* Story by Rod Smith
Battle of Mice - A Day of Nights (Neurot)
"I'm not at all interested in doing the same thing, the same way, over and over," Julie Christmas declares between sips of coffee from somewhere on 34th Street as we talk on the phone. "I don't even always write lyrics as myself, or even from a human point of view. First I create a character, then I inhabit it. I might pretend to be a hinge on a door, and write from its perspective." Maybe it's the hinge talk, or maybe the cell connection: The protean frontwoman for Made Out of Babies and Battle of Mice does sound a little squeaky—but warmly so. She's genuinely friendly, a hell of a lot less intimidating than anyone who's heard her perineum-chilling performance on the stunning A Day of Nights might expect—a smart, eccentric post-kid just becoming aware of the unearthly power she wields, strolling through Midtown Manhattan while she tells Decibel she thinks she's nuts, loving every minute of it. What does she have to lose? "It doesn't bother me," she says nonchalantly. "Most of the people I really respect have, mmm, interesting personalities?"
Those people include Diamanda Galás, who Christmas saw for the first time a few months ago. "I can't tell you how flattered I am to be compared to her," she says. "She did a standard—not a terribly well-known one by, I think it was Nina Simone. Afterward, she goes, 'That was one tough bitch,' which I loved. Also, she didn't try to maintain any sort of 'pretty' look on stage. When a situation calls for ugliness, she just dives right into it. I'm like that, too. I think it's absolutely necessary—especially in heavy music, even more for a woman in heavy music—to push yourself as hard as you can."
Growling, screaming, whispering, and giggling over Josh Graham's monumental metalgaze arrangements, Christmas attacks her roles on A Day of Nights with a depth and intensity that scares the shit out of most listeners—a trait she shares with Galás. While not as seasoned as the older performer, Christmas has been singing since, as she puts it, "I started breathing." After graduating from Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts, she attended Juilliard briefly. "It just wasn't giving me what I wanted," she says. "I wanted to be in a band so badly. I found myself in all these improvising situations, where you'd rent a rehearsal studio for an hour or two and do whatever you could as quickly and intensely as possible. Having had to come up with ideas that quickly helps a lot now. But I still love jazz and classical music. Just recently, I've started thinking about doing an album of standards. There are so many great old songs, many of them all but forgotten. I'd like to think that I could contribute something as an interpreter in that realm—when the time comes. I'm way too busy at the moment."