There’s a lot of things to look forward when you opt to stay in Richmond for the holidays. Take in a tacky light tour and marvel at the Phifer’s dedication and Mr. Christmas’ surliness.
There’s a lot of things to look forward when you opt to stay in Richmond for the holidays. Take in a tacky light tour and marvel at the Phifer’s dedication and Mr. Christmas’ surliness. Stroll through Lewis Ginter and gaze at its holiday wonderment. Crash a holiday party for companies obtuse enough to do it in a public bar. Shoot, if you’re a glutton for punishment, try and brave the traffic of Short Pump in the days leading up to Kringle’s big day. They’re all great activities to look forward to as December comes around and there’s plenty more, but we’ve got one that definitely needs to be added to everyone’s calendar: Carbon Leaf’s annual holiday show at The National!
To some degree, Carbon Leaf has always been a seasonal band. Look back over their rich catalogue and you’ll see that from record to record, they’ve continually been able to impeccably capture the tenor and spirit of specific points of the year. They’ve amassed so much of this seasonal material that you could easily whip together a “Carbon Leaf: Autumn” or “Carbon Leaf: Spring” mixtape for yourself and friends. Above all the seasons though, Carbon Leaf are really masters of Winter, a point bolstered by the release of their 2010 all-original EP Christmas Child, yet a point that was also apparent long before that release. Older songs like “November (makebelieve),” “Toy Soldiers,” “Lake Of Silver Bells,” and “Snowfall Music” are obvious picks from their catalogue that become staples for fans as soon as Turkey Day is done. Even songs like “When I’m Alone,” “Comfort,” and “Maybe Today” seem to fit the season too with their comforting melodies and introspective themes that are familiar to anyone reflecting on a past year.
Their annual holiday show is a perfect embodiment of their winter proficiency. It perfectly recreates everything people love about the holidays in a two hour performance that’s both visually and sonically stunning. It’s a night of celebration, remembrance, reunions, and goodwill from the moment they step on the stage that continues on until they’ve posed for the last picture with an eager fan after the show. It’s a showcase of the full glory that is Carbon Leaf, a band still at the top of its game after all these years.
Carbon Leaf’s an unbelievably busy band with plenty of projects always being worked on. We’ve talked about it with them a lot here in the past and will surely do so again in the future. This time around, we opted to take a different approach to chatting with the band so take a look at the holiday traditions and memories that fuel singer Barry Privett, guitarists Carter Gravatt and Terry Clark, bassist Jon Markel, and drummer Jason Neal below:
What is your favorite holiday memory?
Terry: As a kid, it was the smell of my mom’s cinnamon buns. Now, it is the look on my kid’s faces when they first come down the stairs on Christmas morning.
Carter: Sneaking downstairs to see if I had any presents and tripping over a fully loaded aluminum Chinese checkers set. Loudest thing I’ve ever heard.
Jason: Waking up in the morning to see all the sweet toys on display.
Jon: On Christmas Eve, when I was little, my father was famous. He was the greatest Samurai in the Empire and he was the Shogun’s decapitator. He cut of the heads of 131 Lords. It was a bad time for the Empire. The Shogun just stayed inside his castle and he never came out. People said his brain was infected by devils. My father would come home, he would forget about the killings. He wasn’t scared of the Shogun, but the Shogun was of him. Maybe that was the problem. Then one night, the Shogun sent his Ninja spies to our house. They were supposed to kill my father, but that didn’t work. That was the night Christmas changed.
Barry: My father and mother remarried each other the week before Christmas of 2010 after 10 years of separation and divorce. We finished up the last show of our touring year in Richmond at the National the night before, and I raced home to play guitar during the ceremony held in the family living room.
What’s the best present you remember getting as a child?
Carter: Star Wars X-wing. Hope I get another one this year.
Terry: A Mongoose BMX bike.
Jon: A BMX bike with a rotor & pegs.
Barry: My dad always leveraged the credit heavier than he should during Christmas, but he could never help himself. He was a retail guy. The most memorable was him converting the garage into a game room and we came down to a ping table, a pinball machine, a bumper pool table, and a road race set. It was a brilliant move and the neighborhood kids got a lot of mileage out of that room.
Favorite family tradition?
Barry: Growing up, my father would make us stay at the top of the stairs while they got everything straight and he would provide slow commentary about building the fire and making up reasons to delay us coming down.
Jason: Watching National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.
Terry: Getting the tree followed closely by going to the Lewis Ginter Festival of Lights.
Jon: Butter cake from Peter Pan bakery in Moorestown, NJ.
Carter: Having to wait for everyone to go downstairs together in the morning. Now, I get to drag my feet like my dad did to me.
Open presents on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day?
Jason: Christmas Day.
Terry: One on Christmas Eve, the rest on Christmas Day
Barry: One present on Christmas Eve, the rest Christmas Day.
Jon: Xmas day. Duh
Real tree or artificial tree?
Jon: Real 4 lyfe.
Barry: Always real and usually a scotch pine.
White or colored lights?
Barry: Colored growing up which was my father’s preference. White in the later years.
Warm eggnog or hot cocoa?
Terry: Hot Cocoa.
Barry: Whichever is handed me.
Main course at holiday dinner: ham or turkey?
Barry: We would make a 10 gallon clam chowder recipe of my mom’s from scratch when I got home and would pull on that for the week.
Terry: Ham or beef tenderloin. Turkey is pretty much only for Thanksgiving.
Do you shop in advance or wait to the last minute?
Terry: A little of both. Amazon Prime is my friend.
Jason: Last minute.
Barry: Last Minute.
Jon: Advance. I love shopping.
What is your favorite holiday song?
Barry: “O Come O Come Emmanuel” is probably the most haunting melody I look forward to that hits all the right beats for me.
Jon: Anything old school.
Terry: “Christmas Wrapping” by The Waitresses and “Jingle Bells” by Bing Crosby & The Andrews Sisters.
Jason: Theme to Christmas Vacation.
Writer’s Note: We’d like to offer up “Carter’s Christmas Beard” for your consideration.
Favorite holiday movie?
Barry: This is tough. There aren’t many, but in one camp there’s A Christmas Story and White Christmas. In the other camp is Scrooged, , and Die Hard. Bad Santa was hilarious. Have you seen Rare Exports?
Terry: Die Hard, The Nightmare Before Christmas, and A Christmas Story
Carter: Christmas Vacation.
Jason: Christmas Vacation.
Jon: Whatever the niece & nephew get that year and play on repeat Christmas day.
One present you’d love to get this year?
Barry: Tell Santa I still haven’t gotten that go kart.
Terry: Whirled Peas.
Carter: Musical saw.
Jon: World peace or an iPad pro.
Jason: Lots of cash.
Any holiday pet peeves?
Jason: Hanging the wreath at Carbon Leaf holiday shows. Ha!
Terry: Christmas lights that are still up in February.
Jon: The 7/11 started closing at 5pm Christmas day in my home town. It used to never close.
Barry: Christmas music playing before Thanksgiving. Ungrateful snot-nose little kids…just kidding, kids are great.
Carter: Remembering to move the elf.
Finally, any thoughts on a New Year’s Resolution?
Barry: No, I have everything dialed in exactly right.
Terry: To spend more time with my family! And exercise, eat better, lose weight, et cetera.
Jon: Spend less money this year, and tighten up my health/diet/exercise game.
Jason: Eh, not really.
Carter: Not sure, has to be something I can easily forget without too much guilt.
Carbon Leaf plays The National this Saturday night for their last show of 2015 alongside openers Look Homeward. Tickets are available for $16 in advance and $20 on the day of the show. Doors are at 8 PM and for more information on the show, click here.