As far as the American pop mainstream goes, the Church is forever tied to the ’80s thanks to such tracks as Metropolis, Reptile and, of course, its biggest hit, Under the Milky Way.
But in the band’s native Australia, and with pockets of fans around the world, the Church is much more than a fond memory and a couple of decades-old hit singles.
Releasing nearly 30 albums over the course of 35 years, including last year’s Further/Deeper, the quartet has created a signature brand of psychedelic-flavored pop-rock that has survived musical trends.
With its current American tour, beginning Friday at Dallas’ Sons of Hermann Hall, the Church will be showcasing the depth of that catalog by playing the 1982 classic album, The Blurred Crusade, in its entirety as well as assorted tracks from the ensuing years.
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For American fans, this is something to savor since The Blurred Crusade — once only available as an import and then released as an afterthought in the wake of Under the Milky Way in 1988 — never made much of a splash on this side of the Pacific.
But, at home, it was indispensible and, in 2010, was named as one of The 100 Best Australian Albums, in a book by respected Australian music journalists John O’Donnell, Toby Creswell and Craig Mathieson.
“We [played the entire album] in Australia where it was quite a successful album,” says lead singer/bassist Steve Kilbey, by phone from Sydney. “But when we were touring America with the [’80s band] Psychedelic Furs [last year], we had some shows on our own, we started doing it, and people seemed to like it ... I didn’t think [in 1982] that I would be playing it all these years later. But we’re doing it this one tour and putting it away.”
When bands start playing early albums in their entirety, that usually means they’ve crossed over into elder rock statesmen category. Kilbey, 61, doesn’t seem to mind the shift that comes with being an aging band.
“We get a good cross-section, guys bringing their children. Whole families are Church fans,” says Kilbey, who reveals the group is planning to hit the road with the Furs again this summer. “It’s not as old and fuddy-duddy as you might think.”
Certainly, beyond the gray hairs, much has changed since the time when The Blurred Crusade was new.
Though Kilbey and guitarist Peter Koppes have been constants, original drummer Richard Ploog left in 1990 and longtime guitarist Marty Willson-Piper, whose musical relationship with Kilbey could best be described by longtime observers as “fractious,” exited in 2013. They’ve been replaced by Tim Powles and Ian Haug respectively.
Kilbey says he reached out to Willson-Piper before Further/Deeper.
“I wrote to him on Facebook [saying] ‘The band are going to get together and make a new album. Are you in?’ He never answered my calls, my texts, my Skype. He didn’t want to know about us,” Kilbey says.
It turned out to be a blessing in disguise for Kilbey. Though Haug had been with another popular Aussie band, Powderfinger, Kilbey says he didn’t bring a lot of emotional baggage with him.
“Ian is a lot more easy-going character. ... He’s a breath of fresh air,” says Kilbey, laughing. “He’s naively happy but we’ll knock that out of him.”
Keeping the name
As much as fans might think Willson-Piper’s often chiming guitar style is integral to the Church’s sound, Kilbey says he never considered changing the group’s name or just becoming a solo act.
“A lot of people have rightly pointed out that we’ve been building this Church name for 35 years. It’s a brand. People understand it and recognize it,” he explains. “It’s crazy to throw it away. It represents a certain music and a certain feeling.”
In addition to band member shuffles, Kilbey has had major shifts in geography. He moved to Sweden for a time but ultimately returned to Australia. The northern hemisphere didn’t suit him, partly because of the weather.
“[Australia] is an easier place for me to be,” he says. “It’s an easy lifestyle here ... It’s hard being anywhere else.”
An Evening With the Church
- 8 p.m. Friday
- Sons of Hermann Hall, 3414 Elm St., Dallas
- $30, $35 day of show