Based out of Oakland, California, Artsick are the indie-pop trio of Christina Riley, Mario Hernandez and Donna McKean. Christina dreamt up the band while lamenting a creative malaise that followed the demise of her previous band, Burnt Palms. After finding like-minded bandmates, Artsick was born and headed the studio to record their acclaimed debut single. Along the way, they caught the ear of Slumberland Records, and early next year the label will release their debut album, Fingers Crossed, which the band recorded over the course of a year with producer Tim Brown.
Fingers Crossed opens with the fittingly titled Restless, the track is a thrilling introduction to a record that explores the punkier edge of indie-pop, full of rapid-fire guitar work, pounding drums and timeless lyrical dissections of romance, politics and the creative spirit. The band recently showcased the album with the single, Despise, a rambunctious kiss-off track, it is resplendent with snarled vocals, Ramones-like guitar clatter and drums battered to the verge of breaking. Most recently, the band showcased the charmingly introspective, Ghost Of Myself, a song that wraps up internal struggle and self-doubt into one of the year’s finest pop songs, all fuzzy-guitars, fabulous melodies and that just on the verge of collapse charm that all the best indie-pop songs have. Fingers Crossed is a record that leaps out of the speakers, instantly marking itself out as a timeless and endearing addition to the Slumberland annals, the sort of record that makes you believe there’s still plenty of life in thrashy-guitars, handclaps and yelping out your emotions to anyone who’ll listen, a music lovers dream, Artsick already feel like a cult-classic, just waiting for the world to cotton on.
FTR: For those who don’t know who are Artsick?
Artsick is an indie-pop band based in Oakland and Seaside, California consisting of Christina Riley, Donna McKean and Mario Hernandez. Christina writes the songs (guitar/vocals/lyrics), Donna writes the bass and sings backing vocals, while Mario handles the drums/tambourine.
Mario and Donna have crossed paths for many years as musicians in the indie-pop music scene, with Donna in Lunchbox/Hard Left and Mario in Kids On A Crime Spree/From Bubblegum to Sky/Ciao Bella. I moved to California from Canada in 2009 and met them both about 10 years ago while playing shows with my old band, Burnt Palms. I was drawn right away to their songs and musicianship, and looked forward to the bills we shared together. When Burnt Palms broke up in 2017, I started recording more solo demos, but was missing the excitement and satisfaction of collaborating with talented people. At a party one evening, I showed Mario a couple of my rough tracks, and he offered to play drums and record the songs at his fully analogue studio in Oakland. When he asked who should play bass, I thought of Donna right away because I love her bass playing and she was always smiling up on stage as I watched her play. The result of that recording was our first single.
FTR: What can you remember about your first show?
I believe it was Oakland Popfest in 2018. We were wearing one of our favorites – black and white stripes, and the bubble machine we brought failed to work properly and just made the venue floor wet and slippery. It was my first time playing live again since the old band broke up, so it was an exciting time for me.
FTR: Why do you make music? Why not another art form?
I can’t speak for Donna and Mario, but I make music because I love music, and although my first band didn’t happen until I was about 28, I have been making melodies and figuring out songs for as long as I can remember. I feel it’s just a part of who I am on the deepest level. I’m not technically trained at all, so I’m always just figuring it out as I go and doing what feels right. I have to say also that I do other art forms – mostly photography if not music, but I do also enjoy making videos when I have the time. I love the live element of music – playing live is one of my favorite things to do!
FTR: What can people expect from the Artsick live show?
Coordinated outfits, catchy tunes, high energy and sets that don’t drag on forever, ha!
FTR: What’s next for Artsick?
Definitely more recording and gigs. We are so super excited that our debut LP, Fingers Crossed is on Slumberland Records and can’t wait to play songs from the album at Oakland Weekender this January. It’s a three night festival from Jan 6th-8th at The Golden Bull in Oakland. All of the other bands we have/play in are also playing the fest, so we really couldn’t be more excited! The line up is stacked with 15 excellent bands and 3 amazing DJs. Not to be missed for sure. You can get tickets online at Eventbrite.
They Listen To…
Jetstream Pony – Misplaced Words
Oh OK – The Complete Reissue
Dummy – Final Weapon
Hits – Drawstring Ties
Snail Mail – Ben Franklin
Fingers Crossed is out January 21st via Slumberland Records. For more information on Artsick visit https://artsick.bandcamp.com/.