You can almost hear the congregation vehemently discussing and anticipating the set list. Will it include the fulsome strum of The Blurred Crusade's Just For You or The Night Is Very Soft (a personal fave from the Sing Songs EP) could make an interesting acoustic reworking or what about Destination from 1988's Starfish album?
The Church's Steve Kilbey and Marty Willson-Piper hit Queensland this week to conclude their Sometime Anywhere world tour which has taken the duo across Europe and America. According to guitarist Marty Willson-Piper the upcoming unplugged acoustic shows (for want of a better description) will feature songs spanning their fifteen year career and promises to be a more regimented affair than Kilbey's recent solo performances.
Over the years the Church have variously been seen as jingle-jangle pinup popsters, ethereal and poetic mystics connected as much to Baudelaire and Byron as to the Byrds and aural architects of brooding epics, but acoustic bards is a relatively new arena. In fact this will be the first time the pair have played as a duo in Queensland.
In their time the Church have constantly strived to bring integrity, innovation and a sense of aesthetic to music. From their last album Sometime Anywhere to Of Skins And Hearts, the Church have remained an enigmatic and endearing beacon of what can be, a bold alternative to the established mores, patterns and ethics of the Australian music industry.
Raven records recently released Already Yesterday 1981-1990, a retrospective that ranges from singles (Unguarded Moment, Almost With You, Tantalised, Under The Milky Way) to more obscure B-side tracks (Into My Hands and Texas Moon) and it was this release that prompted my discussion with Marty Willson-Piper, who has recently relocated to England to marry.
"I think it is a fairly interesting record of pop songs somewhat missing out the more interesting songs of the group," he says in a voice that echoes his English ancestry. "Not to downplay what songs are on the record, but I think they have come up with come sort of pop compilation."
What would you have included?
"Day Of The Dead, Destination, An Interlude, Is This Where You Live?, You Took, you know etc, etc."
How would you expect a band to react to a fifteen year old hit song that gave them their first taste of success, placing them forever (if somewhat erroneously) in the minds of the Australian public? Maybe it was plain na´ve but when asked to comment on the band's first big hit Unguarded Moment and the success it brought, I certainly didn't expect Marty to react as he did.
"Horrible," he laughs. "What do you reckon? It was bloody horrible. It was horrible driving around Australia playing to disinterested audiences and then being catapulted into some kind of limelight because of a silly song which had a funny hook which we didn't enjoy playing live at all."
"You know, we were all twenty, it was just horrible playing to bloodbath Australia bar room audiences that were more interested in Kevin Borich's lead guitar solos than they ever were in aesthetic pursuit and by some coincidence some silly pop single caught the imagination of some radio programmer and we'd go along and play that silly song and then we'd do all our interesting things like Is This Where You Live? And nobody would care. So it was horrible and all for just six dollars a day."
So why did The Church stay in Australia? Were there plans that early on (1981) to move overseas?
"We believed in the myth," he says laughing. "Because the manager said 'You guys have to go and play at Cronulla Workers League Club for every day for the next ten years cos Mental As Anything did' and we believed the myth and we went there and we had too many roadies and expensive cars and spent all our money driving around Australia year after year but eventually people like me woke up and said 'Wait a minute, are you sure this is right?', me not being from Australia and not particularly wanting to be here in the first place (laughs) and maybe took up the challenge and fifteen years later I think I've proved myself right."
So at one point did you wake up? I mean is this evidenced on a particular record?
"Um, I think that you can pull the wool over the eyes of the masses for a very, very long time and they won't notice but that's what makes them the masses. But you can't pull the wool over the eyes of an individual for longer than about twenty-five minutes, even if all the odds are against him and I always thought of myself as an individual (laughs). If you know what I mean? Consequentially I'm still here now, still making records, still touring with the Church, still very happy with it, still making very good records as far as I'm concerned, traveling around, working with lots of very interesting people because I don't believe the myth and I won't have the wool pulled over my eyes at all."
Steve Kilbey's recent solo shows have been noted for their lack of cynicism and for their playful, audience interactive content. When he last played Brisbane he invited two people to the stage to do songs he's not interested in playing anymore.
"The thing is, don't you understand, the reason Steve has a sense of humour in his shows is because what else can he do. You know he's not going to go up there and take himself like some kind of serious poet. It's the last thing he should do, he wants the relief of going on stage and having a bit of fun. Even Steve likes to laugh you know!"
Something told me it was not wise to mention Steve's Spring Livid gig where slightly imbalanced after indulging in a special musicians blend cigarette he went onto to half-play a collection of Church songs and the strangest covers. Don't worry Marty, I know he's got a sense of humour and thankfully so have we. But I suspect there are two ways to approach playing Church songs in this format. There are a lot of extremely dedicated Church fans who studied and cross-examined the riffs, the lyrics and the band for more than a decade and want to hear that, albeit, in an acoustic form and there's the carnival atmosphere approach (which is highly entertaining) where stand-in Marty Willson-Piper's get their fifteen minutes.
"Right, well tell the stand-in Marty Willson-Piper's that I apologise for my presence if it bothers them but maybe they could learn a few more chords by watching what I do."
Outside of the Church Marty has just completed a solo record called Hanging Out In Heaven. Recorded in America, he is unsure, due to financial reasons, whether it will be released in Australia but says the Church will record later in the year.
"We usually start working on Church records when the tape player is on record, that's about as far as we go about preparing for Church records. We put the tape player on record and then Steve might play G and I might play G minor and then that's the first song. And we are planning on doing that after the tour is finished.
The Church play the Zoo this Saturday, The Edge at Broadbeach Tavern this Sunday, Grand Orbit on Monday and the Bangalow Bowls Club on Tuesday.
Photo Inset: Photo from the P=A press kit, with Peter and Jay Dee Daugherty on the left and right hand side respectively and Steve And Marty sitting in the middle. The caption reads - The Church: Priest To Meet You
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