Download: Julie Christmas Covers Jacque Brel’s “If You Go Away”


Yes In My Backyard is a semiweekly column showcasing MP3s from new and emerging local talent.

Julie Christmas is best known as wailing, barking, bloodletting dervish fronting Brooklyn’s most emotionally complex metal band, Made Out Of Babies–a performer capable of unpredictable hysterics and naked vulnerability, a bulletproof mix of the anarchic and the romantic. But Christmas finally allows her sensitive side to fully shine on her first solo album, The Bad Wife (due November 9 on Rising Pulse). The album that matches Christmas’s familiar sludge-bludgeon with a diverse array of triumphant indie rock, Waitsian boardwalk ballads, and Hope Sandoval sunset blear–all while the consummate metal vocalist crosses a gut-wrenching rainbow between vintage PJ Harvey skin-rubbing, Jarboe doom-atmospherics, and heaven-bound Björk soar. “It’s easy to be pissed because I’ve had a lot of practice,” says Christmas. “I wanted to try something harder. There is some very personal stuff on The Bad Wife that I wanted to tell people about.” Her cover of Jacque Brel’s classic “If You Go Away” feels just as confessional as any of her originals, reaching deep into her diverse vocal palette to catch creeptacular goth-whisper, Rid Of Me-styled claustrophia, and pure unhinged wail, giving the song new layers of exhaustion, terror and neuroses.

Download: Julie Christmas, “If You Go Away”

Why did you decide to cover “If You Go Away”? What does that song mean to you?

As soon as I heard this song for the first time I got shivers. It is a love song, but not in the sappy, flowery, way that love is usually served up in music. The words are unapologetically true and desperate. It takes bravery to express love and longing without hiding behind trying to look cool. If you’ve ever had to try it yourself, you probably agree.

What is your favorite version of this song?

There is no version of the song that comes close to the original French version done by Jacques Brel. There is video of it that you should see. He’s not much to look at and he’s just playing guitar and singing the song. It breaks your heart. I first heard it across a flea market and it stopped me in my tracks. The old guy selling vinyl talked to me with a cigar dangling from his mouth but wouldn’t sell it. I remember him because he never touched the cigar the whole time he spoke, but it didn’t fall from his mouth. Nina Simone does a good job with her version.

How do you mentally or physically prepare to perform an emotionally wrenching song like this?

I usually scream, bleed and turn into a mess on stage, but that wouldn’t work here. The song is about wanting someone really badly–someone that might not want you back. I’ve been in that situation and I know that it takes restraint and inner strength to say what you have to without losing face. I imagine that I should come on stage naked with all the lights out to do this properly.

How did you pick your musicians for this record?

I can only sing, and people who can express unique perspectives without using words amaze me. There are so many of these people hiding around us. Andrew Schneider helped me to make this song work–he is the most talented engineer working in underground music today. John LaMacchia was in the band Candiria and plays the guitar like it is a natural extension of himself. They are also both very patient, which is good when you have to work with me. The drummer on this track was Troy Young. He was a young guy who was found shot in his apartment shortly after the recording. They never found out what happened.

What’s the most memorable show you’ve ever played in New York?

The last show my band Made Out of Babies played with Unsane at Union Pool was pretty memorable. I got my eye cut open while we played. Blood was everywhere and I didn’t even know I was bleeding. The drum kit fell apart and we played a song that required the boys in the band to sing in falsetto. It should have been a wreck, but it was a super-charged night. Everyone looked mildly horrified and totally psyched. Unsane played an amazing show. I also had an amazing kiss. That is always the best.

What’s your favorite place to eat in Brooklyn?

Eating way more than anyone around me is one of my favorite things to do, so this question is almost impossible. I recently had the fried chicken at Sidecar and it was amazing. Rosewater is great also, fancy food without the crappy attitude. BBQ at Fette Sau. Steak at Walther Foods. Red Hook for tacos.

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