In one of the most candid interviews, a flu-ridden and raspy-sounding Kim Churchill spoke to our editor, Larry Heath, about the new album, new single, touring, his connection with Canada, surfing, the weather and much, much more!
How many shows have you done? Three shows?
Yeah, done three shows now.
You’ve got nothing tomorrow?
So, you’re done, for now.
Do you get to hang around tomorrow as well?
Yeah, yeah, so I’ve got to play harmonica with a few people tomorrow.
Oh, who are you performing with?
I’m performing with Marshall, Marshall O’Kell. He’s on tomorrow. Yeah, so I’ll perform with him and the Round Mountain Girls. I haven’t seen their set yet, but yeah, they got in touch and I’m their harmonica player, but harmonica is easy…
Yeah, don’t need a voice for that. You just need to be able to breathe [laughs].
As long as I’m breathing, it comes in handy for some other things in life.
Yeah, it certainly does.
Just hope it doesn’t cut out on me.
Well, you can’t beat the weather for this year.
Last year was pretty shitty the last couple of days, but this year is pretty nice. So how’ve you been?
Been really good, yeah. It’s been a big year.
The album came out this week or last week or…?
This week. This weekend is the official release. I think iTunes will put it out as soon as the [Bluesfest] Festival finishes. The weekend it is exclusive anywhere in the world. So that’s pretty cool.
How’s it going? I know I saw you signing some CDs yesterday.
Yeah, yeah! We’ve been selling a shitload of ‘em, so it’s good. It’s a good way to start with the releases – to have a really good festival and some shows…
And when you do feel like partying, a good bit of beer money [laughs].
Yeah, exactly. So it’s really exciting. This record is certainly, in terms of what I’ve done in the studios a million times, more intense and deeper than anything I’ve ever done before. I feel like I was a virgin to the studio when I went in to record this record, but I wasn’t.
When did it start? Because I think we spoke about it last year.
I mean there was a lot of build-up and I spent a long time working on the songs, as well.
Where did you end up recording them?
At a studio called Mushroom in Vancouver, which is a really great studio. A fair bit of Led Zeppelin II was recorded there and it’s a big, big room which was nice for capturing some certain drum sounds, that kind of thing and I mean, just in general, I feel like this was the first time I really had a good… an educated idea of what I wanted to do in the studio. I feel like the other times I’ve been in there, I was kind of just blissfully ignorant of everything – the recording techniques, production ideas and that kind of stuff. So I feel like I’ve climbed a mountain and come down the other side before I even recorded the record, in terms of my understanding, and it’s paid off. We’ve made a record that I’m proud of, for the first time in my life [laughs].
Well, it’s always a process and I guess that’s part of the experience as well. Not just recording, but writing and then touring it and all that. It’s all… it’s a steep learning curve.
It is. You have to learn quickly too. This day and age, there’s so many amazing bands and if you want to actually have a career, or actually make enough money to tour and just play music constantly, I think you have to be learning that quickly and you know, learning your lessons, making mistakes, but making them quickly and learning from them.
So you’ve got a big tour coming up. Hopefully the voice improves.
Yeah, I think it will. I think I have two weeks to get better.
That’s alright. Yeah, you’ll be fine.
Yeah, I have some busking that I’m meant to be doing but I really don’t know if I…
Some lemon tea, zinc and Vitamin C.
Yeah, lemon tea and just taking it easy.
When I travel, I pop zinc and Vitamin C tablets and it seems to do the trick.
Yeah, get stuck in there. I have a multi-vitamin intake and some stuff they give in Canada they call Oil of Oregano.
Yeah, I remember that! I lived in Vancouver for six months.
Oh right, so you would have gotten stuck into that. They have that, that’s great. I don’t know if you can get it over here.
You probably can, in some health stores, especially in this part of the world. I think we’re sitting in front of a tea tree, the tea tree oil lake. Peter Noble owns this whole place. He sells the tea tree from it.
He does. That’s right.
Or he does the rest of the year. Because I think that’s what it was before. He bought it – it was a tea tree farm – and just kept that going, making a few extra dollars as the year progresses, I’m sure.
So the tour is now underway, it’s going to be good. How are the songs going, with the exception of this morning, how’ve the new songs being going live?
Yeah, good. I had a nice support tour in Canada before I came here, which was a good chance to road test a lot of them and get them up to scratch. This weekend, there have really been some quite nice moments where I was really nailing tracks that have taken a lot of work to nail. What I really wanted to do on this record, or what I have done, is made a record that with my live show you have to actually work and chase to get to, because I always find I’ve had to pull the previous record. I mean, it was a different thing and unhappy work within its contexts or whatever, but I really dragged that record along for a long time with my live shows, so different, my live show could have a certain effect on people that the record wasn’t able to do. And so it’s nice with this record, I feel like I achieved up really high and put it there on a shelf that from that point on, had to start working very hard within my live sets…
To make it work.
Yeah, to make it work, which has been great, and more the feeling of nailing some of those tracks, especially this weekend has been really good, so it’s cool. I go into this tour ready and all practiced up and ready to smash every show.
And now, talking about Vancouver, your latest music video “Seasons Grind,” well there’s certainly seasons changing in the video, you go from snow to just, may as well be snow, like freezing rain, which Vancouver Island is well-known for. Did you go up to Nanalmo, all the way up to Victoria or where did you go around? Where was it filmed?
That producer basically jumped in the van in Parksville, just a little north of Nanalmo. Travelled up to Tofino, had a show in Tofino, and then back down for a show in Nanalmo. We maybe stayed for two days for a song that’s called “Seasons Grind” and the general idea of the song is whatever’s happening within the seasons, you have to accept this. Basically, each verse personifies the season and the personality traits that you like in another person. There are things you don’t like, the fact is we have to weather them; we have to work within them. It works for seasons and for weather, but for people as well, and so I mean, given that that’s the idea for the song, the fact that, in the two days we were filming, we had everything – sun, rain, hail…
So it was only filmed over a two day period?
Yeah, lots of different weather.
You got in the water a bit, as well, which was good.
Yeah, I actually surfed a fair bit over there. I was pretty scared of…
Frost bite? [Laughs]
Yeah, scared of frost bite. The brain freezes: mind-blowing. You know when you have your hood on so tight, but on your face that water doesn’t get in, but when water gets into your hood, it’s like you just put your head in a bowl of ice-cubes, like it’s so cold.
A good way to wake up but not a good way to surf.
No, no. And I mean you’ve got so much shit on. It’s like it cuts your abilities in half, you know, to surf. But yeah, I still surf a lot over there and in some ways, it’s just fun. You just do what you gotta do. Three or four surfs in, I forgot about the hassles of what I was doing and it was just surfing and it was a lot of fun. There were lots of great waves over there.
My mate, Stefan, you might know him, he produced and directed a documentary called “Surfing 50 States”, where they went around the USA and they found a way to surf in every state. And one thing I learnt from that is, it doesn’t matter what the conditions are, you can always find a wave and you can always find a way to get on that board.
Yep, that’s it!
My favourite was when they were going around places like Ohio or Colorado, where there’s no beaches or anything, they would get… they attach themselves to the back of a car, and then get one person on something to create waves in the water, like on a jet ski or something, and then the other person would surf the waves that they were creating on water.
That’s really cool. I’ve got to see that. That would be a good view.
So you’ve got two months of touring. Is that going to be just in Australia or are you going outside?
Well, basically, to release the album here in Australia first, that was important for me to do, so we did a tour here for two months with that, before returning to North America to release and tour there, so that will probably take up the majority of the rest of my year.
I imagine you’ll tour Canada extensively.
Yeah, lots of shows in Canada, especially Quebec. Quebec is probably where I have the biggest following of anywhere.
Oh, fair enough.
Yeah, so there’ll be lots of shows…
Oh, I love Montreal.
That’s an amazing city, isn’t it?
I just came back. I did Canadian Music Week again and Toronto was 20-25 degrees [Celsius]. I remember last year it was like, five degrees at the most.
They had a heatwave, didn’t they?
Yeah, it was…
Beautiful. It was like this. We were sitting in the park in Toronto, just going ‘Holy shit!’ Just beautiful. Sitting in the park, eating croissants, a bunch of beautiful girls around…
[Laughs] I wish I could say Vancouver was the same.
Rarely is. Yeah, that’s the thing. Toronto was warmer, it was like twice was warm as Vancouver. It was ridiculous.
Yeah, I heard about that. I had lots of friends in Quebec that were saying ‘It’s like summer!’
Well, congratulations on the album. I don’t imagine that you’ve stopped writing or anything. Do you still write when you get the urge?
I’m writing more than ever. Generally at this stage, I write, probably, three or four songs a week and yeah, it’s not slowing down. I think I have enough material for another three albums, so we’ll start looking for mediums in which to get those songs out of. I’ll do a studio album every couple of years, I think.
Live CDs, live EPs…
Live and just different ideas. I think what I want to do around October is put aside three weeks and actually set my van up that I live out of, get a generator and set it up as a recording…
All you need is an iPad these days. You don’t need much. Garage band.
Yeah, and basically just travelling around Australia and finding environments that I feel suit the songs, set up and record the songs from the van and even, you know, incorporate a lot of sounds from the van, like if you want to kick a drum, just bash the side of the van.
Stuff like that. So that’s the next record I’ll make and that should happen at the end of the year.
The Van Sessions.
The Van Sessions, yeah. Something like that and I mean… I just have to keep recording these songs because they’re happening so quick and you need to capture them in the right time, you know…
If you do it five years from now, it will mean something completely different.
Exactly, yeah and I mean, that’s cool, that could mean that then, but I think it’s important to capture a song when it’s in its innocence, in its moment of… when it’s very true to the feelings that are written about it and how you ever perform it.
On the record, did anyone else come on board instrumentally, or is everything you?
Yeah. Instead of me doing everything, we separated the drums. So instead of me playing the drums with my feet, exactly the same set, just kick and snare, there’s a couple of cymbals and a couple of snare rolls snuck in there, but in general, we basically got a drummer to imitate my feet so that I could… so that we could separate the drums and get much better sounds and so I could concentrate on the singing and on the guitar effects and stuff like that. Other than that, my tour manager is a trumpet player and so he played trumpet on a few tracks. We had a string quartet come in for two songs, which is going to be one of the most amazing ways to wake up is to wander in to the studio and have a string quartet playing your song. That was amazing.
That would be cool, one day, to have you perform with a full orchestra.
Oh, I dream to. I mean, I would love to do that, I think, when we release the record in Vancouver, we’ll get the quartet to come along.
Oh, they’re a Vancouver-based quartet?
Yeah, they are. They’re really good, they’re amazing. What else…? There’s a vocalist, Babette Hayward, she’s done some backing vocals on one of the tracks on there as well. She worked with me – that was nice.
Oh, wicked. Well, congratulations again. It’s good to see you back out on the road and not that you ever stop.
No, well, I did. For the record, I had two months off and I’m never doing it again.
Yeah, I hated it.
Didn’t know what the hell to do with yourself?
I did maybe become an alcoholic.
Really did. It’s fucked.
You’re drinking less now that you’re on the road. It’s ridiculous!
I know. It works in weird ways but there you go. Well, thanks for chatting!
As always man, good to see you.
Kim Churchill’s latest album, Detail of Distance is out now.