IT’S A UNIQUE BAND that finds itself cherished as a bona fide legend in the ARIA Hall of Fame while remaining a virtual enigma to the world that knows its name. But maybe that’s no more remarkable than the mystery that continues to unfold within its own ranks.
The church’s accidental signature tune, Under The Milky Way, is like a lighthouse on the brink of a continent forever to be discovered: 25 albums over 35 years and countless diversions that have almost destroyed them a dozen times, yet always reaffirm a mutual commitment to an uncompromising and unparalleled act of creation.
At this stage of the journey, FURTHER/ DEEPER seems both unimaginable and the only option on their endless quest from chaos to resolution. It’s an album of breathtaking new vistas and intense emotions, of sinister black caskets and gorgeous caverns of light, a work born of immense struggle and effortless expression.
“The magic started on day one,” says singer and bass player Steve Kilbey. “Someone strummed a chord or struck a drum or plucked a note and we were off. We wrote and recorded like demons and it was inspiring to feel every member using all his resources in the service of this record.”
Twenty-six songs were born over eight days of exploration in Sydney in late 2013. Guitarist Peter Koppes, recalibrating his personal canvas in the absence of his long-time foil Marty Willson-Piper, drew palpable inspiration from the quartet’s remixed chemistry.”This new incarnation of the band with Ian Haug has brought a joyous energy to the music we’ve written together,” he says. “The rhythm swings more than usual yet the moods still range from melancholy pop to our modern version of heavy psychedelic rock, as in Laurel Canyon, to the epic gothic-progressive dance track, Globe Spinning.”
From the ominous allure of the lead track, Vanishing Man, to the beguiling tippy toes of Pride Before A Fall; the chiming keys of Love Philtre to the sheer hammer horror Toy Head; the exhilarating breeze of Old Coast Road and the ultimate, panoramic drama of the mini-screenplay that is Miami, FURTHER/ DEEPER delivers on the promise of its title in a combined blossoming of melody, rhythm and audacity.
For Haug, transitioning from the multi-platinum ashes of Powderfinger to join “one of my favourite bands of all time” was an utterly surreal experience, audibly expressed in fantastic new dimensions of the church’s fabled “guitarchitecture”.
“The first song we wrote was Miami, and from there we splintered off into several styles of surreal to intense psychedelia — and songs to make you drive fast,” he says. “It was a trip. And an incredible honour to be accepted so readily into a songwriting as well as guitar-playing role.”
Drummer Tim Powles was again instrumental in the painstaking alchemy that boiled the explosion of ideas down to 12 potent pieces in the early months of 2014, a process that often saw members working simultaneously in separate studios across multiple instruments to produce a work of singular cohesion.
“After an eternal twenty years in the church I marvel more than ever at how we’ve become masters of our own freedom,” he says. “No strings attached, no view to winning a prize. How lucky are we? Or have we earned it? We’ve got better at it too. Or maybe it’s got the better of us. It seems to devour us. Like magic.”
Like magic. As Kilbey sings in the desperate, beatific throes of Delirius: “These pieces Are easy Try to put them together It’s impossible…”