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Only Child crafts an enchanting world of camp-pop storytelling on ‘Srs One’
The queer Boston songwriter and multi-instrumentalist unveils debut EP record out Friday, May 26 via Jungle Up Records
Led by the glistening synth-pop title track, streaming everywhere this month
Only Child performs live at Acton Pride Festival on June 17
“...oddly cinematic and ridiculously fun.” – If It’s Too Loud
Photo Credit: Oliver Guiney
BOSTON, MA [May 19, 2023] – There’s a certain point in Srs One, the debut EP from Boston camp-pop project Only Child, where multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Christopher James Martin offers up a hypnotic mantra, repeated over and over alongside glowing synths to the point of unmistakable conviction: “It’s a crush, so what / Grow up, what the %$#&?” Ironically, that point, the magnetic chorus to “Palaver,” acts as a rare “serious” moment on the five-song EP, which is set for release May 26 via producer Casey Desmond’s Jungle Up Records.
Toying with playfulness and seriousness is nothing new for Martin, who as Only Child has crafted a cultivated a unique sound that incorporates indie-pop, synth-pop, and electronic music into an intoxicating cocktail he simply dubs camp-pop. With a pair of 2022 singles that set a tone for the EP – August’s bratty “Don’t Call Me BB” and November’s bubbling “Defeater” – Only Child is now ready to allow this glittery body of work to blossom, combining his whip smart lyricism, penchant for dramatic melody, and wink-and-nod allure into an extended look into his sweet n’ sour world, all while straddling a careful balance between the dark and the light.
The EP’s title track, “Srs One,” serves as one final appetizer before the record comes fully into public view. It adds an indie-pop flair to a sound rooted in Martin’s queer identity, following a lineage of inspiration that connects ‘80s luminaries like Pet Shop Boys and Erasure with modern beat via artists like Tegan and Sara, Robyn, and Christine and the Queens.
“As an only child, I spent a lot more time around other adults than I did with people my own age, which gave me kind of a somber, serious attitude, at least outwardly,” Martin admits. “When coupled with the alienation I sometimes felt around my peers, that created a sort of dissonance that embodies my existence. A dear and deceased friend of mine once told me that there was an existential element to my songwriting when you looked beyond the surface. That made me feel really seen and as a signal that I was supposed to be doing this”.
Martin adds: “A song that seems like a love song with one interpretation can be a metaphor for something deeper, and that’s something very true of ‘Srs One’ above others. To me, the song sounds pretty, and that’s not something I would use to describe my other songs. That, along with the lyrics, has made the song endure. It is also what makes a good title overall.”
Which extends into a portal into the EP overall. The aforementioned “Palaver” and “Don’t Call Me BB,” alongside EP closer “Girls With Glasses,” were written around the same time Martin was crafting the final album for his indie band, All Eyes On Me. But the tracks had a different feel, a need for a different home, with a mood that was more personal and a vibe he could flesh out on his own. All together, the EP marks a certain era for Only Child, and serves as a bold declaration of his intent as an artist.
“Something in these songs definitely called out to me and to each other,” Martin says. “I think because they felt of a kind, while at the same time showcasing different sides of myself as a songwriter. I think because they feel equal parts light and dark, or happy and sad, even if it’s in different ways. For example, ‘Srs One’ sounds pretty upbeat, but lyrically has some very heavy moments, whereas ‘Palaver’ probably sounds the darkest, but is essentially me telling myself to lighten up.”
One beacon of light that shines throughout the project has been the production work and spiritual sonic guidance of Casey Desmond, herself no stranger to creating layered, enriching electro-pop that’s both danceable and meditative. In addition to producing the EP, Desmond contributes synths, electric guitars, mixing, editing, and other sonic elements, like the telephone sounds in “Don’t Call Me BB” and acoustic guitar in “Girls With Glasses.” Her involvement adds to the balance of Only Child being a project that for Martin is both personal and collaborative.
“Casey was a really instrumental part of putting this project together,” Martin confirms. “She heard ‘Srs One’ when I finished it and asked me to share the other songs I was working on with her. Her production style is really immersive; it aligns with the worldbuilding of the project and provides connective tissue from song to song. She has a point of view as a songwriter which helps incorporate elements of dance and pop polish to the sound I was reaching for.”
Martin’s ability as a multi-instrumentalist comes into creative form on Srs One, as in addition to writing each of the five tracks, he also is at the helm for the vocals, electric guitars, drum programming, bass synth, synthesizers, keyboards, and percussion. On “Girls With Glasses,” a song first penned by Martin and his friend KT Sullivan in their aspirations of starting a band that sounded like Le Tigre (note: the song now sounds like anything but Le Tigre), Martin and Desmond are joined by Andrew Mello on drum programming and bass synth, and Mary Lee Desmond on synth and keys. Only Child may be a solo project, but Martin is certainly surrounded by friends, co-conspirators, and collaborators. And Casey Desmond has his trust throughout.
“I tend to be economical with my songs and can get stuck in the internal logic the first draft of a song dictates to me. Sometimes that works and leaves people ‘wanting more’, but doesn’t always make sense for the pop music I’m trying to make. Casey takes the opposite approach and it really worked in most cases,” Martin confides. “Most often she encouraged me to double or even triple the lengths of my choruses and to repeat the catchiest part of each song. Why make people wait for the catchiest part of the song to sing along to?”
For Only Child and this remarkable debut EP, the wait certainly doesn’t last long.
‘Srs One’ EP artwork:
Photo by Oliver Guiney / Design by Only Child and Jillian Vaccaro
‘Srs One’ production credits:
All songs written by Christopher James Martin
Produced by Casey Desmond
“Srs One”: Electric guitars, drum programming, bass synth, synth, keys, percussion, miscellaneous sounds, vocals and lyrics by Christopher James Martin. Guitar, synth, mixing, editing, and production by Casey Desmond.
“Don’t Call Me BB”: Electric guitars, drum programming, bass synth, synth, keys, percussion, vocals and lyrics by Christopher James Martin. Production, miscellaneous telephone sounds, and mixing by Casey Desmond.
“Defeater”: Drum programming, bass synth, synth, keys, vocals and lyrics by Christopher James Martin. Guitar, keys, editing, mixing, and production by Casey Desmond.
“Palaver”: Drum programming, bass synth, synth, keys, vocals and lyrics by Christopher James Martin. Guitar, keys, editing, mixing, vocals, and production by Casey Desmond.
“Girls With Glasses”: Drum programming and bass synth by Andrew Mello. Synth and keys by Mary Lee Desmond. Guitar, percussion, and vocals by Christopher James Martin. Lyrics by Christopher James Martin and KT Sullivan. Acoustic guitar, electric guitar, synth, editing, mixing, and production by Casey Desmond.
Only Child short bio:
How do we detach shame from our desires? How can we live in the discomfort of hiding our longing? Only Child, the musical project of songwriter Christopher James Martin, asks and seeks to answer those questions on debut EP Srs One, set for May 2023 release through producer Casey Desmond’s Jungle Up Records. The EP is led by the bouncing electro-pop single “Don’t Call Me BB”, a campy kiss off anthem with a chorus that’s impossible to forget, and sassy synth-pop follow-up “Defeater.” Try to resist the temptation to send either to your ex. They’re just not worth your time.
Inspired by queer-fronted pop acts Tegan and Sara, Erasure, Shamir, and Christine and the Queens, Only Child combines ambient instrumentation with vocal hooks to craft sweet and sour pop songs. “‘Don’t Call Me BB’ started with a straightforward beat I learned at summer camp, an otherwise miserable experience for me,” says Martin. “It was one of the first times I thought about music in an obsessive way, which was the beginning of my relationship with songwriting.”
After singing about the nuances of modern relationships in Boston band All Eyes on Me, Only Child is forging a new path ahead, glazed in beats and treats with personal compositions written from the heart. From collaborating with Boston’s synth-pop queen Casey Desmond to assembling his own “butch band” for the “Don’t Call Me BB” music video, Only Child is both personal and collaborative. But it’s purely Only Child. “I want there to be a space for my songs that was more lighthearted, more upbeat, even if they might be lyrically similar to the songs I wrote for All Eyes on Me,” Martin adds.
With Srs One, Only Child is making that space on his own terms.
The music of Only Child has been featured on:
Banks Radio Australia, BumbleBee Radio, CTRL Plus Space, Christian’s Cosmic Corner on Mark Skin Radio, Citywide Blackout, Click Roll Boom, Enigma Online, Everything You Know Is Wrong on Salem State WMWM, Good Music Radio UK, If It’s Too Loud, Indie Radio YFM, Lonely Oak Radio, Marc’s Alt-Rock Playground on Mark Skin Radio, On The Town with Mikey Dee on WMFO Tufts, PipiloPop, Sunshine Music iRadio, The Bad Copy, The Music Authority with Jim Prell, and other fine shows, stations, and outlets.
“‘Defeater’ is as much fun as the queer Boston synth pop description sounds. It's an upbeat synth heavy pop song that is humorous without being jokey, despite the song being about heartbreak. Of course, since it's a synth heavy song ‘Defeater’ is going to get compared to a lot of ‘80s music, but Only Child doesn't sound entirely like an ‘80s throwback. It's oddly cinematic and ridiculously fun. Seriously, if you can't enjoy this one you truly need to take a long hard look at yourself.” – If It’s Too Loud
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