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Steve talks about England, blogging and Grant McLennan Print E-mail
Sunday, 28 May 2006
Originally published at, a magazine for Australians living in London.

High priests of the classic order

Sydney band The Church storm The Borderline this month for two SWAT team hits in one night, writes JENNY VALENTISH.

?My biggest fear in the world would be if I lost my Australian citizenship and had to live in England forever,? Steve Kilbey shudders. Despite being of English parentage, the singer has no love for the motherland, hence the idea to squeeze two shows into one night at The Borderline and then get the hell out of here.

?I never get to go to Cornwall or bloody Devon, I just see wherever The Borderline is and wherever my hotel is that has a nice foyer but the sort of room you would get in Romania, with a black and white TV that?s got two channels,? he said. ?And you go, hang on, aren?t we paying ?150 a night for this??

While many bands who lived the expat life in London came to loathe the city ? The Birthday Party, Go-Betweens, and Saints among them ? The Church never joined the exodus to these shores in the ?80s, other than for the odd tour.

?We did this Duran Duran tour, which we paid ?30,000 to be on,? Steve remembers. ?We paid them! After five gigs I thought, I can?t handle this, so we jumped off.? So The Church basically paid for Duran Duran to shoot another video on a yacht? ?We paid for the cocaine that was snorted on that video, that?s all!? he hoots.

Next week?s acoustic shows will draw from the heartbreakingly beautiful new album, Uninvited, Like The Clouds, but will cover old favourites too. The band has recently enjoyed a retrospective tour of Australia, complete with string quartet, and it is not the first time they have experimented with strings ? The Church opened this year?s Commonwealth Games with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. ?And we?re thinking of doing another El Momento Descuidado kind of album and putting strings on that,? Steve adds.

A biography of Steve Kilbey, No Certainty Attached, is due out this summer. It is written by Robert Lurie, who once opened for Steve at a book reading in London in 1998 at the height of the singer?s heroin addiction. ?I thought he was a jerk,? Lurie has admitted, although he has since changed his mind.

Kilbey focuses his own writing on his lyrics and his blog, in which he has talked extensively about the death of The Go-Betweens? Grant McLennan. ?People write in and say, ?I wish you didn?t reveal so much of yourself,? but this is my diary and I?m not wearing any masks here,? Steve says. ?If you like the other thing, go and buy a record.?

Steve recorded two albums with Grant as ?Jack Frost?, and they planned to record a third. ?It?s really weird ? for some reason Grant has been all around me for about a month before he died. I?d been playing songs we?d written and thinking a lot about him. He was lovable and slightly forlorn so you were always a bit worried about him, but making those records with him was like being connected to a source of power,? Steve remembered.

?You?ve got a guy walking around with a guitar strapped on at all times, just singing and making up songs. I?d say, ?Come on Grant, play Cattle And Cane for me!? Then I?d try and do the Robert Forster bit and he?d get really angry.?

?He inspired me in a lot of ways, like being sentimental without being cloying. People can sneeze at that, but everybody is sentimental about something. It?s just not so good when it becomes show-bizzy and maudlin.?
What ? Bono style? ?Ha ha ha! You said that, not me!?

The Church play at The Borderline (Manette St, off Charing Cross Rd) on Mon 29 May at 7pm-8:30pm AND 9:30pm-11pm. Tickets are just ?15 and available from or 0870 1500044. Their new album, Uninvited, Like The Clouds is out now.

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