Founded back in 1980, the Sydney-based ARIA Hall of Fame inductees The Church — currently founding 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.
Over the course of the next couple of decades, they became increasingly associated with dream pop and post-rock: Featuring shimmering soundscapes, their material took on slower tempos while built around their now, long-held reputation for an uncompromising approach to both their songwriting and sound.
Their 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! — The Hypnogogue was released earlier this year release through Communicating Vessels/Unorthodox.
The Hypnogogue is the band’s first full-length concept album: Set in 2054, the album follows its protagonist Eros Zeta, the biggest rock star of his era, who travels from his home in Antarctica to use the titular Hypnogogue to help him revive his flagging and moribund fortunes. “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 Hypnogogue is the most prog rock thing we have ever done,” Kilbey says. “We’ve also never had a concept album before. It is the most ‘teamwork record’ we have ever had. Everyone in the band is so justifiably proud of this record and everyone helped to make sure it was as good as it could be. Personally, I think it’s in our top three records.”
In the lead to the album’s release, I wrote about three of its singles:
- The album’s expansive and brooding title track and first single, “The Hypnogogue.” Featuring the band’s swirling and textured guitar-driven sound paired with Kilbey’s imitable delivery, the song introduces listeners to the album’s characters — Eros Zeta and Sum Kim. The song follows Zeta, as they’re traveling to meet Kim, to go through the titular hypnogogue. But during the toxic and weird process, Zeta winds up falling in love with Kim. As Kilbey says, “. . . it all ends tragically (of course . .. as these things often do).
- The jangling and deceptively upbeat “C’est La Vie,” which continues the album’s narrative. Zeta’s agent warms him not to mess with the hypnogogue. “His manager has heard some bad rumors about it, and he doesn’t want his boy all strung out on this unknown thing,” The Church’s Steve Kilbey explains. The song ends with a gorgeous, shimmering fade out. “Musically, the song is a fast-paced rocker very much initiated by our guitarist Ian Haug. But it has plenty of twists and turns and ends up fading away in a delicate and winsome way.”
- “No Other You,” a glittering glam rock-like ballad with some Ziggy Stardust-era Bowie guitar work and a cinematic quality paired with Kilbey expressing an aching, almost desperate longing. “No Other You” may arguably be the most straightforward and earnest song of the band’s extensive catalog. The song continues the album’s narrative — but on a more personal level: The Church’s Steve Kilbey explains that the song is an “ultra-romantic song that Zeta writes for Sun Kim Jong, who is the inventor of The Hypnogogue. It’s a heartfelt song about an irreplaceable woman. And the Church gets to explore a slightly glam rock feel to boot.”
The band will be embarking on a second leg of their North American tour to support their 26th album during the fall. The tour will see them playing dates across the West Coast, Southwest, Southeast and Illinois. The band will be offering a limited number of VIP packs on the tour’s second leg, which will include the show ticket, early venue access, an invitation to the band’s soundcheck, a special meet and greet with the band, exclusive merch and the ability to watch a portion of the show from the side of the stage, where available. Tour dates are below.
Coinciding with the fall tour, the acclaimed Aussie outfit recently released a digital deluxe edition of The Hypnogogue that will include material originally cut from the 13-song album.
The deluxe edition will include “Realm of Minor Angels,” a slow-burning and gorgeous, torch song-inspired ballad featuring shimmering mandolin from Ian Haug and slide guitar from Ashley Naylor paired with Kilbey’s crooned delivery. Sonically, “Realm of Minor Angels” wouldn’t sound out of place on Starfish or Gold Afternoon Fix.
“‘Realm of Minor Angels’ is without doubt one of my favorite singles The Church has ever released,” The Church’s Steve Bilberry says. “From the moment [guitarist] Jeffrey Cain started playing the opening riff, I was hooked. The singing and lyrics are my own subtle homage to the torch songs of the ‘60s and check out Ian Haug’s mandolin lines and Ashley Naylor’s slide work!”
Directed by Clint Lewis and featuring additional footage shot by Danial Willis and Randall Turner, the accompanying video for “Realm of Minor Angels” stars Carol Larsen as Sun Kim Jong and Selma Soul as Eros Zeta. We see Laren’s Sun Kim Jong discovering Soul’s Eros Zeta strung out and nearly comatose. Through what seems to be flashbacks or perhaps a vivid hallucination, we see Kim Jong and Zeta slow dancing together and other tender moments. Televisions flash all around them in the room, and we see the members of The Church performing the song from the studio. Much like the preceding videos, this one has a haunting, dream-like quality.
Going beyond the initial storyline told in The Hypnogogue, The Church will be releasing Eros Zeta and the Perfumed Guitars, a companion CD that will serve as a continuation of the storyline. The limited-edition CD will only be available at merch tables on the tour.
The original dream-pulling storyline,” as Kilbey explains, “follows 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. In the midst of the toxic process, he also falls in love with Sun Kim and it all ends tragically (of course, as these things often do).”
Eros Zeta and the Perfumed Guitars expands and builds upon the mythology of The Hypnogogue. As the band’s Kilbey explains: “Eros Zeta and the Perfumed Guitars were formed in 2048 in Antarctic City in Antarctica. They had many hits including ‘Realm of Minor Angels’ and ‘Sublimated in Song’ and in all released six collections of music. They toured the postwar world incessantly during the early 2050s and were capable on a good night of selling out concerts in most countries that still had gigs. The band were troubled with personnel and substance problems culminating in Eros Zeta’s addiction to Sky and his subsequent inability to write new songs.
“In 2054, he journeyed to Korea where he used the Hypnogogue to create new music. After the disastrous effects these songs created, he died in a traffic accident whilst on his way to the airport to return home. The songs were thereafter prohibited in most places. In recognition of his services to Antarctican music, a statue was built to honor him in the Australian Quarter of Antarctic city. The band continued on without him but to little success which led to them disbanding in 2057.”