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Thoughts from Steve on ULTC, fans etc before electric tour Print E-mail
Friday, 29 September 2006

Originally published in the Sydney Morning Herald at http://www.smh.com.au/news/music/see-the-light/2006/09/28/1159337257365.html

Written by Bernard Zuel

 

When the Church played @Newtown in December they were dressed all in white, like a middle-aged version of some Jonestown cult. The audience response was suitably cultish, rapturous in parts, as the band trawled through 25 years of music. Retrovision was the order.

An acoustic retrospective tour can mark a career end. It's the precursor to entering the rock retirement home of Mel and Kochie programs.

What happened next for the Church, though, was Uninvited, Like The Clouds, a vigorous new album that tapped into their past while feeling fresh and contemporary. It didn't suck at all.

And that surprised some people.

"Uninvited, Like The Clouds was an enigma in that it was surprising and not surprising," says bassist-singer Steve Kilbey. "It's like, 'I'm surprised by this but it sounds a bit like the old stuff, as well.' That's not a bad thing to pull off.

"It's not as good as, 'Wow, I've never had anything like this before.' But that's pretty hard to do and still maintain some continuity."

However, continuity doesn't mean forgetting a few lessons. For example, you're not likely to see the Church play an outdoor festival any time soon.

"I think, for the Church, [festivals] have always been a mixed sort of thing," Kilbey says. "I don't think we have the ability to win over huge numbers of people who don't know anything about us and aren't willing to. We need some kind of understanding before you see us.

"Some people get it immediately, but others, in those kind of [outdoor festival] conditions, we don't rivet. And daytime is always hard for us; I don't think our trip works in broad daylight."

In the dark they're still attracting new and, heaven forbid, younger fans. On their recent Australian tours, they've played to paunchy fortysomethings along with plenty who weren't born when the Church started 27 years ago. Some of these "youngsters" have even been asking for songs from the vaults.

"It's so hard when you've been around this long ... there are all those records, all those songs, and it's so hard to figure out what to play," Kilbey says. "In the old days this kind of thing would perturb me and I would sit around and analyse it.

"But nowadays there are people there who, for some unknown reason, when they hear Unguarded Moment it makes them happy and I just feel churlish at this stage of the game denying them that."

It's not surprising the Church has a direct influence on others. Does Kilbey hear that influence?

"Only once. I was driving and a song came on Triple J and I thought this guy has just copied everything from me and my lyrics. Then they back-announced it and [he] was once a member of [my brother] Russell's band, the Crystal Set. That's the only time I've gone, 'Jesus!' I didn't mind ...

"But apart from that, I never hear it, which is strange for someone who is renowned as such an egotist as me."

The memory gives Kilbey an idea.

"Every now and then somebody has a stab at Under The Milky Way. This is a terribly mercenary thing to say, but I wish one of these huge-selling, f---ing arena bands would chuck one of my songs on their next platinum album. We need John Butler does the Church. We need Missy Higgins does the Church. We need Rick Rubin discovers some old great rocker and fills this incredible new album up with Church songs. That's what we need."

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