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Cribshitter grows up, but just a little

Karl and Christine Christenson open up about Cribshitter’s latest album, “Goin’ Soft.”
All of the current Cribshitter members are shown posing in a room, the image is repeated across six tiles.
Photo: All of the current Cribshitter members are shown posing in a room, the image is repeated across six tiles.

Karl and Christine Christenson open up about Cribshitter’s latest album, “Goin’ Soft.”

Eighteen years ago, Cribshitter formed. No one in their right state of mind could’ve possibly seen the first iteration of Madison’s most unapologetically unhinged band and predicted they’d be one of the most enduring acts the city would have throughout the 2000s, 2010s, and into the 2020s. In 2011, the band released their first major effort, Cry A Little Rainbow, which had a scattershot offering of tracks that were nonsensical, horny, antagonistic, romantic, wild-eyed, and, somehow, resoundingly beautiful. At To Cry A Little Rainbow‘s best, it managed to be all of those things simultaneously.

Cry A Little Rainbow‘s blueprint has taken some reshaping in the years that followed its release, and Cribshitter has embraced impulses that most bands would find to be at odds. While their humor still retained a juvenile shine, the musicality—impressive from the outset—grew in maturity and complexity. It’s a rare band that can have a tuba-driven track called “Whippin’ Shitties” and simultaneously play most other bands off the stage. Cribshitter’s oddball marriage of lowbrow humor and virtuosic playing has resulted in frequently baffling and side-splittingly funny highs. The band’s innate understanding of what makes an idea work has yielded a great deal of memorable material.

As the band honed their craft—gimmicks, musicality, comedy, and otherwise—their decisions became more thoughtful. Intentionality started moving towards the forefront of what had previously leaned into primordial instinct. Still, Cribshitter remained committed to being gleefully chaotic. The press kit for their 2011 album Methlehem—a fake, hollowed-out bible with a faux-meth-making kit, the CD itself, and novelty “TestaMints”—made that commitment abundantly clear.

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Mint Car, a 2012 limited-run tape release that’s still available digitally, marked a sort-of Greatest Hits for the band, who had cemented both their status and reputation within Madison’s music community by that time. It also provided some material to act as a stop-gap between Methlehem and what would be their next release, 2015’s Acapulco. All of the thoughtfulness and intentionality the band had been building towards throughout the preceding 10-plus years became evident as Cribshitter began to evolve into a soft-rock powerhouse. Opener “Acapulco” demonstrated an extremely smooth production aesthetic that seamlessly intertwined sax solos, rap features, and disco/funk guitar figures. No track on Acapulco was more emblematic of the stylistic shift than “If These (Vaginal) Walls Could Talk,” though Acapulco still ultimately made room for at least one aggro-punk throwback in “Still Kick Chad’s Head.”

After the release of Acapulco the band would go on a modified hiatus, with the two members at the center—Karl and Christine Christenson, who married around the time of the band’s 2004 inception—becoming parents to two children. With the demands of early parenthood consuming most of their time and attention, there was little room left to focus on personal artistic pursuits, though the band still found time to play the odd one-off show. As their two children started growing up and the Covid pandemic emerged in 2020, the couple found a bit more time to devote to Cribshitter’s soft resurrection. “Covid Cove,” a sharply satirical yacht rock track about Covid’s emergence and the people who chose that time to throw enormous parties, ended a five-year release drought and wound up being the artistic impetus for their latest album, 2022’s Goin’ Soft.

Motivated, in part, by the challenges of parenthood, Goin’ Soft is the most contemplative Cribshitter’s ever sounded, as well as the most sincere. Sure, there are still jokes about assplay, farts, and the like, but it’s all grounded via a high-concept arc about one (or several) middle-aged couple’s dissolving marriage(s). Even with their requisite goofiness, there’s an undercurrent of tragedy that runs through Goin’ Soft, evidencing the Christensons’ newfound patience. Goin’ Soft is also the most outright gorgeous the band’s ever sounded—beautiful keys/synth figures, pedal steel, and warm tones dominate the record. A late-record 1-2-3 punch of “Waiting For Quiet,” “The Scythe,” and “Can’t Wanna Like That” constitutes one of the most arresting moments of the band’s long-running discography. Across those three tracks, Cribshitter taps into a sincere melancholy that results in a genuinely breathtaking stretch of work that both honors the overarching concept of Goin’ Soft while standing on its own as a commentary on the potency of love, dedication, and commitment.

Goin’ Soft,” the record’s instrumental title track, and “Medium Talent” close things out in peculiar, enticing fashion. On the latter, the band once again cedes ground to a more serious tone, while the latter—a likely reference to an infamous Bill Murray dig at Chevy Chase during a backstage blowup at SNL—stitches together a medley of new and scrapped ideas to create a mesmeric, seven-and-a-half minute tapestry of Cribshitter’s wildly scattershot impulses. While it’s unlikely this is the last thing we wind up hearing from Cribshitter, it’s still an unbelievably fitting send-off that honors the enviable breadth of Cribshitter’s work.

Goin’ Soft also acts as a strong showcase for the band’s non-Christenson personnel, a revolving door of local musicians performing under stage names that make it nearly impossible to keep track of who’s who. Something To Do‘s Nate Treddinick (listed on the album as Ropin’ Rodeo Nate) is one such musician, providing vital contributions on sax and guitar. Those used to scanning Cribshitter’s past credits will likely note that “The Fucking Lion” has been replaced on drums by “Motor Oil Joe” for Goin’ Soft. Cribshitter’s core trio—Diaper Daniels (Karl), Danika Dutchap (Christine), and Don Rubbish (Kyle Ritchie)—remains unchanged.

Tone Madison sat down with the Christensons in late October to talk about Goin’ Soft, parenthood, accelerated empathy, and how the band, against all conceivable odds, came to be one of Madison’s longest-running acts. Throughout our talk, the couple was in high spirits, poking fun at themselves, each other, and frequently breaking out into uncontainable laughter. At multiple points, the Christenson’s would finish each other’s thoughts, and their affection for each other was palpable (they insist the divorce concept was not inspired by their own marriage and it was incredibly easy to believe that was the case). Occasionally contradictory but always genuine, the Christensons have continued to make things work.

Cribshitter’s next performance will be a show with Free Dirt at The Bur Oak on January 28.

Tone Madison: The last full-length you put out was released in 2015. How long was the writing process for Going Soft and at what point did you decide to commit the sound that listeners hear on the record? 

Christine Christenson: The writing process was seven years.

Karl Christenson: It was seven years. Sounds about right. 2015. Acapulco, I was feverishly trying to finish that.

Christine Christenson: Pre-number one kid.

Karl Christenson: We had just had Otis, our son, our first kid, as we were trying to finish that thing up. That was a big rush. “Alright, we gotta get this thing out because everything’s gonna change after this because there’s not gonna be any more free time.” And that was what happened. As soon as we had Otis, three years later we [had] Willa, our daughter. So we’re two kids deep and there’s not a lot of production output happening at that point. Just a lot of parenting.

Christine Christenson: We were just trying to maintain, man. [Laughing]

Karl Christenson: Just keeping our kids alive. Feeding them and giving them water and shelter. The last track on this album, it’s called “Medium Talent” and it’s just a medley. All that stuff—not all of it but a lot of that—some of it was left over from Acapulco, from years ago. And I didn’t know what to do with it, and had worked on it but didn’t have a place to house it. So I decided: let’s just throw all this shit together and do a medley. I almost wasn’t going to… We weren’t going to do it. And then you decided we were gonna put it on there, right?

Christine Christenson: Yeah. We just had a lot of little ditties that were kind of just…

Karl Christenson: Little thingers.

Christine Christenson: Little ditty-pops I could string together. So we ended up just stitching it.

Karl Christenson: Stitching it together. Most of that’s old, some of it’s newer. Basically they’re ideas that weren’t fully fleshed out and needed a place to go. [The rest of] this record has probably been written in the last year and a half. So there’s a huge gap of nothing happening with this band, other than playing a couple live shows. It’s all pretty new.

Christine Christenson: What made us decide to do an album?

Karl Christenson: We just started doing shit, right? We just started making songs.

Christine Christenson: Wouldn’t you say “Covid Cove,” we were like, “Okay, we got a new single! Alright.”


Karl Christenson: That’s true, that was two years ago. Two and a half years ago?

Christine Christenson: Two and a half years ago. And we were like “Maybe we should start doing an EP” and were talking about other songs. Throwing other ideas around. We just kept building on that.

Karl Christenson: That’s totally right. Yeah. “Covid Cove” we had done, like in-the-bag done, and released as a single on YouTube and that was pretty much it.

Christine Christenson: That kind of anchored it and then we just started adding to it. And you would emerge from the basement or something like “I have a song.” That’s how you came up with “Sausalito Sunset.”

Karl Christenson: Right, right.

Christine Christenson: And every so often we would be committed to like, “Alright, let’s work on a song tonight.” And we would just, you know.

Karl Christenson: Once [the] kids go to bed, we can have a little creative time.

Christine Christenson: Kids go to bed and we can just have a beer and sit in our living room and flesh out “Assplay.” There are a lot of recordings on my phone that are just super old, just like, “Oh yeah, here’s an idea.” And we’d just record it.

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Karl Christenson: I’m sure a lot of people are doing that now, with the phones, just throwing voice messages on and stitching things together. That’s kind of how this all fleshed out. I would say you, Christine, you wrote most of this album, right?

Christine Christenson: You, primarily, but yeah. Yeah.

Karl Christenson: You did a lot of lyrics, though, like a ton of lyrics… [As for the sound] I feel like on Acapulco we were already teasing the soft rock and soft pop.

Christine Christenson: We’ve been listening to a lot of that too.

Karl Christenson: For years now.

Christine Christenson: Dire Straits.

Karl Christenson: A lot of fuckin’ Dire Straits. So much Dire Straits. [Laughing] The early stuff. The early Dire Straits.

Christine Christenson: Or Phil Collins.

Karl Christenson: We’ve smoothed out. I think maybe having kids launched our life into chaos and so you’re looking for things to smooth out your life. Like, “This sounds nice. I like this Eagles song,” or “This Jackson Browne song sounds awesome.”

Christine Christenson: Our son has gotten into music and so he’ll be like “Let’s listen to-” And he’ll throw on FatRat or something.

Karl Christenson: Marshmello. It’s all Marshmello and DJ stuff.

Christine Christenson: So we’ll listen to it and dance around but then we’ll be like, “But what about this?” and throw some other shit his way and he’ll be like “I don’t like this.”

Karl Christenson: Like, “Hey kid, have you ever heard Steely Dan? They’re great!” [Laughing]

Christine Christenson: But he likes our music, our daughter loves our music.

Karl Christenson: She sings along to it, but I don’t think Otis likes our music that much.

Christine Christenson: That’s alright. [Laughing.]

Karl Christenson: “Covid Cove” has got a beat so he likes that one. Anything with a beat is cool. Anything that’s smooth and groovy? Nah. So. There might have been a concerted effort to do soft rock. Like, let’s do it. Let’s do something that sounds soft. Let’s make songs that sound kind of like what our parents were listening to, or what we grew up on, you know? All the Boomer rock. Let’s make a Boomer rock record.

Tone Madison: So it sounds like you wrote the bulk of the record over the last year-and-a-half, since “Covid Cove” came out, and then added those older ideas into “Medium Talent.” How long did the actual recording process for this take?

Karl Christenson: It’s kind of disjointed because we had four of what we thought were really strong songs, so we decided [to go] back to Blast House and have Dustin Sisson engineer it and record us, because he did such a great job. That’s kind of how we did Acapulco, where we had a handful of songs done and we recorded them there. The rest was all finished here, in the basement studio where we are right now, so that’s what we did again. We had four songs, we went into Blast House, and Dustin did ’em. We brought the whole band in and we rehearsed, you know, beforehand to try to get ’em down.

Karl Christenson: I don’t know if they were fully ready? There were some mixed results, I feel like, at Blast House, live in the studio when we were recording. We tracked it live, with separation, different booths and stuff. Four of those songs had a real “studio experience” treatment. All the rest of the tracks were done in the basement studio, here in our house. Which is where we are right now, look: [Picks up laptop and directs view towards equipment] This is just a quick tour. Slow-pan!

Christine Christenson: That gong?

Karl Christenson: That gong. You probably heard a lot of that gong on this album. Anyways, the rest of it was all basically done here.

Christine Christenson: Blast House was fun, though. Dustin was incredible.

Karl Christenson: Yeah, Dustin’s awesome, man. I also worked with him at his [basement studio] to re-track vocals. Overdub acoustics.

Christine Christenson: Harmonies and everything else.

Karl Christenson: He had a lot of great ideas for the album. He definitely [brought] a creative touch to the album, too. For some of those songs, that was pretty important. He was awesome to work with.

Tone Madison: What program are you recording to in your studio?

Karl Christenson:
I go into a… what’s my interface? A MOTU. A 2-input box. Then I go into Logic on a Mac.

Karl and Christine Christenson are shown mid-performance at the High Noon Saloon on August 22, 2019. Photo by Steven Spoerl.

Tone Madison: Could you walk us through both the conceptualization and execution of the music videos for both “Covid Cove” and “Sausalito Sunset?”

Karl Christenson:
Oh man, “Covid Cove” was really something, video-wise. Because we did it [during the] first summer of Covid. I guess that’s two years ago.

Christine Christenson: We were hanging out with our pod, you know? It’s the summer and they had a boat. So we were like, “Wouldn’t it be great if we actually went to Three Foot Bay?” [It’s a spot] on Lake Mendota, where everyone ties up and parties a little bit. And then [the plan was to] either get some drone footage or do our own kind of stuff out there. So it was literally like: throw some shit in a bag, get on a boat, get out there, and [go].

Karl Christenson: Grab a flag, grab a camera.

Christine Christenson: Yeah, grab a bunch of stupid props and then just record a video. We kind of threw that one together. We got those water images, or water scenery, down and then we took it to [Karl’s] friends house, where you did more of the working stuff.

Karl Christenson: All of the driveway shots. All of the B-roll. It was basically co-written with Prop Cummins. He’s a friend of mine I’ve had since college. We’ve played music together since college. He’s a great drummer. He also plays all kinds of stuff. He’s playing guitar and he helped co-write that song with us and he shot the whole thing and edited the whole thing in [Adobe] Premiere or something. 

He put the whole video together, really. It was his boat. It was quite a scene that one day on the Bay, doing that. It’s cut in with other footage from this huge lake in Minnesota, Lake Minnetonka, which is a party lake scene. And there’s so much YouTube footage of that stuff that we were just grabbing and splicing in with our footage.

Christine Christenson: Oh, then there’s this voiceover guy [we have], and he did a lot of the Morgan Freeman voiceover work for us for Acapulco. So we went back to him and were like, “What other voices you got?” So we went back to him to do a little intro and we did a David Attenborough one for that.

Karl Christenson: Because we were watching a lot of Planet Earth with our kids.

Christine Christenson: Yeah. So we did a David Attenborough voiceover for the opening of that one, so that was “Covid Cove.” And with “Sausalito Sunset” we had to go…

Karl Christenson: That was Dustin’s baby.

Christine Christenson: Yeah, he had an idea. He wanted to film us in the studio when we were actually recording the songs, so he took the video while we were doing that and then we just had some stupid ideas that we put into script for the intro. We just went back one day and there was a really, really bad idea that revolved around “his hips don’t lie,” like the Shakira [song].

Karl Christenson: It was a Shakira joke that I don’t think really landed on the final cut of the video. It was supposed to have the Shakira song at the end but I think that got forgotten about.

Christine Christenson: Probably for copyright reasons.

Karl Christenson: Yeah, for copyright reasons he couldn’t put it in.

Christine Christenson: So that video was really just a treat.

Karl Christenson: Yeah, bad acting, half-baked plan, but I like how it turned out.

Christine Christenson: It was just something to kind of push the music out there. Put a little visual to it.

Karl Christenson: Dustin does those videos for bands, some of the bands that record at Blast House, he picks some of them and he’ll record ’em. He was basically just, we were tracking, and he was walking around, take after take.

Christine Christenson: No, not take after take. One-take. Dude was a one-take pony.

Karl Christenson: No, during tracking.

Christine Christenson: Oh. Yeah. For all the bad acting we would just do [speaks gibberish] and we’d be like “Can we do that again?” And he’d be like, “No, that’s it. It’s perfect.” And we were like… “Okay!”

Karl Christenson: But like the dialogue? He was just like, “One take.”

Christine Christenson: Probably to keep things moving along, he didn’t want to mess around too much. So that was actually a fun process. We kind of got into [doing it] that way, we were just like “One take! Who cares!”  Push “fuck it” on it and go to the next thing.

Karl Christenson: File it under “fuck it.” [Laughing.]

Christine Christenson: File it under fuck it.

Tone Madison: Speaking of voiceovers, where’s the audio on “The Scythe” from?

Karl Christenson:
That’s one of my dad’s oldest friends. His name is Wild Bill Arthur. He lives in Minneapolis and my dad’s known him since college, they went to the University of Minnesota. He’s been in a lot of our videos. He was in “Nicky Phonehome” dancing around, very kind of like David Lynch creepy.

Christine Christenson: And then he’s in “On The Mend,” he sings in that. An earlier song. He’s just like a character that’s been in Karl’s family for like, forever.

Karl Christenson: The unluckiest guy in the world.


Christine Christenson: There’s a good story. The short version is: the reason Karl’s dad met this guy, Wild Bill Arthur, is because his dad was sitting and reading back in college and this groundskeeper came around and was swinging a scythe.

Karl Christenson: Cutting the grass outside.

Christine Christenson: And he’s not the most coordinated person so he really swung the scythe. His dad said he ducked and this scythe nearly missed his head. Then he met Bill and kind of took him under his wing and started hanging out with him. Still, to this day, he helps not take care of him but just like, you know, help take care of him.

Karl Christenson: They’re good, good friends. He’s an interesting guy.

Christine Christenson: He was a writer, too, for… the Tribune

Karl Christenson: Yeah, Star Tribune. He was a column writer for years and now he’s retired. He’s just one of those really interesting guys, man. One of those people.

Christine Christenson: He’s got a cool voice too, like [imitating a warbly phonograph] “every time he talks” it’s like weird inflections.

Karl Christenson: Weird vibrato. And he’s just the nicest guy and he’s just down for anything. Did you ever see The Hussy video called “EZ/PZ?” I shot that for The Hussy and he’s in that. The whole story behind that was he kidnapped The Hussy and kept them chained up in his basement because they’re his favorite band. It’s super creepy and weird. He was so into that. Any time I’m like “Hey, Bill, I got a video for you.” He’s like “I’M IN!!” And he’s so excited to do it.

Christine Christenson: He’ll do a lot of small theater, stand-up.

Karl Christenson: Community theater. Karaoke guy. Stand-up comic. Just throws it all out there.

Christine Christenson: He’ll get into choir groups and then maybe get kicked out of them. [Laughing.]

Karl Christenson: Voice is just too strong.

Christine Christenson: He’s got a strong personality too, let’s be honest.

Karl Christenson: That’s Wild Bill Arthur.

Christine Christenson: That’s that voiceover.

Tone Madison: Was that excerpt all pre-written dialogue or was it pulled from an old recording?

Karl Christenson:
That was pulled from an interview I did when I was applying for my job. I work at Wisconsin Public Radio. I’m a producer there. Years ago I was applying and as a portfolio piece they wanted a submission of an interview I’d done. So I basically put together an interview on the fly with my dad interviewing Bill Arthur about the day they met and almost getting his head chopped off. The whole thing. So that’s a little clip from that interview that’s 15 years old, probably. It seemed to work really well with that song so I just dropped it in there.

Tone Madison: This seems to be in keeping with the lyrical content of the record, which comes across as more downtrodden than past efforts, with the record poking at desolation, loss, and trauma. Was there anything that prompted a decision to lean a bit more into tragedy or tragicomedy?

Karl Christenson:
I don’t know what happened! We were talking about this in the last week or so.

Christine Christenson: Some friend, a friend of ours, listened to our album and just looked at their husband and was like, “Are Christine and Karl okay?”

Karl Christenson: Yeah. [Laughing.] Like it’s our divorce record.

Christine Christenson: Yeah, like “She Barely Loves Me.” And it’s not [our divorce record] at all.

Karl Christenson: It could easily sound like that, I think.

Christine Christenson: I don’t know. Yeah. It could, for sure.

Karl Christenson: Maybe it has a lot to do with like, this Boomer Rock stuff we were listening to. A lot of Jackson Browne. Like, Bruce Springsteen’s Tunnel Of Love is just a great divorce record, you know? I was listening to a lot of that stuff and those songs are very melancholic.

Christine Christenson: I also think, too, just because we’ve been together for so long, like we’ve been together for 20 years. You get to that point in the relationship where it’s like “20 loooong years,” so it’s funny to joke about “Oh, marriage! The ol’ ball-and-chain.” To me, that was a funny idea. To me, I see my parents, and they have all these marriage tropes that are like making fun of each other or how long they’ve been together. So, I kind of ran with that on some of these songs. “You’re Lucky I Love You,” “I’m gonna make doo on you.” Even “Assplay” a little bit.

Karl Christenson: I took a beating on this record. I feel like I deserved it, probably. [Laughing.]

Christine Christenson: We kind of went with it! Yeah. I don’t think you deserved it, we just kind of rolled with it. Then we came to where part of the Goin’ Soft rock where: we’re aging, we’re getting old. Even our relationship is getting old.

Karl Christenson: One of the ideas behind “Sausalito Sunset,” which I think is the perfect thing that sums up the whole album, is “Boomer dude going through a divorce gets on his fuckin’ hog and drives down Highway One to California, into Sausalito. Gets into some weird stuff in the city.” Just kind of a trope about Boomers and Harleys and driving through the sunsets and those cliches. I was leaning into those cliches a lot.

Christine Christenson: None of it is true! None of it is true. We’re still married. [Shows ring finger without its ring, both laughing.] Wait, how do you have a ring?

Karl Christenson: It’s turquoise, not a wedding ring. Ooh, that’d be good. I replace my wedding ring with this turquoise ring for “Sausalito Sunset.” Get all turq’d out.

Christine Christenson: So we’re not really this depressing. We’re not getting a divorce.

Karl Christenson: We’re not getting a divorce. I don’t think.

Tone Madison: It does seem like tragedy, even in a detached or post-ironic sense, and sincerity are really well balanced across the record. At what point do you know when to cut back on something and when do you know when something’s worth heightening?

Christine Christenson:
I don’t know if we know that necessarily.

Karl Christenson: We are always walking that line.

Christine Christenson: We did “Can’t Wanna Like That” as serious as we could sing, you know. But we were also like, “This is so forced and awful at the same time,” but it’s also a pretty song, you know? I don’t know. Don’t you think that was one of those songs where we were like, “Oh my God, I can’t believe we’re doing this. Like we’re actually putting this on the record.”

Karl Christenson: For sure. Yeah. I mean, this was the most, by far, work I think I’ve ever put into a record, production-wise. I was trying so hard to really make it as smooth and glossy and produced as I could possibly do with what I have. And, yeah, walking the line, I guess. Sincere vs. comedy has always been our thing. We’ve been doing it forever, it seems like.

Christine Christenson: And we’ve gotten more serious.

Karl Christenson: For sure. We have tipped a lot more towards sincere. Especially with this record. The past answer that we gave you of “it’s all a joke,” it really isn’t all a joke. There’s a lot of things on here that I think are sincere. There are things that I think are definitely serious on this album.

Christine Christenson: I’m trying harder. I’m trying to play better in general. [Laughing.] I’m not trained. Like, I don’t play keys. I’m not trained in it. [I] started off because I play tuba. But [Karl] was like, “It’d be cool if we had some synth sounds and stuff like that.” So I started doing little Casio things and now it’s evolved into, like, “know your patches, know your—”

Karl Christenson: Yeah! Know your shit!!

Christine Christenson: And I’m just like “Ahh!” I never wanted to really, you know, I don’t know—

Karl Christenson: Yeah, like whatever happened to fucking around on a tuba and making fart jokes?

Christine Christenson: Yeah, exactly. So there’s a little bit more try in what we do, but it’s not a bad effect. We get together, and as a band I think we still collectively, you know, don’t care all the time.

Karl Christenson: Yeah, we let a lot of things go. We let a lot of things slide, musically.

Christine Christenson: Still kind of loose.

Karl Christenson: Yeah, I think things have just gotten a lot more serious and I don’t know if that’s on purpose or if that’s just a natural progression. It’s been 18 years.

Christine Christenson: There’s a lot of jokes I don’t think we can tell anymore or that we don’t really want to go back to some of the really, really early [material].

Karl Christenson: Yeah, I’ve taken a couple of things down. Off the internet.

Christine Christenson: Yeah, we’ve taken things down, and I’m a little bit embarrassed about [some of it].

Karl Christenson: Yeah, there are things that are not good to say anymore. And a lot of stuff like that. That’s also an interesting facet of this whole thing, is once you have kids… I started this band 18 years ago as a big kind of “Fuck you” to music, bands, to everything and I’d been in all these serious bands and it was just fun to kind of fuck around and make shit-fart jokes, you know? And now we have kids and it’s just like, “Oh, what’s the legacy here?” When they’re like 14 and they discover this, because it’s all over the web, what are they gonna think of this stuff? I don’t know.

That’s definitely influenced… maybe I didn’t even realize that’s what has influenced why things have gone softer. I’m not sure. Maybe. I mean, that and some of the things I’ve pulled down, is just like general social norms and wisening up about things. That’s a weighted one, for sure.

Christine Christenson: Yeah, it’s not necessarily that we’re going soft, we’re just going more—

Karl Christenson: Smart? Empathetic?

Christine Christenson: More conscious?

Karl Christenson: Going more empathetic.

Tone Madison: I was about to ask whether or not you think parenthood has played a role in actively reshaping the band’s tendencies, but I think you just answered that really eloquently.

Karl Christenson:
Yep!

Christine Christenson: There it is.

Karl Christenson: And there’s a timing component. There’s just not the time I used to have. I don’t have the time to try every little idea I have. So a lot of ideas get quickly thrown out, so it’s like, “We don’t even have time to chase that, so let’s go to this one because it’s hitting harder right away.” So there’s a timing thing and a social-consciousness thing.

Christine Christenson: Yeah, and you’ll hear, like Karl even sampled one of the kids on “This Is How We Scroll.” It starts with our kids talking, both of them, on that one. So they kind of make little appearance too.

Karl Christenson: Otis does not like that song. He was a little embarrassed that he was on there. One day he’ll be like, “Hey Dad, that’s kind of cool you put me on a song!” …I bet that’ll never happen.

Christine Christenson: Who knows?

Tone Madison: Was there anything else about the record you wanted to get across?

Karl Christenson:
I feel like we covered it.

Christine Christenson: There was a lot of gut-spilling.

Karl Christenson: Yeah, I feel like our answer at first was, “It’s all a joke,” and then that branched out and transformed into “Well, there’s some serious stuff on there.” 

Christine Christenson: Well, that’s true, because it started with “Covid Cove,” where we’re definitely taking pot-shots at New Country and the images that we used, the video were real kind of—

Karl Christenson: [Reflective of] the haphazard way people were dealing with Covid at the time.

Christine Christenson: And then we kind of branched out from that.

Karl Christenson: What else did we want to get across about this record? I don’t know. I love it. Of course. Of course I like my own record. [Laughing.] I’m proud of it. It means a lot to me.

Tone Madison: What’s next?

Karl Christenson: Next? I don’t know.

Christine Christenson: Next, there’s not much.

Karl Christenson: We’re gonna take a break. Not, like “a break,” but. 

Christine Christenson: Another eight years of stewing on things before we get around to another record.

Karl Christenson: That’s so weird, because this happened with Acapulco. At the end of it, I was like, “I don’t think I can make another record. I think I’m done.” And so it only took seven years to get this one out. I feel the same way. There’s a big breath.

Christine Christenson: Of relief.

Karl Christenson: And it’s even hard to really get to “what’s next.” I can’t imagine writing another album right now. Plus, I’ve been doing a lot of music with WPR. So a lot of my creative output has been scoring podcasts for WPR and doing all the stuff I do for work. It’s great! It’s an awesome job. I love it. But I’m probably going to go back to doing that.

Christine Christenson: Honestly, we’re still trying to figure out how to play a lot of these songs live. They were recorded and a lot of it was just, Karl and me, over-produced, whatever. So now we’re trying to translate that. Like, there’s songs we’ve never played live.

Karl Christenson: That we can’t play.

Karl and Christine Christenson are shown mid-performance at the High Noon Saloon on August 22, 2019. Karl’s playing guitar while Christine is singing into a microphone just behind him. Photo by Steven Spoerl.

Christine Christenson: Either we can’t or we haven’t yet, so [our October 22 CD release show] will be some, you know, test drives. So we’ll see how it goes. Kind of just trying to figure out how to transform it to a live show. Beyond that? I don’t know. Take some vacations.

Karl Christenson: Yes! Go to Disney World?!

Christine Christenson: Go to Disney. [Laughing.]

Karl Christenson: With the kids!

Christine Christenson: That’s true, he was looking last night.

Karl Christenson: I still don’t think my parents understand this band. Like, it’s been 18 years. There was a show, we played a show two weeks ago at a vineyard, outside of Sauk City right by Wollersheim. This really great, huge, beautiful place.

Christine Christenson: It’s a cool place if you haven’t heard of it, it’s called The Vines, it’s really cool. Hopefully they’re going to turn into like a Shitty Barn location.

Karl Christenson: That’s what they’re trying to do, they’re trying to get bands out there.

Christine Christenson: It’s really cool. It’s out in the valley. There’s a [place] called Little Crystal Lake or something. The moon was totally full, just a beautiful night. And we played this show.

Karl Christenson: My family was there, her family was there. Kids were there.

Christine Christenson: So everyone was like, “That was great!” Just complimentary, you know? But afterwards I was talking to Karl because we were coming home and I was like “…your parents didn’t say one word.” [Laughing.] “Not one word. That’s kind of weird, right?”

Karl Christenson: And they’re kind of fun, kind of wacky, kind of weird.

Christine Christenson: They’re teachers! Kind of like, very constructive and positive. They’re very loving and warm and they usually have something they have to say. Nothing. Not a word. [Laughing.]

Karl Christenson: I know. I was like trying it out, like “What do you think of the new album?” “…good!”

Christine Christenson: No, they liked it. They liked it a lot. We eventually got to it the next day. Had to pry it out. But we got to it. Goes to show you, you never know.

Karl Christenson: It’s confusing, I think. It’s confusing. And that’s another part we’ve always tried to push: how confusing we are.

Christine Christenson: Yeah. What’s real, what’s not. Trying to kind of walk that line like you said. How do you push it, how do you reel it in a little bit.

Karl Christenson: And it’s been such an unbelievably lazy defense mechanism to fall back on all along on this band. It’s funny, [Tone Madison publisher] Scott [Gordon] wrote one of the coolest things that he’s ever written about us years ago. It was something like, “Some people go to Cribshitter shows for the music, some are like NASCAR fans who go for the crashes.” Or something like that! Paraphrasing! But it was really funny.

We’ve always had that baked into this band. If we tank a set or whatever, everyone’s probably just like, “Oh yeah, that’s Cribshitter, that’s just kind of how it goes.” That’s why it’s so weird to be trying so hard right now to fill or flesh out this really produced sound and also pull it off live, when we know a lot of this shit’s not gonna work live and it’s probably just gonna crash and burn. It’s just baked into our thing, where we can just crash and it’s okay. [Laughing.] Lazy!

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