‘Friday I’m In Love’: Chrystabell Covers The Cure, Illuminates on the Experience
Image by Julien Mignot
The musical landscape is littered with attempts by artists clearly not up to the task, misguidedly covering those far beyond their limited reach. But fascinating interpretations of songs that have already altered the way we see the world can offer a rare second chance at possibly understanding them a little better. To wit, The Beatles’ ‘Dear Prudence’ was never quite the same once Siouxsie & the Banshees had their considerable way with it.
The Cure, of course, have been covered often, because they are so well and widely loved. Yet there is such a sacredness to the songs, that it is ever a tricky proposition to do so. But undaunted, Marc Collin of Nouvelle Vague teamed up with enigmatic chanteuse and David Lynch muse Chrystabell recently to undertake the intrepid act of making an entire album of Cure covers – and the result, cleverly titled Strange As Angels, is literally nothing less than astonishing.
“I know for many these are considered sacred materials,” admits Chrystabell. “This wade into holy waters was not taken lightly, as these songs still elicit powerful and significant life-moment associations for so many.”
Yet curiously enough, she herself had not been terribly familiar with their music until now. So when Collin came to her with the project, she simply “went into it like it was my own history.” They also let their imaginations run wild with genre-crossing and sonic experimentation, to sometimes startling effect.
And so ‘Three Imaginary Boys’ gets an eerie Weimar cabaret treatment; ‘One Hundred Years’ becomes an ominously unsettling ballad, complete with ghostly, rat-a-tat drumming; ‘The Walk’ gets charmingly and peculiarly jazzed up, finger pops and all; and ‘Just Like Heaven,’ still possibly the most romantic song ever written, is reimagined as wistful, gothic-country(ish).
But their version of ‘Friday I’m In Love,’ which BlackBook premieres here, nearly defies description – except to say that we’d definitely never before imagined the possibility of waltzing to The Cure. And throughout the album, Chrystabell’s breathily haunted vocal delivery claims the songs decisively as her own.
“I translated into my textures, my sonic delivery, and my personal emotional soundstream,” she explains. “I had revelatory experiences really with all of them, some more than others.”
Strange as Angels will be released this June via Collins’ own Kwaidan Records. But Chrystabell will remain busy in 2021, prepping a new album as part of just-inked deal with the revolutionary new Sonoma-based label Love Conquered Records. Run by industry veteran Jacqui Thompson (formerly of Paisley Park), the concept is completely unprecedented, in that the label and each artist signed form a joint venture of sorts, and so have an equal stake in making each project a success.
“This idea of an equitable partnership in this industry is indeed a revolutionary thing,” observes Chrystabell, “where everybody has something to win and lose. I was always kind of fantasizing about a situation that would be very supportive, and give me everything I needed, without asking for all of my records in perpetuity.”
It’s a model that if it’s successful – and why wouldn’t it be? – could surely reshape the very structure of record company business, especially relevant at a time when independent artists are fighting for more control of their destinies.
“If it works, this is going to be phenomenal,” she enthuses. “It’s a grand experiment, but it’s honorable, and both parties feel they are doing something meaningful.”
But first things first, we thought we would get her to give us a bit more insight into her experience of recording Strange As Angels, via five Cure songs that had a particularly poignant effect on her.
It’s the the same forest Robert and countless others got lost in, but the light getting in through the trees feels different. I closed my eyes while singing. In the the first part I am calling to you, a sort of enchantment. I imagined my hand reaching out to the listener, now we’re lost together.
It required a distinct vocal character from the original that’s provocative enough to induce intoxication, but not forced. If I have to do it too many times, it’s cooked, it spoils somehow. The magic, if it is to be found, usually comes as soon as the mic is hot. Before I get to the studio I learn the lyrics, melodies and inflections of the song inside and out. Once I’m in the sound booth it’s best if I can disappear into the track. Because Marc builds musical environments that make this possible, I can easily evaporate.
‘The Drowning Man’
This track begins with an exquisite delicacy. One cannot underestimate the massive weight of recounting fragile last moments, last regrets, and final surrender. Lyrically it conjures so much dramatic imagery that it’s important to remember to maintain composure as the narrator, in particular as the lines between dimensions blur more and more. That is precisely when the preternatural calm sets in, and the listener requires that steady hand, even if it seems counterintuitive.
I didn’t so much sing this one, it was rather more like falling under the spell of the track and allowing myself to tumble through the melody and lyrics while half lit. Like slipping into lingerie but accidentally putting my leg in the arm hole and just going with it. This approach seemed close to the essence of the original and I was so tipsy in love with Robert’s performance that I did my best to reflect the spirit of it.
‘Friday I’m in Love’
When Marc sent me this track I was amused that he’d changed the time signature to make it a waltz. Suddenly we were in an effervescent Fellini carnival scene! This worked beautifully to give it a new feel, and presented a little quandary for me, as the lyrics in the bridge simply wouldn’t flow well in 6/8. Thankfully the night before we recorded I popped up in bed at 3am with the lilt that would slip in the pocket of the new cadence and recorded it as a voice memo into my phone. A gift. An auspicious turn. It added a touch of buoyancy overall and I was quite relieved. Little miracles in a big goth world were not lost on me.