"Come over here / let’s make some time,” pleads singer/guitar player Daniel Shircliff at the start of “Baby Wants More,” on the Christian Family’s new self-titled, seven-inch EP on Slope Records.
The record contains four tracks of stripped-down, gospel- and blues-tinged garage punk perpetuated by Shircliff, who also fronts local garage rockers Freaks of Nature, and drummer/vocalist Ann Seletos from indie minimalists Cherie Cherie. The duo, who started writing music together in 2015, combine to make quite a racket in the name of all things happy and joyful, but don’t let their punk and garage background fool you into thinking the band name, the Christian Family, is some kind of joke.
“We’re a punk band with a message of love of joy. That’s what the Christian Family is all about. The message of positivity. I don’t really wanna preach, but we preach positivity. We preach fun and joy. That’s what the Christian Family is all about. We do it in a simple package that people can see. I hope all the masses can get it and smile at it,” Shircliff says without a hint of irony or sarcasm in his voice.
For some, the band’s’ straightforward approach to combining their love for ’90s garage punk (like Memphis band the Oblivians) and the raw, guitar-driven gospel music of performers like Sister Rosetta Tharpe or Reverend Charlie Jackson may seem to be a bit of an anomaly, but to Seletos and Shircliff, it is simply who they are.
“It’s sincere. It’s not a front or a put-on. It’s something that is part of us,” Seletos, the slight, red-haired drummer and native Phoenician, shares.
“Religion is supposed to be a good thing. It’s supposed to be open to everybody. Punk rock is supposed to be freedom to do whatever you want. The punk [music] I grew up with was people doing what they want without caring what anyone thought or said. Maybe it’s weird to put those two together, but maybe they’re related in a way. Isn’t religion supposed to be love, and isn’t unconditional love supposed to be freedom?” Shircliff asks, before he continues:
“If your heart is true, you should be able to do whatever the hell you want as long as you are doing the right thing. We can do whatever the hell we want. I think the name ‘the Christian Family’ might make the punkers cringe. Isn’t that the punkest thing you can do?”
Slope Records founder Thomas Lopez wasn’t sure what he was getting himself into initially.
“Daniel sent the four songs to me and the band name threw me at first, [but] once I listened, I realized we were dealing with fuzzed-out songs that had me on the hook,” Lopez shares.
The tracks on the Slope Records seven-inch were recorded last July at Little Haus Recording in Phoenix, which is run by Daniel Levie. Little Haus is starting to make quite a mark on the Phoenix scene with a string of killer recordings, including Seletos’ other project, Cherie Cherie, and Shircliff’s Freaks of Nature. The band is very pleased by how their first EP turned out.
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“I was just blown away. Even from the test pressing, I was blown away by how it sounded. This is silly, but I actually started crying when I heard it. I’ve heard recordings of mine before, but there was something about this that was like, really amazing, and I’m just so proud that it’s our recording. When we got the actual jacket and sleeve … the whole product is just so beautiful,” Seletos says.
The concept for the Christian Family came to Shircliff in 2014, and he knew Seletos was the perfect partner to make the vision come to reality.
“I’ve known Ann for years, and she’s an awesome person. I approached her and I thought, ‘Me and her are going to do this.’ The first time we practiced, I heard exactly what was in my head,” Shircliff says.
The Christian Family celebrates the record release on Friday, August 19, at Rips Ales & Cocktails.