The Church appeared pretty suddenly a couple of months ago to a generally ecstatic reaction. They've been getting the 'next big thing' treatment from all and sundry. For a band with so little of the usual history, the certainly arrived with a splash.
Their first album 'Of Skins and Heart', recently releaseed along with the single 'The Unguarded Moment' has been met with enthusiasm by such powerful stuff as Countdown and treated to considerable push, although not much actual study. 'The Unguarded Moment' is their second single, and currently doing fair business in the shops.
Steve Kilbey (bass, vocals), Marty Willson-Piper (guitar), Peter Koppes (guitar) and Richard Ploog (drums) are The Church, and they've recently completed a brief sortie to Adelaide, and should now be recording their next single [The Too Fast For You double single], scheduled for release around Augst. This single will contains no songs from this or the next album (to be recorded around August, for October release), and is planned as a limited edition double single.
The band are picked up after a minimal number (five) of gigs, and signed by the Beatles' publishing company ATV Northern Songs. Steve Kilbey explains that the deal was the result of one of the album tracks, Chrome Injury, "....playing on a demo tape through the walls. Chris Gilbey was sitting in the next office, he's the boss of ATV Northern, he heard his second in charge playing it, and came flying in and said, "What's that ?"
The resulting album was then recorded, mostly in September last year, produced by Chris Gilbey and mixed in America by Bob Clearmountain, who has worked with the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Garland Jeffreys and The Jim Carroll Band. Around the time of The Unguarded Moment's release, The Church appeard on Countdown a couple of times, with Steve Kilbey hosting one show. In the course of an interview with Steve and Marty Willson-Piper I asked about the Countdown appearance.
S.K : "I enjoyed doing the film...well, I sort of enjoyed doing it in a strange perverse sort of way... Hosting it was a different thing, I don't know if I should have done that. Not from any credibility point of view, just the point of view that I don't think I did it very well."
I comment that it all seemed to happen fairly suddenly.
"S.K : "There was a year's work behind that."
MWP: "It was more a matter of four guys who've been playing in different places for years, separately, and then all of a sudden arrived at the same place."
The album is a distinctive piece of work, well produced and definitely worthy of praise as an Australian pop record. It's full of that much praised 'jingle-jangle' Byrds influenced guitar, and notable for its colourful but obscure lyrical style.
To wit :
'A palm tree nodded at me last night
Said you look so pale
I don't know if it was the air
or the breezed in my hair
I had a feeling I had failed
So down to the beach just out of reach
The moon was being trailed
A girl and a sailor and a hotdog trailer
That's their holy grail"
S.K "I started writing like that, because when you first start writing, you show people the lyrics you write. If it's anything sort of personal you have a bit of a laugh, or you feel embarrassed. So I started off being deliberately obscure right from the word go, as far as the lyrics went."
They explain that the band had been together for some four months at the time of recording the album, adding that the next (with Bob Clearmountain coming from America for the occassion) should be "a lot better, more coherent". But they are pleased with it and Steve explains : "The album contains the beginnings of The Church, and a lot of various offshots that we started going up, and probably won't be going up anymore."
They express the desire to have freedom to diversify, and progress, citing it as an ambition towards satisfaction, and point out that it will bother them not one bit if their music turns out to be commercial, as long as they like it.
S.K "Without souding conceited, we want to try and do what bands like The Beatles did, and that's being able to put out almost anything and still sound like The Church, but just in a completely different style. I'd like to experiment with orchestras and sitars and banjos, and just do more off-beat things without being obscure."
It's difficult to tell just how long The Church will stay in the public eye. The band's lack of outward intensity concerning such things as 'deep meaningfulness', for want a better cliche, gives the impression of a certain aimlessness in their approach.
It's not easy to decide how much of this impression is gained due to their stated priority of enjoying themselves at what they do, and their belief that a lot of the seriousness in peoples' attitudes towards music is unfounded. In one instance Steve and Marty discuss the difficulties of joking with each other during interviews since the reviewer may not have a real clue as to how light hearted the conversation might be, and as Marty put it "How do you write down a tone of voice?"
Steve makes the point that they are very honest, wich is true, and which does leave them fairly vulnerable, since a 'realistic' point of view does usually seems a little less exciting than some idealistic, hysterical "save-the-world" type chatter.
S.K "I don't take it too seriously. I think people would enjoy themselves if they didn't as well. ...Despite what anyone says about us, we've all got a built sense of houmour about ourselves."
He sums things up pretty well in answer to the usual "aims and ambitions" question : "Just to keep on doing what we're doing, that's all I ask. Doing it's reward enough in itself really."