Feature from the Florida Flambeau
Originally written October 1996 by Stephen Hibbard
Like a sweetly shrieking locomotive, J-Church, a power trio from San Francisco, rolls into Tallahassee tonight for a show with local band Myrtle, to rock the Cow Haus with punk energy and pop hooks. J-Church arrived on the Bay Area scene in 1991, but did not reach its tightest configuration until three years and two drummers later. Lance, the guitar player, vocalist and main songwriter of the band and bassist Gardner found drummer Reed - they all go by their first names - and formed the present line-up of J-Church.
In some respects it seems that although J-Church have become a more technically refined act over the years, energy and content are more important to them than sound quality. Their most recent release, an unevenly recorded compilation of singles called Nostalgic For Nothing, presents songs in which moving and evocative subject matter shines through often ragged production techniques. J-Church are proof that an honest and well-written song beats a highly-produced piece of mediocrity like scissors beat paper on the playground.
"We're influenced a lot by punk, of course. That's where the power, and the mistakes, come from," Lance said last week. "But we're more influenced by songwriters than power-pop bands - guys like Elvis Costello and Nick Lowe. They are where our song structures come from. I like to get my ideas from diary entries or from books I've read, not from other band's songs or lyric sheets."
J-Church's interest in music's energy naturally carries them headlong into live performances. Of the past 24 months, J-Church have spent 12 on the road, playing shows throughout the United States, England, Canada, Europe and Japan. Now they are touring to hype the November release of their fourth full-length album, The Drama of Alienation. They are careful, though, to avoid becoming drained by a rigorous travel agenda.
"We like to stay on the road for a month and then rest a month," said Lance. "That way we can do everything thoroughly, but we don't have to worry about burning out." J-Church approach their shows with the motto 'no expectations'.
"We're doing it for ourselves, first and foremost. We still play shows where nobody's there, that still happens every once in a while," Lance said. "But we don't mind it. We love what we do. If you go out there with that attitude, you can only have a positive experience."
Sharing this attitude are members of Myrtle - a local self-described 'pop/punk' act - who will open for J-Church tonight. Drummer David Pierce, at the tender age of 16, expressed the same dedication to his band's music as the more seasoned members of J-Church.
"We started (the band) because we love doing it," Pierce said Monday. "I've been playing drums as long as I can remember, and making music probably since I was like 10. It's what we do, you know?" In addition to Pierce, Chuck Lindsey plays guitar, with Billy Little on bass, Clay Lovell singing, and Pedro Pisarro - a recent addition to Myrtle - playing the sax. The band has been together for about two and a half years, though they have been on something of a hiatus this past summer.
"We were together for awhile before playing out," Pierce said. "We spent like six months getting everything down so we wouldn't go out there and make fools of ourselves." The band has had some success in the recording arena, but is wary of being taken in by a label more interested in its own profit than the band's growth.
"We were putting together five songs for a seven inch to do ourselves, but we have been waiting because we spoke to a guy from a small label we'd like to be on - he was talking about us recording a CD," Pierce said. "But now we've heard from some guys in other bands that he might be kind of a weasel, so we don't know right now."
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