One of the most iconic ’80s alternative songs is “Under the Milky Way” by The Church. The song appeared on their 1988 album “Starfish” and enjoyed a resurgence in popularity after being featured in the 2001 cult film “Donnie Darko.” “And it’s something quite peculiar/something shimmering and white/leads you hear despite your destination/under the milky way tonight.” The song never gets old.
Here. I’ll prove it:
That same album is home to “Reptile,” a track with one of the most memorable opening riffs you’ll ever hear.
Lest anyone think The Church hasn’t done much since then, let it be known they’ve released more than a dozen albums since then, including last year’s “Further/Deeper” which resulted in me going, well, back to The Church.
Here’s “Vanishing Man” from “Further/Deeper:”
The first song I ever knew from The Church was “The Unguarded Moment,” when they opened for Echo & The Bunnymen in Boston. The show was on March 28, 1986 – 29 years ago. I haven’t seen The Church since then, so a genuflection might have to happen upon entering Asylum.
I spoke by telephone with founding member Steve Kilbey, 60, from his home in Australia. Rather than dwelling on the past, we spoke about the future of a still-fantastic band and also about Kilbey’s love for painting.
Got a favorite song on “Further/Deeper?”
I’ve always liked “Toy Head.” That’s always been my favorite track. Plus “Miami.”
I was on your painting website right before this interview. When did you start doing this?
I started painting only about 12 years ago. I came to it very late.
Are there any similarities to where your brain goes creatively when you’re painting as compared to when you’re performing or perhaps writing a song?
I guess it’s the same sort of department but a different office. I think the desire to create all comes from the same place and then the thing that I want to create is always the same thing. I want to create something kind of beautiful and transcendent. Then, you know, I’m a pretty good musician. I’ve been doing it for a long time, since I was 16. But when I paint I find that my technical ability is outstripped by my ambition. So when I want to write a piece of music or when I write words, I find I can normally do what I hear in my head. But with painting it isn’t like that. It’s kind of like I have these fancy ideas of what I want to do but then lack of experience will sometimes let me down. That kind of makes it exciting too.
If you have a melody or lyric in your head at what point in the process – and perhaps it’s different every time – do you come to the realization that it’s going to be a Church song versus a Steve Kilbey solo song? How does that work?
I only work on The Church when it’s The Church. Very occasionally, like with “Old Coast Road,” I wrote that song on my own outside of The Church, but it just sounded too Church-ey to me. Normally we all write the music together. Every now and then there’s a really rare time when I’m writing something and I (think), ‘I’ve got to play this for the band, this is something for them.’
Shifting to the tour, you’re doing a number of dates with The Psychedelic Furs. Have you ever toured with them?
I sat down with my manager one day and he said we need to do a double bill and he asked, ‘Who do you think would be a good band for you to play with?’ I said Psychedelic Furs right off. In many ways we come from the same place. There’s been a lot of Dylan, Stones and Bowie influences. We’re from the same era. We’re in different places because from what I can gather, The Furs don’t seem to be making any new music now and we are. But I think the most important thing is, anybody who likes The Furs would like us and anybody who would like us would like The Furs.
I’m curious what your thoughts on shows like “The Voice” and “American Idol?” Surely there are Australian equivalents?
I think there’s always been talent quest shows. You’re not going to find the next John Lennon in one of those shows, but that’s not what it’s all about. When you look at rock music and pop music, there are two different things that people want from it. The people who come and see The Church or The Psychedelic Furs or Bruce Springsteen or Sigur Rós want a certain kind of thing. The people who go see talent quest shows want something else. And never the twain shall meet.
If you go and see whomever wins “American Idol” playing, you’re not going to have a quasi-spiritual, transcending experience. You’re gonna see a sleek little pop singer running through a bunch of songs that somebody else wrote. With The Beatles and with Dylan as well, rock music, pop music, folk music became meaningful – or had the potential to contain meaning. Where it had just been superficial, we went into new, artistic territory and suddenly rock music could do what art and classical music had done before that. It could contain significance. The Church pedals significance. When I listen to music that I like, I want it to be a meaningful, poignant, spiritual experience. But some people want a little bit of that and something more hummable. There’s so many points on the bridge.
The Church, 8:30 p.m. Friday. Asylum, 121 Center St., Portland, $25-$125, 18-plus. portlandasylum.com
The Church is also performing Thursday with Psychedelic Furs at the Casino Ballroom in Hampton Beach, N.H. casinoballroom.com
8 p.m. Thursday. One Longfellow Square, 181 State St., Portland, $12. onelongfellowsquare.com
Originally from Portland, singer-songwriter Keelan Donovan calls Nashville home. He’s booked over 200 shows for 2015, including a month-long tour of Europe that happened in June. Donovan released three EPs last year and with a distinct singing-voice and knack for thoughtful songwriting, this promises to be a terrific show.
Blue Note Big Band
5 p.m. Thursday.St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, 535 Shore Road, Cape Neddick, $20 suggested donation. st-peters-by-the-sea.org
It’s time for the 5th Annual Jazz at St. Peters concert and reception. This year’s featured act is The Blue Note Jazz Band performing the music of Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Glenn Miller, Lionel Hampton and several other luminaries of the swing era. A wine and cheese reception will follow at the seaside rectory. Proceeds benefit the preservation of the chapel church, the only building on the National Registry of Historic Places in Cape Neddick.
The Ghost of Paul Revere
8 p.m. Friday. The Stone Mountain Arts Center, 695 Dugway Road, Brownfield, $25. stonemountainartscenter.com
You’ll be haunted forever if you miss The Ghost Of Paul Revere show in Brownfield. They describe their brand of music as “holler folk” and you’ll hear three part harmonies that just might raise the very sturdy roof of The Stone Mountain Arts Center. What’s more, the show is a benefit for the Harvest Hills Animal Shelter.
A Night at Port City: A Tribute to Queen
9 p.m. Saturday. Port City Music Hall, 504 Congress St., Portland, $10 in advance, $12 day of show, 18-plus. portcitymusichall.com
Portland musician Sean Slaughter and a bunch of his musical friends are paying homage to the rock band Queen with a very special performance of the 1975 “A Night at the Opera” album. You’ll hear songs like “You’re My Best Friend” and “Bohemian Rhapsody,” along with other Queen hits like “Killer Queen” and “Under Pressure” among many others.