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Marty talks about group chemistry and the current tour Print E-mail
Friday, 04 August 2006
Originally published at The Sun News, Myrtle Beach.

Worshipping the same old Church

Rockers retain devil-may-care take on music

By Zach Hanner
For The Sun News

Few bands in today's musical landscape can ever hope to last a decade. Fewer still will continue to tour 26 years after inception. But for Australian cult favorites The Church, the road is never ending and a willingness to please a massive fan base knows no limits.

Born in 1980 in Sydney, Australia, The Church was formed as the last vestiges of psychedelic rock wafted over the land Down Under. Marty Wilson-Piper, a Brit from Liverpool, was visiting his Aussie girlfriend and crossed paths with future bandmates Peter Koppes, Steve Kilbey and drummer Nick Ward.

Success wasn't far off for the quartet. "We did a few gigs and put a few demo tapes together," Wilson-Piper said. "They happened to fall into the right hands and the next thing we know, we had a major label deal with EMI. Then we had a hit off of our first album in Australia and that was the beginning of it all."

The band became huge in Australia, and its first four records sold briskly while the boys, now with Richard Ploog having replaced Ward behind the drum kit, toured vigorously. But it would be their fifth album, "Starfish," that would garner them international fame, spurred on by the mammoth, dreamy single, "Under The Milky Way."

Despite the boost in popularity that song provided, the fellows seemed pretty unfazed by it all. "We were a bit used to it because we'd had a few hits in Australia, so when it happened in America, it wasn't such a big deal," Wilson-Piper said. "There were a lot of people listening to us, but we'd sort of been there before."

And while the next album, "Gold Afternoon Fix," produced some minor buzz, it failed to replicate the commercial success of "Starfish." The band, coping with some internal turmoil, expelled Ploog for his rampant drug use. Undaunted, the group continued to record and tour for the next fifteen years, most of them with current drummer Tim Powles, proving that it was the bond that guitarists Wilson-Piper and Koppes had with bassist Kilbey that fueled the band's creative fire.

"There's not exactly a formula for how to do it," Wilson-Piper said. "The chemistry of the band has really kept us going. The push and pull of our personalities creates a sort of magic. It's like falling in love, you just kind of have a feeling that it will work out. We're all very different, but if you put us in a studio for a year, we'd make 350 albums."

Today, the band is touring behind their most recent recording, "Uninvited, Like the Clouds," released earlier this year. In fact, they've whittled down their entourage to four musicians and three girlfriends/roadies/tour managers. "We manage ourselves and manage our own tour, book our own accommodations and do pretty much everything," Wilson-Piper said. "Let's face it. The music industry is the tail wagging the dog, and I just don't want to deal with it in that way anymore. You want to hear The Church's music or speak to The Church, just reach out and speak to us." In fact, this writer made contact with the band not through a publicist, but by messaging its MySpace.com account.

For The Church, the rare ability to pull between 200 and 600 fans in pretty much any city in the world is a testament to their cult-like following. And while they appreciate and adore their core audience, their uncompromising attitude is what has kept their musical quest alive over the past 26 years. "Hey, we're going to make records, do soundtracks, paint, write books, look after ourselves and not rely on anybody else to make sure that we're working," Wilson-Piper said. "If radio doesn't want to play us then we're not going to go on the radio. If a venue doesn't want to book us, we're not going to play there."

And what message does Wilson-Piper, ever the savvy marketer, have for his devoted congregation? "Tell them to buy lots of tickets, buy some CDs and t-shirts, sit quietly when we play and make lots of noise when we stop," Wilson-Piper said.

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