Greetings! As promised, here is the second half of my interview with Service Unicorn. Read part one HERE.
EJ: One of my favorite elements from your music is your writing. I love your storytelling and the analogies you use. What inspires your lyrics?
Chris: Ok, so, as promised, there is a story of sorts-or at least an idea-behind the band moniker Service Unicorn. As you might have guessed, I’m someone who is deeply inspired, not only by the fantastical/fairy tale in general, but by the writings of C.S. Lewis in particular (I can almost feel a kind of collective eye rolling from those readers who are sick of Christians looking to Lewis for inspiration, but that’s another rant for another interview) and by extension the likes of George MacDonald and others. So, in that mindset, think of what a service animal does. A seeing eye dog, for instance. Or a dog who walks alongside a crippled individual. Or even maybe a comforting animal, a cat or something that sits with patients in a trauma ward. In the same way, I would think that a service unicorn would guide and enable the mythologically blind and disabled person-or mythologically disabled heart is maybe a better way to say it-to be able to walk into myth, to see story and to comprehend legend, and thereby be guided into what Lewis would no doubt agree was the Real and Greater Story from which all other stories and legends flow. So, in essence-and I hope I’m not floundering into some kind of weird, heretical or blasphemous waters here-but I suppose that to me at least, the Service Unicorn is really just another way of referencing the Holy Ghost. It feels weird to even type that, but as I’m trying to explain myself, I realize that’s maybe at the back of the idea all along. If you just want to think of the band name as two words wedged together that sound interesting though, that’s fine by me too. It will become different things to different people, depending on the individual lens. Plus I have this little pink Playmobil unicorn that I’ve adopted and named Copernicus, and he’s certainly no stand-in for the Holy Ghost!
EJ: What do you do when you’re not making music in your “Sound Castle,” as you call it?
Chris: I’m an illustrator/graphic designer by trade. I also love to read YA fantasy and other works of theology in addition to old, familiar Lewis (I mean, c’mon). My wife is good about encouraging me to expand those horizons, too. Let’s see. I’m an avid gamer, although I have no console in the house at this moment. Nintendo all the way. I love coffee and long walks and rescue animals (really all animals, but our pets are rescues.)
EJ: Which decade of the twentieth century do you identify with the most?
Chris: Man. Umm, 1985-1995. That’s not exactly what you meant, I’m sure. But that was the best era for ‘post-modern alt rock,’ kid’s television and Nintendo games, hands down. Beyond that, maybe the early 1900‘s-1920’s? I don’t even know why, except to say that I love the thought of a society that’s just on the edge of having been Victorian, then stepping into some amazing and terrifying technological advances. There’s something dark and mysterious about the early 1900’s. Maybe it’s just all the old black and white film footage from the general time period that makes me think so. But, still.
EJ: Who has been your favorite recent music discovery?
Chris: I’d have to say… Selebrities followed closely by Craft Spells, Yumi Zouma and Ejecta. I’ve also enjoyed what I’ve heard of Future Islands in the last year or so, who are probably a little more well-known at this point. Hmmm… and a random assortment of others I can’t think to name in the moment. All of it is fairly dreamy, synth-washed, melancholy indie pop of one variety or another.
EJ: If you could collaborate with any musician, who would it be?
Chris: Rich Mullins (God rest his soul) or Steve Taylor, maybe. I name them, because I respect them both so much for a variety of similar and differing reasons, and their musical sensibilities are and were so different from mine at this point that it would just be interesting to see what we’d create in a weird collaboration. Then again, on the opposite end of the spiritual/ideological spectrum, maybe Freddy Mercury or Morrisey (he’d never want to collab with anyone other than himself, probably *wink, wink.) Oh, Matt Slocum of Sixpence. His songwriting has been hugely influential for me. I say that like it’s an aside.
EJ: What do you see on the horizon for Service Unicorn? (Please say touring, with a stop in the greater Seattle area…)
Chris: Sorry to disappoint, but probably (probably) no actual touring any time in the foreseeable future. I say that mostly because I’ve got a full-time job, and I’d like to keep the insurance! I also say that because I haven’t played a live set in for-ev-er. It makes me so nervous, even though I’ve got performance in my blood, as was mentioned earlier. But I need to just get my feet wet with some local house shows and see if I can manage that first. Then maybe Seattle. I love Frasier, btw. I’m sure I’d love Seattle. Never been to the far Northwest. Or the Northwest, period.
EJ: As of this writing, you have released all of your music for free, whether on Noisetrade or Bandcamp. What is your philosophy behind this?
Chris: Honestly, up to this point, it’s just been a matter of hoping someone, somewhere will listen to 5 seconds of a song and then maybe, just maybe want to hear more. I’ve tried to make it as hassle-free as possible for people to hear what I’m doing. It’s my art, I want to get it into people’s hands. Ultimately, I feel like it’s worth more than that, and should be. But up till now, I’ve just wanted anyone to be able to hear it, anywhere, by any means. I’ve probably lost someone’s respect in the last few seconds, or angered someone else. Especially in light of the bold move Taylor Swift just made. But I’m not on a record label as of this moment, and I’ve never had a number-one radio hit. So, you know. There it is.
EJ: What is the most impactful lesson you’ve learned as a creator?
Chris: I don’t want to repeat myself too much, but I guess I’ll reiterate something I said to Will in his interview (I’m deeply grateful to both of you, btw.) But as a creator/artist, I think it’s important-nay, essential-to maintain a sense of wonder about the world. To consider every little thing worth investigation, and worth borrowing from, learning from, stealing from. A deep sense of wonder will keep the creative person on a life-long quest, the kind of quest I think we were meant to be on as image-bearers of the Creator, the one true Artist, Himself. Everything becomes part of an ever-thickening collage in the mind and in the heart. Everything sprouts branches. New synapses are formed, new neural pathways forged, new connections made. But only if that sense of wonder is kept close and maintained, I think. Why else would I bother writing another song or illustrating another picture or anything at all? There’s a lot of hard work and discipline needed to make a go of the “creative” life, especially in terms of a career. But that sense of wonder is really the wellspring underneath all of it, without which the creation of new art would never occur.
All my thanks go to Christopher Stewart for taking the time to thoughtfully answer my questions. Be sure to back his Kickstarter project and help make his EP a reality. Chris is a true gentleman and artist. Keep both your eyes on this fellow as he advances to new heights with his music.
Lastly, visit your Service Unicorn on…