Back in the 80’s, The Christians had the highest selling debut album of any artist at Island Records and had international hits in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Named after the three brothers who formed the band, Garry, Roger and Russell Christian and Henry Priestman’s middle name too, the band was formed in 1985 and have been described as “The Temptations in ripped jeans, producing gritty centred songs in a sugary vocal shell” by critic Charles Bottomley in ‘Rock: The Rough Guide’.
With their first five singles all making the Top 40 in Britain and a debut album entering the charts at number 2 in 1987, they were hot property and when their sophomore album ‘Colour’ released in 1990, it reached number 1 in the UK Albums Chart. The band’s music has always had infectious melodies and deep emotional undercurrent but perhaps the thing that set them apart was the social comment interwoven in the lyrics. Nothing was beyond being a subject for their song writing which fed on accusations, protest, despair and even self-doubt, making them a completely different prospect to a lot of the polished images of many bands and artists of the eighties. Songs like ‘Forgotten Town’, ‘Ideal World’, ‘Born Again’ and their cover of Isley Brothers’ classic ‘Harvest for the World’ will live long in our collective memories but the band have been consistently touring, with a few gaps, for 35 years this year since that debut album, ‘The Christians’, which went double platinum.
Nowadays, after many years and a complete band line-up change, the only original member is lead vocalist Garry Christian who still has lost none of his vocal prowess, in fact the years and experiences have even probably added to the soul in his voice. The band will be embarking upon a busy touring schedule, getting back to something they are well known for; live performance. Perhaps the highlight of these may be their appearance at Cornbury Festival.
Cornbury is one of our oldest and best loved independent music festivals but will sadly celebrate its final year this Summer. It is perhaps fitting then that this will include The Christians as Cornbury has always prided itself on being a Festival for the people. I was lucky enough to get to ask Garry a few questions and it was an honour to bring his responses to you at Essentially Pop.
EP: Your music was introspective and thought provoking at a time in the eighties that the trend was for guys in neatly cut suits aboard yachts. What inspired you to make such socially aware music or was it just the caring nature of Liverpool culture manifesting itself in your music?
GC: We were so un eighties I don’t think they knew where to put us – 3 mixed race guys with a few friends who grew up memorising all the different parts of The Temptations harmonies then there was Henry with his synth based ideas coming fresh out of The Yachts; we were ahead of our time – speaking out about things that weren’t right
EP: The music of the eighties has endured more than most decades and never really seems to have gone out of style. What is it that makes the music and the artists of the eighties so timeless?
GC: I think everything got so diluted after the 80s and 90s; people feel very nostalgic for those decades – they were times where we all knew where to look for music (in record shops) and really enjoyed a simple life. Music now is so insular – it’s not a shared experience. The 80s and 90s were all about the unity of the people, not Soundcloud and iTunes and Spotify – just old fashioned times hanging out together with real music.
EP: You are famed for your live sets and have a Summer of music ahead of you. Are there any of the dates you’re particularly looking forward to? I’m buzzing to see you play Cornbury!
GC: We can’t wait for Cornbury – it’s got a really cool reputation – also looking forward to the Aha gig in Cardiff Castle and the tour with Belinda Carlisle next year.
EP: Although you are the only original member of the band, do you think that the evolving line up has actually strengthened the band with new musicians bringing new dimensions, new vibes?
GC: My brother Roger left as soon as we signed to Island; he was quite headstrong to put it politely and had been offered a solo career. Russell and I didn’t always see eye to eye (brothers!!) so actually things are much calmer and more relaxed these days – this particular set up – most have been with me for over 16 years so we know each other pretty well – it’s a breeze being on stage with these guys.
EP: Your last original album “We” was part crowd funded by fans. It must feel so good to have fans so loyal and keen to support the band?
GC: We were very happy that they were so keen to get involved – most bands couldn’t carry on without their fans – we have fans running our website and helping out everywhere – if petrol and hotels go up anymore they’ll soon be driving us around and putting us up in bunk beds too
EP: It will be 35 years since your debut album this year; is there a particular track from that album that stands the test of time best or is a particular favourite or is that like picking a favourite child?
GC: I’m pretty proud of the whole album – it all stands up today … ‘Ideal World’ could have been the anthem of the last decade – listen to the words and it has most of the answers to most things happening today.
EP: Can we expect new music soon from The Christians and will you be trying out any new music during the Summer alongside your brilliant existing songs?
GC: We’ve written some pretty stunning work lately it’s just a matter of getting it out there – without a label and the advertising budget of Ed Sheeran or Adele it’s going to be difficult to let everyone know about it.
EP: Well, hopefully we at EP can help with that and maybe Cornbury will give you the chance to win a new generation of fans.