By C.D. Di Guardia
Christopher Mascara has, in a way, spent his entire life in the spotlight. At 11, he was featured in the Del Ray New Journal in a story celebrating “the boy with the golden ear,” a local prodigy who played the organ hours on end. “I want to get on a Little League team,” reported young master Mascara, “But the organ comes first.”
As a decade passed, the boy grew up and came to Boston from his native Florida to study religion at Tufts University. He mixed his interest in theology with a new interest — musical theater. The “boy with the golden ear” became the Savior, in the form of Jesus in the Tufts production of Jesus Christ Superstar. Around 10 years later, this person was banned from TT the Bear’s for dropping trou on stage.
Fast forward to this recent Christmas. Countless families welcomed him into their living rooms in the form of the dancing spritely video game character “Male Lead Vocalist” in the hit game Rock Band.
“They just liked my moves,” says Mascara, who spent two eight-hour workdays in a motion capture studio, clad in naught but a spandex motion-capture suit adorned with little golf ball-sized motion sensors.
While Mascara has gone through a series of line-ups, he admits that he prefers the trio format — currently including Bo Barringer (bass and vocals) and Matt Graber (drums) — above all others. “There are less places to hide,” he grins. All three members of the group are veritable veterans of the local rock scene — Barringer has been seen most lately fronting Me & Joan Collins, in which Mascara sits in on keyboards. Graber has taken the drum seat for early acts such as Zipper Girl and Gulliver Foyle. He is probably “the quiet one” of the group, although anyone would seem reserved sitting near the flamboyant Mascara.
“This is the best we’ve ever sounded,” says Mascara, who has been making music under his own name since the beginning. “I mean, we’ve got a good name,” he exclaims. “It kind of fits the style of the band, sort of a glammy prog,” he says, shaking off the initial revulsion that can come at the mention of either word. Mascara’s music is as exuberant as the man himself, full of well-practiced flourishes. Having been making noise in the local scene for over 10 years, Mascara has learned more than a few lessons along the way.
He seems comfortable, but always looks for what’s next, and what’s next right now is the current lineup’s first studio album. Mascara, an old hand at the recording game, has an innovative production method that newer bands may not be able to fathom.
“I don’t listen to it outside of the studio before it’s done. No rough mixes, nothing,” he explains. “I’ve done the thing where you take it home and listen to it over and over,” he explains, with a hand motion of something spinning endlessly — yet tailing down. “It’s better to come at it fresh,” says Mascara, who says his most recent release Spell hints at the content of the new record, “But it’s going to be a little bit harder.”
Another thing this band is doing that is outside of the norm is playing out aggressively during their studio time. In an era where most bands shut down the live show and concentrate on the studio work, Mascara is seemingly onstage every weekend. “I like it,” says drummer Graber, “Otherwise I’m done recording in a few days, then I’d just have to sit around.”
“Just sitting around” are words that do not appear to be in Mascara the band’s vernacular. Christopher Mascara the man has been in the spotlight for almost thirty years now, and he does not seem at all ready to relinquish it just yet. He has been digitized, hospitalized, crucified and resurrected. “I’ve learned a lot, that’s for sure,” says the effervescent veteran. “Just keep on working. Bigger and better.”