Four records into his scrappy R&B career, when JD McPherson agreed to do a Christmas-themed album, he laid down ground rules for himself and his band. They wouldn’t do anything like most yuletide albums that pour on syrupy ching-chinging sleigh bells. “The first rule was, it had to be a rock and roll record,” he says. “The second rule was, all originals — no covers. And the third rule was, no recorded jingle bells of any kind. It had to avoid those tropes, so if you listened to it in August, you might not know that you were listening to a seasonally sensitive recording.” Mission accomplished. On 2018’s “Socks,” tracks such as “Hey Skinny Santa!” “Ugly Sweater Blues” and “Santa’s Got a Mean Machine” sound like nothing but retro roadhouse raveups.
Your best Christmas gift, ever?
Game Boy. And I don’t know why, because I had better video game systems for Christmas at other times. But for some reason, I remember — like watching a movie of my own life — opening the original black and white Game Boy. I was so excited. That was the same Christmas I got a trampoline, but I didn’t jump on it once. But I did play the Game Boy ’til the screen wore out.
And the worst Pink Nightmare gift received?
Usually, I would say that worst gift wouldn’t apply, because you’re actually happy that somebody bothered to put something in a box and wrap it. So I would say that there were some gifts that were so innocuous that I promptly forgot about ‘em. So I can’t give you a good answer. But they were probably clothing-related.
You grew up on a remote Oklahoma farm. What Christmas rituals did you follow out there?
There was usually some, uh, pellet gun shenanigans going down. Kids and their pellet guns would all get together.
You’ll shoot your eye out!
I know! I didn’t have a Red Ryder until I was actually in my 20s and married. My mother-in-law got me one for Christmas. That was another great gift — being almost 30 and getting a Red Ryder. But you could shoot anywhere with your air rifle where I grew up and not hit anything.
Christmas probably meant more out there, right?
I’ve always really loved that holiday, and we did have big warm get togethers ‘cause I’ve got a lot of family. And that’s something I’ve really tried to keep up. Even now, I put lights all over the whole house, and I hang a wreath on the grille of my old Ford pickup truck. I’m gung-ho about it.
IF YOU GO
Where: Independent, 628 Divisadero St., S.F.
When: 9 p.m. Friday
Contact: (415) 771-1421, theindependentsf.com