With all the hustle and bustle of modern-day holiday commercialism and parental guilt trips, the real reason we still practice the tradition of Christmas can seem totally lost in the fray. Fort Worth quartet Tame… Tame and Quiet is trying to rediscover just a little bit of the Christmas spirit, according to singer-guitarist Aaron Bartz.
“At some point I reached an age where I started to feel a sort of sadness about the holidays,” he said. “As you get older, the magic of Christmas kind of disappears. You’re out alone in the world, and some of the traditions drop off over time.”
The season, he added, “doesn’t hold the same magic and joy that it used to.”
In an attempt to reclaim some of that magic, TTXQ, a band usually known for its unique brand of intricate, jangly post-rock, is releasing a cover of Vince Gauraldi’s “Christmas Time Is Here.” (No, not the impish, grating Chipmunks song but the beloved version from 1965’s A Charlie Brown Christmas.)
“I’ve always loved Gauraldi’s music, being a big jazz fan” Bartz said. “And that particular song hits all the sadness and the joy of Christmas. All the emotions come out.”
Recording a version of the song has been a passion project of Bartz’s for more than a decade. Some time ago, he worked out an arrangement on guitar and would occasionally lay down various renderings at home on a four-track recorder, sometimes with his young daughter singing along. At some point, he presented the idea to his bandmates, and they messed around with the tune during rehearsals. In the winter of 2005, they actually performed it live on KTCU’s The Good Show, but there was some technical malfunction with one of the microphones and not much of the instrumentation was picked up.
At Cloudland Studios on Sunday with veteran producer Robby Rux (Fungi Girls, Mean Motor Scooter), Bartz, drummer Jason McMullen, guitarist Darren Miller, and bassist Jeff Williams finally got it right. TTXQ’s “Christmas Time Is Here” is a rendition only they could do, though it remains lovingly faithful to the essence of the original. The jazzy chord voicings are painted with the band’s signature dissonance and emphasized by a funereal tempo. The vocals and some playful underlying melodies add the appropriate contrast of warm Christmas cheer.
With the song, the four guys broadened their typical guitar-bass-drums structure, continuing the experimentation with new instruments that began with their Peach Hills cassette release from 2016. In the Christmas tune, McMullen added a tinkling piano part and the requisite sleigh bells (which Bartz calls “the perfect bow on the present”), and Williams offered up an actual bass solo in the middle break. Composer and installation artist James Talambas scored a fittingly morose yet triumphant brass arrangement for an all-star lineup of local horn players: himself, Chuck Brown (Telegraph Canyon, Andy Pickett), Chris Curiel (Swirve), Austin Kroll (Jake Paleschic), and The Good Show’s Tom Urquhart. For vocals, the band invited a group of friends and family to serve as a choir. I forewent professional passive journalistic observation (and my own self-consciousness) and joined in the spirit of the occasion by adding my nasal croaking to the makeshift choral group.
The resulting track is a charming modern take on a timeless holiday classic that perfectly captures the season’s duality of joy and sadness that Guaraldi-by-way-of-Bartz has always felt.
The Tame … Tame and Quiet guys will release the track in digital format on Friday through their Bandcamp page. In keeping with the spirit of the season, all proceeds will go to a yet-to-be-determined charitable cause.
“I never wanted it to be for profit,” Bartz said. “I know Vince Gauraldi’s dead, but I’m sure he has some estate out there that might come looking for me for money.”