism, know your worth but keep your ego in check.
Steve: Go on tour. And bring extra socks.