Interview: Steve Kilbey of The Church

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Steve Kilbey (Photo courtesy the artist)

The indefatigable Steve Kilbey is best known around the world as frontman for the fantastic neo-psychedelic ensemble known as The Church. And in his homeland of Australia, Steve also keeps busy with a variety of projects, releasing solo albums, collaborating with other musicians, and writing poetry, among other pursuits.

On Sept. 4, Steve is releasing a new solo album, Eleven Women, via Foghorn Records. And he’s working on a new album with The Church. He’s meanwhile collaborating with musicians like Gareth Koch and performing concerts, live and virtual, including an upcoming performance with supergroup The Winged Heels (along with Gareth, Barton Price, and Roger Mason)

Parklife DC’s Mickey McCarter had the pleasure of catching up with Steve Kilbey via email to ask him how he spent his lockdown days in Australia, what’s new with The Church, and his plans for the future.

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Best of the Year: Top 10 Concerts of 2019 by Mickey

Berlin_Anthem-18_DSC00015-Edit Mickey McCarter was *thrilled* to see the classic lineup of Berlin reunite. (Photo by Jason Nicholson)

Editor’s Note: This year, we asked our bloggers to name their Top 10 shows of 2019 or choose their Top 10 photos of the year. We will run them over the course of mid-December as our Best of the Year posts.

Many of our bloggers work as one-man bands. They travel to a show, shoot it, and write it up. But as Parklife DC editor, I frequently work in collaboration with others. And so I have the opportunity to travel to shows I might otherwise not see in support of bloggers who are there to shoot (usually) or write (occasionally) about the program.

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Live Review: The Church @ The Birchmere — 4/18/19

TheChurch-5_DSC07672 Steve Kilbey fronts The Church at The Birchmere on April 18, 2019. (Photos by Jason Nicholson; Words by Mickey McCarter)

Steve Kilbey paused and invited the audience to imagine flipping over a record. Of course, he told The Birchmere, you would have to walk over to it, gently lift it from the turntable, wipe the static away, turn the record over, wipe that pesky static some more, and carefully place your vinyl just so.

In this case, the reward is “Spark,” the first song on Side 2 of Starfish, the hit album by The Church, which Steve has fronted for nearly 40 years. And so, Steve, guitarist Peter Koppes, and the rest of The Church performed Starfish in its entirety for an appreciative sold-out room at The Birchmere recently.

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Music Park: The Church @ 9:30 Club — 10/1/17

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The Church perform at 9:30 Club on Oct. 1, 2017. (Photo by Mickey McCarter)

Steve Kilbey was a little bit cantankerous at 9:30 Club on Sunday. He weathered numerous calls for the best-known singles by his band The Church. One enthusiastic audience member for example bellowed for “Under the Milky Way,” prompting Steve to shout, “No!” — right before playing the wonderfully forlorn hit toward the end of his main set.

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Ticket Giveaway: The Church @ 9:30 Club, 10/1/17

The Church

On Oct. 6, legendary Australian psych rockers The Church will release their 26th studio album, Man Woman Life Death Infinity, via Unorthodox Recordings. To mark the occasion, The Church embarked on a 29-date North American Tour, and frontman Steve Kilbey and company will perform at 9:30 Club on Sunday, Oct. 1. You can win tickets to go with Parklife DC.

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Don’t Miss: Careless Memories @ Dodge City, 9/8/16

Echo and the Bunnymen, Clapham Common, Calling Festival, London
Echo & The Bunnymen, Clapham Common, Calling Festival, London, on July 4, 2015. (Photo by Drew de F Fawkes)

Last month’s edition of Careless Memories: A New Wave Party at Dodge City was a hit! And it also had a theme: the songs of early MTV.

Well, this month I return with a fresh theme: A Salute to Psych. You see, I’m inspired that Echo & The Bunnymen perform at the 9:30 Club on Friday, Sept. 9! And so Careless Memories (A New Wave Party) salutes the neo-psychedelic artists that had great crossover hits between the parallel lines of new wave and neo-psychedelia.

Watch the official music video for “Lips Like Sugar” by Echo & The Bunnymen on YouTube:

Turn up at Dodge City on Thursday, Sept. 8 (the night before The Bunnymen perform) for an extra dose of The Bunnymen, The Teardrop Explodes, The Church, The Psychedelic Furs, XTC, probably even The Bangles, and other bands that produced hazy electronic cool.

You can RSVP on Facebook or simply join us — admission is free!  And let me give you an early word for reading this: We’re giving away a pair of tickets to see the sold-out Echo & The Bunnymen show at the 9:30 Club! Check back here tomorrow for details.

Careless Memories:
A New Wave Party
Dodge City
Thursday, Sept. 8
Show @8pm
Free Admission
21+

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Music Park: Parklife DC Top 10 Concerts of 2015 by Mickey

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Steve Norman of Spandau Ballet was a star player at the 9:30 Club on April 28, 2015. (Photo by Joy Asico)

When I look back upon 2015, I certainly discovered my share of new favorite bands. But I have to confess, the best shows of the year were dominated by legacy bands returning to reclaim their pop thrones. And so the shows I am most excited about in 2015 were generally those shows where a genre-defining artist came back to DC and absolutely mastered their art.

But I’ll add this postscript: 2015 also was the year of the punk rock girl, as several notable bands reminded me of how much I like a woman’s voice over a bit of surf or rockabilly guitar. I’ll explain more after my official list of Parklife DC Top 10 Concerts of 2015.

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Music Park: The Church @ 9:30 Club — 3/9/15

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The Church (Photo courtesy the band)

Somewhere in the midst of “Toy Head,” a new song by The Church from their latest album, I am struck how lead singer and bassist Steve Kilbey has really gotten into his zone.

It’s kind of a song about finding yourself, which is interesting given that the man in the center of it seems to be the most together man ever to step on stage at the 9:30 Club, where The Church performed for a very nearly sold-out audience Monday night.

Kilbey is calm, gracious and sharply self-aware. As he goes into the final few minutes of “Toy Head,” his bass reverberates with a distinctive psychedelic vibe that belies his own clipped, professional demeanor. He stands still, hypnotized into the zone of the music as he winds the song down.

But when Kilbey walks across the stage, he strides with swagger — like a rock god from distant shores who may be slumming in the States. The Australian quartet, which Kilbey cofounded with guitarist Peter Koppes, falls into a groove around him, along with a fifth touring member, as they come together for the next song, “Vanishing Man,” a single also from the new album, Further/Deeper, released in October of last year.

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