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Steve and Jeffrey Cain talk about Isidore Print E-mail
Wednesday, 01 December 2004


 With practically two decades of global touring under his belt as a member of Australia's The Church, frontman and bassist Steve Kilbey sure has been handed his fair share of demos. Over all those years he has seen everything from the now archaic medium of cassettes to ultra-professional CD packages in jewel cases to the most haphazardly scrawled-on CD-Rs jammed in makeshift paper sleeves. But after wading through so many mounds and chucking the majority in the trash, there was one that stuck out in the pack.

"I was in L.A. playing House Of Blues with The Church and this demo came into my hands through a mutual friend," says Kilbey in his jolly accent, phoning in from home. "Most of those situations are kind of annoying and I thought, 'Aw, shit, I probably won't ever listen to it,' and checked it in my bag. Well it turns out my hotel room that night had a CD player in it -- which was very fortuitous since most don't have them -- and I only had one other CD with me that I was thoroughly sick of." It was out of that desperation more than curiosity that Kilbey popped in the neatly decorated demo, which he met with exasperation following its ingenious instrumentation and unique artwork. Turns out the material belonged to Jeffrey Cain, who just so happened to be the guitarist from the already established Remy Zero and a long time Church fan that wanted Kilbey to lend lead vocals to the track. "Immediately I was floored since it was made in an exact way that my voice would fit," Kilbey recalls. "I had a day off in town that next day and got Jeffrey on the phone to tell him I really wanted to work on this."

And so the very next morning Cain scrambled to find a studio and got right down to business, obtaining Kilbey's vocals on what would become Isidore's first official demo. However, the pair didn't fathom at the time they were launching a full-blown collaborative project, nor did they realize this would actually be the last time they'd record in the same room together. "That was the start of our dialogue and I was really impressed that he'd take the time to work on a day off," comments Cain calling separately from his L.A. studio. "Basically I got Steve's address and then started sending him one song at a time with some sort of art, usually a Polaroid or some sort of reference point to what I was trying to convey. And then one by one he would capture the exact feeling in his words and voice. The rest of the exchange didn't have any phone calls or emails, at most just a little note with the title of a song or a comment."

And thus the puzzle pieces started coming together at postal service pace, which soon accumulated to enough quantity that the duo released a self-tilted CD on Brash Music in October. The project has earned a slow build considering the group has yet to embark on an American tour, though early critical acceptance in Australia, plus internet gossip among The Church and Remy Zero fans has helped raise visibility. "It's unlike every record I've ever done, simply because of the way it was recorded and the minimal communication we had, so it's hard for me to really gauge where it stacks up to the others," says Cain. "It's cool that we each have two totally different fan bases from before, but that this project brings an overlap. Steve's been building his base for the last 20 years and they're always wondering what direction he'll go in next. I've already heard conversations from people that have been into my previous stuff and they seem excited over what's coming out of this."

All other associations aside, Isidore is completely original in concept and result, starting on record with the gliding dreaminess of "Musidora," the sinister acoustic scoots of "Saltwater," and the prophetic vision of "C.A. Redemption Value" (compete with an introductory dialogue set in ancient times). In addition, with every crescendo-filled swell ("Ghosting," "One For Iris Doe") there's also a peice that rests in the valley of revelation ("The Memory Cloud," "Transmigration") though both styles are painted with equally vivid sceneries and intriguing imagery. Consider the mass of ideas, imagination, and ingenuity to fall in line with the likes of mellow Radiohead or a vocally dominated Sigur Ros, either of which could be an ideal sunrise soundtrack or hangover recovery mechanism.

"It sort of has an other worldly characteristic to it," notices Cain. "Steve has such distinct style and voice that you know that it's him, yet the music is juxtaposed with different paintings, colors, and melodies than he would normally sing."

Kilbey agrees with the assessment, offering even further observations on the record's conceptual nature. "I've always been interested in art - symbolists, impressionists, and surrealists. I've never been about the real popular subjects of money, sex, dieting, breast implants, and cell phones. Isidore is coming from a completely different place and there's a lot of emphasis on the passing of time. There's not a real radio immediacy with the music, but there's beauty all the same."

The real test will come on the road which, despite the distances between them, is currently being discussed. Due to Kilbey's commitment with the next Church record and Cain's continuous production and session work, it's unlikely Isidore will mount a marathon jaunt, though members do intend to hit major markets. "We've definitely discussed playing live in the new year and have looked into places like Chicago, L.A., and New York as a launching pad," Cain reveals. "I'm anxious to have players supporting us on stage to help interpret the songs, because as it stands right now, I was the primary source behind all the instruments. This band is very visually oriented, so it will be interesting to see the experience translate to a live setting."

As Isidore's name continues to get passed around the States, one realistic challenge the group faces is the potential shrug offs that come with members hailing from two famous bands. with The Church's '80's staple "Under The Milky Way" earning constant airplay to this day and Remy Zero's "Save Me" preceding every episode of "Smallville," both musicians have already been branded with familiar identities. "I don't think the public is very big on these ideas of guys from different bands getting together and doing things together," admits Kilbey. "They look at it as just that - a few guys taking time away from their real bands and they might not take it all that seriously. But I can't worry about that as this is coming from such a pure place."

With that being said, Cain is fast to note that Isidore merely isn't some quickie "side project" that will disband after only a few moments together. He's ready for the Isidore tradition and is currently conjuring up ideas for a follow-up release he hopes will be carved in a similar manner. "I could certainly work in a room with Steve and I'm sure we'd come out with a fine record, but the first time around that wasn't possible," Cain says. "This method of working separately seems to work for us and would be worth exploring again since neither one of us could change anything or second guess one another. There's no time to rearrange and scrutinize, just go with your gut instinct. That's the way Isidore will continue to operate, focusing on the purity of a record rather than try to squeeze the life out of it."

-- Andy Argyrakis
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