Interview from Smitten zine #4
The Disaffected Youth of Today
Know Big Words Like Simulcra
J Church are Lance (guitar/vocals), Gardner (bass) and Reed (drums),
a fantastic, melodic, not-so-very-punky but still so outfit from California.
They’ve released so much stuff, including the albums Quetzalcoatl,
Prophylaxis and a compilation of singles, Camels,
Spilled Corona And The Sound Of Mariachi Bands. A new album is
due nowish and I’m sure is more of the ace personal hits and occasional
politics with trademark Stateside vocals and casual twangy guitar. Me
[Hilary], Jayne and Simon interviewed them after their first storming
gig in Camden where they smiled a lot. We saw them loads of times again
and if I’d had the time and money, I’d have gone to all their
gigs, they’re that good. They’re indie-friendly and something
that can get really close to your heart. At least get a single by them
and you’ll see what I mean.
H: Do you do a lot of interviews?
L: Nobody ever asks us to do interviews. We’ve done like 2 full
US tours and the whole time we’ve done about 5 interviews. It’s
so weird cos I would think we’d do more. We were in England a year
and a half ago, we did interviews here then. The questions were really
hard political like, "you say this but you’re doing this. Explain."
G: Current economic situation types.
L: We don’t have the answers! We could guess but just as much as
anyone else could guess.
H: When did you all meet?
L: I met Gardner when I was in high school. That was in 1983.
G: We’re from Hawaii. We had a band there; it’s a very small
scene so you know everybody.
L: Then we met Reed like a year ago. He was in another band called Buttafuoco
and they’re from San Francisco and we had a lot of mutual friends
in the band. We met Reed through that. We played with him a few times
then we stole him! J Church have been together for three and a half to
four years now. We started in 1991.
H: Did you form J Church immediately after Cringer or was there a rest
G: Actually, J Church started before Cringer was finished. We decided
to break up Cringer and then we wanted to record our last 7" and
do a final show and it took us a really long time to get to our final
L: We were just waiting for the day when Cringer was gonna end, so in
the meantime we ended up starting J Church.
S: What happened to everyone else in Cringer?
L: Well one of the guitar players was in Reed’s other band, and
Kamala the drummer went on to be in Naked Aggression.
G: And now she’s in school.
H:Are you going to Europe at all?
L: No, we only came over for the UK. We flew over and spent a couple of
days playing Copenhagen, and we did a festival in Sweden but we really
came over to the UK cos we’re recording an album while we’re
here [Arbor Vitae]. We’re recording with Frankie
Stubbs at the studio he’s got. That’s basically why we came
J: When did you record your 10" (The Precession Of Simulcra)
L: We recorded it ages ago, it should have come out so long ago. It’s
really a weird situation cos basically we recorded a full LP for a Japanese
label to put out and we figured cos Japanese CDs are really expensive
- in the States a Japanese CD costs the equivalent of £12 which
is incredibly expensive there when the average CD is £6 - so nobody’s
gonna buy it! So we got a label in the States to put it out for us, so
we just picked 6 of the songs and that’s the 10".
R: The Japanese one has more songs on it.
L: Yeah, a lot more filler and stuff! We picked the better stuff for the
H:Does it take you a long time to write songs?
L: I write all the songs, I try to write one a week. It’s all I
do, I haven’t been working for a while so I collect records, I play
guitar and I read. I usually have like 7 or 8 songs that I’m working
on at any time. Sometimes I’ll go for a month and not do one and
sometimes I write three in a day. It just depends... and then again, half
of them I just throw away cos I don't like them. I have a lot of songs
that are finished that we don’t play and then you read ‘em
again a month or two later and they don’t seem so good any more
so I just take parts of them and I re-write them into other songs. It’s
like writing in my diary, a month or two later it seems totally stupid
so I take the parts I hate and I scratch it out. Ha Ha! (evil - H).
H:Why did you call yourselves J Church?
L: It’s kind of a secret cos it’s cool when people find out
it’s a bus in San Francisco. The buses in the municipal system are
all alphabetised and there’s a bus that goes up Church St. and it’s
called a J - the J Church.
H:Is there any significance to the strange album and song titles you
G: The weird ones like Quetzalcoatl and Prophylaxis,
I think we just went out of the way to have a long confusing word that
no-one could say. Before that we would just take a line from a song and
name the record after that. Our old drummer was a painter and we would
use his paintings on the cover and we were trying to be pretentious and
arty in a joking kind of way.
J: Do you have jobs?
R: We quit ‘em to come here. I used to deliver pornography magazines
to liquor stores, not a good job.
G: And I developed gay pornography, so that’s a bit of a theme there.
Actually, I developed film.
L: I try not to work. I claim a bit of welfare and when I’m not
doing that I sell records. My last job was incredibly glamorous...I was
a rock star for 4 months! I got to play guitar on tour with Beck. I have
amazing photos of us running for the bus with all these girls behind.
It was so funny. All the shows we would show up at the soundcheck and
at the hotels there would be like 50 girls with presents for us waiting...
candies and stuffed animals. The big thing with rock bands when they get
stuffed animals is they give them all to a homeless shelter.
H: Is there a big difference between crowds here and in the States?
L: Everywhere is good for us except the Bay Area cos we play there a lot.
It’s such a hipster crowd that if you’re not making noise
and you’re not something really weird like Victim’s Family
nobody likes you. It’s like London, there’s so many shows
that everyone gets tired of it.
J: Do you have any plans for the summer after this tour?
L: Ohmigod we have so many plans it’s just insane. We get back home
and have a week off, then we go to Southern California for 4 shows which
is like drive-show-drive-show-heat-drive-show. It’s gonna be about
40C. Then we get home for 2 weeks, then we have a mid-Western US tour
for about 2 weeks. Then 3 weeks off and then 3 weeks in Australia, Hong
Kong and maybe Japan for a week and a half. Then we get back for a couple
of weeks and supposedly we’re gonna do the South for a couple of
weeks. The plan is to make a lot of money and not have to get jobs. It’s
usually fun. When it’s longer than 3 weeks it’s totally not
fun... we’re trying to do a lot of short tours.
H:Where’s the best place you’ve played?
G: It’s difficult to say, there’s lots of different reasons.
Japan was great, just cos I’d never been there.
R: The crowds are really good, that was a surprise.
L: It’s a very strange segregated scene. The people that are into
pop-punk won’t have anything to do with the people that are into
hardcore and they won’t have anything to do with people who’re
into garage music. They won’t go to each other’s shows, it’s
really weird. They class us as pop-punk.
G: You see photos for all these other punker bands and everyone there
is spikes or mohawks.
L: I thought it was gonna be like that when we played but all these kids
just looked like students or something.
R: I think Los Angeles is good.
G: Oh God! See, there’s the perfect example. I just cannot stand
L: I don’t mind Los Angeles, the city itself I can’t stand
it but the shows are just so good.
G: Yeah, but that’s what I’m saying. The show might be good
but I just hate being there so much that it ruins it for me.
L: Likewise, I really like the Northwest, like Seattle and places, but
the shows are just terrible.
H:Is your Los Angeles hatred a North/South divide?
L: No, we used to live there.
G: It is for me, I hate Southern California. I lived there and it’s
L: Outside the Bay Area I hate Northern California too! The only places
I like in the entire United States as far as cities are San Francisco,
Chapel Hill and Seattle. The North/South thing is more like the Bay Area
versus the whole of California. No-one likes the Bay Area because it’s
very left-wing, associated with hippies even though it isn’t really
G: And San Francisco is like the ‘Gay City’ there’s
so many homosexuals.
L: Right, so it’s associated with that because the rest of California
is rednecks and so backwards. I mean, Los Angeles was founded by a racist
organisation - a white supremacist group so that’s the whole history
of it. There was an initial left-wing community there when the city was
founded but they were driven out. That says a lot and despite being so
long ago it plays in area politics and the way the city’s structured
in terms of community and suburbs. There’s actually a plan for the
whole thing. San Francisco is the epitome of the opposite - left wing,
it’s totally disorganised, chaos.
H:What about the East Coast?
G: The East Coast sux! It’s all really old dense urban cities that’re
declining. Lots of industry that’s not there any more so lots of
poverty. The East Coast is meant to be brash, uptight, pushy, always in
a hurry. Everybody says that but when you take a step out the country
you see the place is backwards. It’s a terrible place.
H: But what about here? It’s just as uptight isn’t it?
L: Politically it’s as backward as it is anywhere else in the rest
of the world right now but we don’t really know what’s going
on. I think any country that has more of a history has more depth, I mean
to radical political groups. There’s more sophisticated left-wing
groups here and definitely more established groups. There’s nothing
left-wing and political like that in the United States that isn’t
a complete joke.
H:A lot of Americans think the British are really funny and scatty and
don’t have showers and stuff...
L: Most Americans have never been here so they have no clue.
G: The truth is Americans don’t know or care about anything.
L: Most Americans don’t know or care about anything outside their
city but they have an opinion on everything cos it’s their right.
Ha ha ha! Americans are just as stupid as everyone else when it comes
down to it. They have less of a history, that’s all.
G: Until I was 19 and I was planning to come here I would probably have
had a hard time finding England on the map.
G: That’s just the way you grow up in America.
L: Most people don’t know that the UK is a separate island than
Germany and France. To put it in perspective, the big fucking problem
with geography in the United States is like whenever you buy a map of
the world, and this is totally a fact, in the United States - the major
map companies are super right wing so they always paint the States as
big as Russia.
G: And it’s right in the middle of the map so they have to split
up Russia and China.
J: Would you rather live somewhere else?
L: No, not really, everything’s crazy everywhere. I hate our country
as much as anyone else should hate their own country.
H:What were the first records you ever bought?
L: I actually know this cos I was a little kid and I was really into it
and I made my mum take me to buy it and it was Brown Sugar
by the Rolling Stones. The reason I remember it is because I wouldn’t
let go of it and I took a bath with it!
G: The first album I bought was The Vapours album and I loved it. I didn’t
think of it as punk or anything. I don’t buy many records. Before
that I just listened to the radio.
R: My mom took me down to the record store and I bought a BeeGees album.
J: Is there any band that you’d really like to play with that
you haven’t yet?
G: We were supposed to play with Heavenly tonight!
L: I’d love to play with Elastica!
G: I wouldn’t.
R: Me and Lance are big fans. We’re scouring the record shops for
L: I love Blur! I think they’re really great... We played with Supergrass
in America. They were fun, the shows sucked.
G: It was a really expensive music biz people show.
L: No-one knows who they are in the States so nobody came, and it was
really expensive to get in. It was 21 and over so that kills our crowd
right there. It’s funny to come over here and see how huge they
are and we’re like ‘oh yeah, we played with them!’.
G: Right after they finished playing the disco lights came on and all
the business people started dancing!
H: What’s the worst thing that’s ever happened at a gig?
L: Ha ha ha! It really is so bad we can’t talk about it, I swear
to God. Personally, it’s that bad. (Grrrr..H) The second worst thing:
a huge fight broke out, the cops came and some guy got beat until he was
unconscious and they had to stop the show. That was with Jawbreaker at
this place called The Clubhouse in San Francisco. This guy came and was
totally obnoxious and starting fights so the whole crowd jumped on him
and beat him up.
G: I actually thought it was kinda cool cos there’s so many places
in America where there’ll be 3 or 4 huge guys causing trouble and
the rest of the 3 or 400 people there just kinda go ‘oh, oh’.
L: Yeah well I’m glad they did something but it could’ve been
more productive like smashing a bottle over his head.
J: Know any jokes?
L: What do you call a hippy that broke up with his girlfriend? Homeless.
How can you tell if there’s a drummer at your door? The knock speeds
How can you tell if there’s a lead singer at your door? They can’t
find the key and they come in at the wrong time.
How many lead singers does it take to screw in a lightbulb? One. He holds
the lightbulb and the world revolves around him.
How many guitar players does it take to screw in a lightbulb? Eleven.
One to screw it in and ten to say ‘I could do that’.
How many drummers does it take to screw in a lightbulb? Well none, they
have machines that can do that now.
Did you hear about the plane that crashed? Three musicians died and a
G: That’s stupid! We actually have our own version of that. We got
work permits to come over here and on Lance’s it says musician and
on mine it says bass player...
And that was about the all of it, amicable chatty blokes and sense music.
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