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Podcast - Ep. 15: The Church - Steve Kilbey Interview

Written by Ben Province

On the latest episode our podcast, John Fleming caught up with Steve Kilbey, vocalist and bassist of the ARIA-winning Australian band The Church.

2023 marks the 35th anniversary of the group's best-selling album, "Starfish." The alternative rockers' fifth studio offering produced the international "Under the Milky Way," which peaked at No. 22 in the band's homeland and No. 24 in the U.S., while also charting in Canada, the Netherlands, New Zealand and the U.K.

The band's lengthy career and geographic reach are milestones Kilbey told Sound Words Central he never could have imagined when the band formed in 1980.

"My ambition was to play in Melbourne. We formed in Sydney, and Melbourne was like 600 miles away, and my ambition was to get one single out and go down to Melbourne and do a tour," he said. "I'll feel like, that's it, now I'm ready to settle down and just do something else. I had no idea it was gonna turn into all of this. I really didn't."

This past February, the Church released its 26th studio album, "The Hypnogogue," which is the first time the band has done a concept album. The record centers around two characters named Sun Kim Jong and Eros Zeta and the titular machine, which "pulls music out of somebody's head." The science-fiction-inspired LP imagines a dystopian future and how music will be made in the year 2054,.

"It wasn't going to be a concept album, and then as I started making it, it started turning into one. And, bit by bit, I started singing stuff I didn't understand why I was singing these words."

Although it's a concept album, The Church did not force itself to be limited to one direct narrative.

"The songs that didn't fit, I made them fit. Like some of the songs aren't really anything to do with the story," Kilbey said. "So, some of the songs are kind of like they're not really part of a sequential series of events; they're just sort of accessories to the story."

Doing an album with surreal, cinematic subject matter suited band well, according to its frontman.

"The Church has never been about 'I love my baby, I love drinking, I love driving my car and getting in a fight,'" he said. "It's supposed to be sort of something marvelous or magical. It's supposed to not be about ordinary sort of emotions, and so, yes, the idea of having a sort of science fiction story going along behind this I think fits in perfectly."

Credit: Hugh Stewart


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