Founded back in 1980, the Sydney-based ARIA Hall of Fame inductees The Church — currently founder member Steve Kilbey (vocals, bass, guitar); longtime collaborator and producer Tim Powles (drums), who joined the band in 1994 and has contributed to 17 albums; Ian Haug (guitar), a former member of Aussie rock outfit Powderfinger, who joined the band in 2013; multi-instrumentalist Jeffery Cain, a former member of Remy Zero and touring member of the band, who joined the band full-time after Peter Koppes left the band in early 2020; and their newest member, Ashley Naylor (guitar), a long-time member of Paul Kelly’s touring band and one of Australia’s most respected guitarists — was initially associated with their hometown’s New Wave, neo-psychedelic and indie rock scenes. But they became increasingly associated with dream pop and post-rock as their material took on slower tempos and surreal, shimmering soundscapes paired with their now, long-held reputation for an uncompromising approach to both their songwriting and sound.
1981’s full-length debut Of Skins and Hearts, was a commercial and critical success thanks in part to the success of their first radio hit, “The Unguarded Moment.” And as a result, the legendary Aussie outfit was signed to major labels in Australia, Europe and The States. However, their American label was dissatisfied with their sophomore album and dropped the band without releasing it in the States.
Although being dropped from their American label managed to slow down some of the international momentum surrounding the band a bit, 1988’s Starfish managed to be a smash hit, thanks to their only US Top 40 hit, “Under the Milky Way.” “Under the Milky Way,” received attention once again with its appearance in 2001’s cult-favorited film Donnie Darko.
Despite the fact that since the release of Starfish, mainstream success has been elusive, The Church have developed a devoted, international cult following while managing to be incredibly prolific. In fact, the band’s 25th album, 2017’s Man Woman Life Death Infinity was released to critical praise from the likes of PopMatters, who called the album “a 21st-century masterpiece, a bright beam of light amid a generic musical landscape, and truly one of the Church’s greatest releases.”
The highly-anticipated follow-up to 2017’s Man Woman Life Death Infinity — and their 26th album — is planned for an early 2023 release through Communicating Vessels/Unorthodox. The forthcoming album’s first single “The Hypnogogue” is an expansive and brooding track centered around the band’s unique swirling and textured guitar-driven sound paired with Kilbey’s imitable delivery and a contemporary sensibility heightened by a mix from Darrell Thorpe.
“‘The Hypnogogue’ is set in 2054… a dystopian and broken down future,” The Church’s Steve Kilbey explains. “Invented by Sun Kim Jong, a North Korean scientist and occult dabbler, it is a machine and a process that pulls music straight of dreams.”
“The song is about Eros Zeta the biggest rock star of 2054 who has traveled from his home in Antarctica (against his manager’s advice) to use the Hypnogogue to help him revive his flagging fortunes,” Kilbey continues, fleshing out the song’s sci-fi storyline. “In the midst of the toxic process, he also falls in love with Sun Kim and it all ends tragically (of course…as these thing often do).”
Directed by Aussie filmmaker Clint Lewis and starring Michael Coward and Emilia Eau, the accompanying, cinematic video for “The Hypnogogue” is set a rainy, neon-drenched retro-futuristic world that feels inspired by 80s dystopian sci-fi — in particular Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner and Terry Gilliam’s 12 Monkeys. But the video also manages to faithfully capture the essence of the song’s storyline. “I gave the director a lot of input into this video but he took my ideas and ran with them and came up with a fair bit of stuff I never envisaged,” Kilbey says. “The Church appear on screens in the Hypnogogue as workers in the system, translating the dreams of users into real time music. I’m very happy with the way it all turned out. It’d be hard to get a better result!”