In 2006, guitarist and songwriter Jamie Hafler left Ohio and headed to Los Angeles via Twentynine Palms to visit his brother Jeff, a singer/songwriter. Back then, Jeff had just hired a then-recent desert transplant as a nanny for his son, Cash: artist and singer/songwriter Cristie Carter.
Cristie is a native of San Francisco with deep roots in the Bay Area metal scene of the mid ’80s. She moved to Los Angeles and got into the punk-rock music scene of the mid-’90s, most notably as the manager for the all girl teenage punk band The Grown Ups. There, she formed a close relationship with artist Zaina Alwan (now married to desert-rock icon Brant Bjork). The two women came to Joshua Tree with artist Paul Hadley, known to some as “Bing.” In 2006, Cristie fell for Wonder Valley, and Zaina fell for her “dream house” in Twentynine Palms.
Jeff then introduced Jamie and Cristie. The rest, as they say, is high-desert rock history.
Jamie Hafler and Cristie Carter had a musical love affair in front of audiences with their goth/rock duo Gilded Flicker for several years. With Jamie on guitar and vocals, and Cristie on bass and vocals, they presented dark, raw, heavy music that won them a measure of respect and an intimate fan base.
This year, they shifted gears and began creating new sounds with a brand-new project called DRUG. For this group, Cristie put down the bass guitar and focused all of her attention on vocals and lyrics. They added drummer Theo Smith, and the band has been out playing shows with new material. In fact, they unveiled two songs on the online music program Jam in the Van in April, which was filmed at Brant Bjork’s studio in Joshua Tree. (See it at jaminthevan.com/drug.)
DRUG is the culmination of Jamie’s mad-professor ingenuity and Cristie’s dark, dramatic imagination. Jamie has crafted a beautiful double-necked Telecaster that acts as a guitar and a bass. He has dialed his guitar sound in to obtain those sweet reverberated surf tones, and he crafts psychedelic landscapes for Cristie’s dark and dramatic vocals. Theo Smith fits the group like a glove—he’s steady, understated and committed to the song.
“The new sound of DRUG was inspired solely on the basis of change,” Jamie said. “We wanted something new, and it was created out of necessity. Cristie wanted to be free of an instrument so she could fulfill her dream as a lead vocalist. I wanted to be more involved with the writing process and the challenge of performing rather than singing.”
Jamie touted Cristie’s vocals.
“Cristie is the main lyricist of DRUG,” he said. “Her lyrics deal with the paranormal and astral projections. She feeds off lost spirits of the night. Her vocalist influences are Jim Morrison, Mike Patton, Billie Holiday, Grace Slick and Julie London.
“We wouldn’t be a band without Theo Smith. His commitment and enthusiasm toward the band, and our music, is paramount. He gets what we’re trying to do and is totally into it.”
DRUG is working on a new YouTube channel to use as a medium for collaborations with artists and live performances of songs in the studio. The group is also working on a 7-inch record scheduled for release in November: red vinyl boasting two fresh tracks, “Blackfall” and “Sex After Prom,” recorded live, straight to tape, with no overdubs.
Alter your consciousness with DRUG, the high desert’s experimental surf-punk band.