The Church Rewards Santa Barbara with an Acoustic SOhO

by Brett Leigh Dicks

When it comes to musical crusades, few bands have crafted such
magnetism as The Church. They have been romanced by major labels
and flirted with commercial success. They have enchanted audiences
everywhere from concert halls in New York to bars in outback
Australia. Sure, there have been moments of Spinal Tap, with
musical meltdowns, revolving drummers, and turning everything up to
11. But by ignoring fashions and trends, The Church’s musical star
has constantly shone. And it just keeps getting brighter.

Take their new recording Uninvited, Like the Clouds,
for instance. Though it’s the band’s 20th release, the album is as
fresh and vibrant as anything this year. So after a quarter of a
century of making music, is The Church getting better or is modern
music just not measuring up?

“We are definitely getting better,” admitted lead singer Steve
Kilbey. “In this ridiculously late stage of the game, we have
started getting the mixture right. But for us, there’s no why or
how; we just let it take us wherever it wants to go. … It’s just
the endless permutations of what four people can throw out and,
with that, we have broken through the barrier.”

After so many years, The Church’s equation for success is
actually to ignore formulas and blueprints. Instead of entering the
studio with a collection of well-rehearsed songs, they take the
opposite avenue, allowing spontaneity and creativity to rein
supreme. But when venturing into the studio with a blank canvas,
the magic must come from somewhere.

“Why does someone paint one picture one day and something
different the next?” pondered Kilbey. “I don’t know. It’s just the
way it all lines up. It’s what’s going on in your private life or
how much coffee you drank that day. It’s how much pot you’ve had or
whether you got a speeding ticket on the way to the studio. All
those things come out when you strap on your guitar. Everything is
a variation that gets thrown into the mix. We just stand back and
let it happen.”

The Church have been refining this laidback approach since the
mid ’90s, around the time that Tim Powles settled into the drums
and guitarist Peter Koppes rejoined Marty Willson-Piper and Kilbey.
As they ebbed and flowed for balance, The Church put out
captivating recordings. But it wasn’t until the band had found an
equilibrium that it really began to reassert its considerable
musical authority.

That came in 2003 with Forget Yourself. Glowing
reviews, enthusiastic sales, and a world tour showed The Church to
be as cohesive and dynamic as ever. The success also laid a firm
foundation for Uninvited, Like the Clouds, which is
currently riding a wave of critical acclaim.

“Tim has had a huge influence,” explained Kilbey. “He breathed
new life into The Church. Maybe Tim took over a little too much,
but it was necessary at the time. Marty was in All About Eve, Peter
was only half in the band, and I was ‘tired and emotional.’ It was
the path of least resistance. Now things have evened out and, with
this record, everybody did what they wanted. That’s the way it
should be: four people with an equal say and no one person calling
the shots.” Now, fans are turning to the band’s acoustic tour,
which lands at SOhO in Santa Barbara on Tuesday, July 18. It should
be a revelatory show for a band whose live reputation is built upon
hypnotizing electric inundation. As the four members again prepare
for the rigors of touring, Kilbey is keeping his eyes firmly on the

“Who was it that said music is the art form that can do things
the other art forms can’t?” asked Kilbey. “Music can transcend
anything. And when you are touring, it has to. Those two great
hours on stage have to keep you going through 22 hours of arguments
and metal detectors and lost keys and unavailable hotel rooms and
sitting in a van for nine hours every day. There has to be
something worthwhile at the end of all. And there is — the music.
The gig is its own reward.”

4-1-1 The Church plays SOhO on Tuesday, July
18. Call 962‑7776.


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