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X-Ray Charles

X-Ray Charles

Tuesday 21st May, 2013 11:28AM

Lo-fi guitar/drum duo X-Ray Charles are part of a close knit group of Christchurch musicians recently collected together in a compilation album titled Sickest Smashes from Arson City. Released via Christchurch label Melted Ice Cream, established by musician Joe Sampson (T54, Salad Boys, Dance Asthmatics), a selection of the artists from the release have been touring the country with their final show happening this Friday in Auckland. X-Ray Charles are on the bill and in anticipation of the show we caught up with frontman Brian Feary over email about the project, their upcoming EP and the Christchurch scene...

Hey Brian, how are you?

I’m good, thanks. Just ate a chicken sandwich.

What first attracted you to making music?

Wanted to be a spice girl.

How did X-Ray Charles come about and what were you looking to do/achieve initially?

I’d converted an old $20 acoustic guitar into an electric guitar by putting some old strat pickups in it, and decided I’d start a band where I play this crappy old acoustic through an electric guitar amp to be a bit different. “Screamin’” Jay Sullivan (also the drummer in Salad Boys, BNP, formerly Bang Bang Eche) had moved into my flat in Richmond ­– and we jammed and decided to call it a band. The idea at the outset was to write pop songs, and I think we’ve written some pretty okay ones.

Is there a story behind the name?

I hate trying to think of band names so we decided we'd go with the stupidest band name we could handle. Our friend Joe Sampson came up with the name X-Ray Charles… James and I thought it topped the list. Other possible names were Graeme Coxen-Hand, Colossal Squid, The Readers’ Wives, The Squishie Benders, Roxy Music, The Chili Peppers… you get the idea.

What are some of the musical influences you both share?

I do a New Zealand music radio show so I’m listening to NZ music, new and old, constantly. The Tall Dwarfs are my favourite band. Jay Reatard is awesome. A band from Scotland called Spare Snare. “Screamin” Jay listens to some pretty cool stuff and we’ve been listening to lots of Bowie and Brian Eno and psych stuff like Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd/Tangerine Dream/Kraftwerk etc, but he also says shit like “oh man you should totally get down on this chill ambient dub techno I’ve been playing, open your mind man”. Naaaaaaaaaah m8

You're part of a pretty close knit group of musicians in Christchurch – how does X-Ray Charles fit sonically into this community?

Sonically, I think we’re somewhere near the pop end of the punk/psych coming out of Christchurch. Shittier at writing chiming pop than Salad Boys. Less psych than Shacklock Meth Party. I’d call our music incompetently played, lo-tech, noisy guitar pop. We’re fucking awesome at it though. Someone called us X-Factor-Ray Charles once, and went on to say that we are the best band in Christchurch, actually they didn’t, I just made that up, hey fuck you.

Tell us about the releases up on your bandcamp, particularly 'Weird Hybrid'...

For the last few months I’ve been bullied by this guy named Jim Mendola from somewhere in New York to try and write 12 songs in 12 hours for each of the 12 months this year. He runs a collective called 12in12x12 and while I’ve failed to hit the 12 song goal every month so far, I like the idea that good music can be created rapidly. Weird Hybrid is my second go at making a real record under the X-Ray Charles moniker, and was mostly written and recorded on a cassette four track, on Monday the 25th of February in my bedroom. The goal was to use lot of weird percussion, record things at the wrong tape speed, and to start the day without a record and have one finished and online by the end of the day.

Weird Hybrid is more experimental than anything I’ve done before and pretty impossible to play live but I think it holds up pretty well as a set of songs, or as some sort of Tall Dwarfs/PiL worship record.

The other EP on bandcamp, named In Memory of X-Ray Charles, which might not be online much longer, is mostly garageband demos collected from my macbook over the last year or so. It held up pretty well as an EP I thought so I’ve left it up. We play two songs off it live.

Within the next month we’re going to put out another release, it’s a proper pop EP that we’ve tried to record three times without it coming out right. I think it’s finally sounding how I want it to… It’s songs from our live set, and it’s going to be called XRayCharlesX or Fountains Of Shit I think. Watch this space, its going to be a smash.

How are you finding the live scene in Christchurch?

Small, but good. Not many people bother going out to watch bands here but there’s a regular crowd of about 20-30 people that you see at most local ‘indie’ gigs (often of band members). The Darkroom is the mainstay of good music in Christchurch, with the occasional good night to be had at The Wunderbar or at house parties like those that Rhett (Shacklock Meth Party/Christian Rock) puts on at his place, All Plastics. There is a pumping country/folk scene in Lyttelton which is mostly shit (The Eastern are awful but there’s also some good stuff – Delaney/Marlon etc), and the Dux Live stopped booking good bands on a weekend so that place is dead to me now.

You have a show at RDU, how is the station doing these days?

Pretty good eh, heaps of good people passionate about music that matters to them. It’s still broadcasting out of the back of a truck and in the last month the transmitter’s gone down two or three times but I think that almost adds to the appeal of the station. There's lots of electronic stuff that I’m not that into… but also some awesome indie/alt/blues etc shows like The Hit List, Human Pleasure Radio, The Observatory, The Joint, etc… Shout outs to my boys. My show’s called The Sheep Technique, from 6-8pm on a Wednesday or streamable on

What are some of your favourite tracks to play at the moment?

Ah, I’ll do a list. In no particular order:

Kilmog – Tiny Pieces
Carb On Carb – Smash
Fetus Productions – Desert Lands
Salad Boys – Strange (Wire Cover)
Wurld Series – Shirley In The Sun
Timothy Berry – Blind
No Aloha – Butt Party
Anthony Drent And The Blood Of The Innocent – Dump No Waste, Flows To Sea
Shacklock Meth Party – Vaccination Day
Guided By Voices – Drawing To A Whole (Clean Cover)
Chris Knox – Yesterday Was (Clean Cover)

What plans do you all have in the near future for X-RAY CHARLES?

- Getting my 8-track serviced
- XRayCharlesX Release
- Auckland show (invite your friends to the facebook event here)
- Might have some dinner pretty soon
- Tour internationally
- Live on Jools Holland appearance
- A video with geese in it