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Tuesday, 6 June 2023

Spotlight: The Church

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The Church are indisputably and unanimously stamped as Australian rock royalty. With a career spanning more than 40 years and 25 studio albums, the band have solidified themselves as a force to be reckoned with. After decades in the industry, you wouldn’t be amiss for assuming The Church persona would be that of a rock legend from a film, perhaps aloof, mysterious and somewhat hard to crack. Yet frontman Steve Kilbey remains remarkably humble and warm, cracking jokes easily and speaking with a love of performing still at the heart of his words. It’s immediately clear through our conversation that Kilbey has taken all the best parts of being a rockstar, like comradery and connecting with his audiences, and fashioned a life worthy of the admiration it has around the world. Check out our chat with the rock legend himself below. 

How is the tour so far?

Yeah, the American tour. It was amazing. We had almost four full houses every night, standing ovations and people loving the set that we were playing, which is some new stuff and old stuff and stuff in between. The band’s firing on all five cylinders, when we get to Adelaide we’re even going to have six cylinders with an added percussionist. 

Oh, awesome, that’s great. 

Yeah. So like, the band has never been better. And it’s just, you know, I mean, what else am I going to say? But it really is true, and you know, we’re really looking forward to getting in front of some Australian audiences. We’re playing like, it’s almost two half hour sets, sometimes almost stretching into three hours, so it’s really a lot of Church in one go.

What’s one thing that you would want people to take away from this new era and the new album?

Just that we are a very united band right now, and a band of friends and comrades, which it wasn’t always, you know, sometimes the band was four Johnny Superstars, but they weren’t cooperating with each other. So this is really an example of teamwork and action, it’s like, after America where we did, like, 25 shows or something, we are really tight. We are a proper band, and we deliver for sure. And, you know, excellent musicianship and interesting lyrics. It’s not just, you know, I got the blues baby, and I had another beer, we challenge people. I think with what we do, extended kind of instrumental workouts where we sort of jam and cruise and ebb and flow. I think the show has got it all and it’s a great live show. 

Any standout memories from shows in Adelaide that span the years?

Although we have never been huge in Adelaide, we always go down well with the people that come. You know, what is the population of Adelaide?

We’re about 1.3 million I think?

It’s strange, yeah, we have been playing Adelaide forever and usually we’ve been doing The Gov. That’s where all my memories seem to be from, a few times at Thebarton. But we normally rock them and leave them wanting more. I can’t remember any real specific incidents, but they’re usually pretty happy, I think.

So this one’s a bit of a two parter question. Do you see anything in the Aus music scene today that you can recognise your influence in, and on the flip side, in this era, is there anything that you’ve been influenced by or are you on your own track at the moment? 

I think we’ve always been on our own track. Well, you know, I like Skyhooks, I thought Skyhooks were great. Hugo Race is really good, who doesn’t get much press. I don’t know if he ever comes and plays in Adelaide, I’ve just sort of discovered him recently. He’s amazing. He’s got loads of albums out. The Underground Lovers I really love. It’s sort of like we have been pretty much plowing our own furrow now for a long time. We don’t take a lot of notice of what’s going on. Now a lot of people say to me – a guy in America rang me up the other day and said, “Oh, you’re the godfather of Australian psychedelia. Look at all those bands you influenced”, I said, “Who are they?” And all of the bands he kind of said I went well, I can’t really see it. Having said that, The Smashing Pumpkins although they’re not Australian, they just went around Australia playing ‘Over the Milky Way’ every night and preceded with Billy Corgan saying, “I fucking love The Church”. And before that they were playing ‘Reptile’. Lots of bands overseas, I think they kind of, they’ve sort of seen how we did it and, you know, The Killers have played ‘Under the Milky Way’. There are lots of bands overseas that are apparently influenced by us. If there are in Australia I don’t really know who it is. This guy was saying The Avalanches and I was going I can’t hear The Church in that, and then Tame Impala, and I said, you know, I wish. I wish I thought we had influenced Tame Impala but I can’t hear that either. So I don’t really know who they are, who these bands are. I think it’s a funny thing, people might sort of take some of our ideas and stuff but they’re not necessarily always going to give you credit. 

Any words or messages for fans that are coming to see the show? 

Well, as I already said, it’s gonna be somewhere between two and a half hours and three hours so expect a long show. We are going to play all the hits and songs from that vintage they probably want to hear. They will like The Hypnogue, the songs we’re playing from our new album. We tried them out in America and they went down just as well as anything else. Expect an acoustics segment where we just strip it back down to acoustic guitars. I do a lot more talking than I ever used to so they can they probably get used to that, this late stage of the career I tell some stories and sort of set the songs up with a bit of some longer intros and you know, “Thank you, this next song is so and so…”, It’s a complete show. And it’s, sort of like, an indicator of exactly where The Church are at right now.

You can catch The Church this Saturday June 10 at Hindley St Music Hall! Tickets available here