Steve Kilbey discusses Glow and Fade, his latest album with collaborator Martin Kennedy, the upcoming Church album and tour and much more in our exclusive interview.
Kilbey Kennedy, the Australian musical duo featuring Steve Kilbey (The Church) and Martin Kennedy (All India Radio) are back with Glow and Fade, their fifth studio album (released May 26th on Golden Robot Records).
Glow continues the their unique musical alchemy: a hybrid of prog rock, dream pop and ambient music, resulting in rich, cinematic soundscapes punctuated by Kilbey’s soothing, meditative vocals. It’s a hypnotic and refreshing sonic concoction that expands upon the strengths of previous releases like 2015’s Inside We Are The Same and 2013’s You Are Everything.
I recently interviewed Kilbey to get his thoughts on Glow and Fade, The Church’s upcoming new album and tour and his recent solo activity. Enjoy the full Q&A (edited only for content and clarity) below:
SLIS: I’m really enjoying your new album. I feel with each Kilbey-Kennedy release your sound gets richer and more expansive. Did you feel a sense of evolution on Glow and Fade?
SK: Well it’s really up to Martin. I’m just the singer in this band, so Martin determines the scope and ambition in many ways. I mean I determine the kind of lyrical and singing scope but he has made this album into this kind of epic…so I did my singing and he went away and expanded it.
SLIS: In your press release, you describe the album as “wide eyed naiveté and crushing cynicism, nature of time, time of nature, the struggle and the defeat, love in all its old disguises” How did that concept come about?
SK: I think when you say things like that it’s kind of everything really. I mean sometimes it’s hard, especially at my stage when I’ve made so many albums. It’s hard to say what it’s about anymore. So you can come up with something like that. It’s really just a general description– like when a new movie comes out: One man! One woman! And they fight crime!
You know what I mean? It’s like an advertising slogan. I think you could apply that right back to the first album I ever made with The Church– it’s all naiveté and cynicism and whatever else that quote said. It’s all those things as well.
SLIS: The Game Never Changes is my favorite song: it’s 16 minutes but never feels overindulgent.
SK: Well that’s good because a 16 minute song that feels like a 16-minute song would be a bad thing!
SLIS: You’re no stranger to long songs in your back catalogue, but what was it like working on a song with such an epic length?
SK: Well I worked on that track in little bits– he had three little bits of music and I did my singing on those bits, and he took it away and built it into that monster, so I was just as surprised by that as anyone. Because when I worked on it, it was just like 3 verses and the ending the game never changes a couple of times and he took it back and sculpted it into that. Which is both a miracle and a tragedy with what you can do with music these days.SLIS: You mentioned Martin brings the music fully formed and then you come up with the vocal melodies and lyrics: has there ever been an instance when you suggested a song idea or a riff or concept to him?
SK: No I’ve never suggested anything. I never played one note–I’d never had any suggestions about anything at all. Just whatever he gives me I work with. I just leave it like that and I leave it to him to figure it all out, so it’s a great abdication of responsibility in a way.
I am the singer and lyricist, so I come up with the melody and the words and then he goes away and does whatever he likes. When I worked on it there weren’t any drums, just a bit of drum machine. Then he outsources it and gets drummers to play on it. One of the miraculous things about this record is that he’s playing all the lead guitar for the first time: he’s playing all of that sort of Dave Gilmour-y guitar.
He lives in Tasmania now and he met a trumpet player in his neighborhood and he came around and played trumpet. And I don’t even know if I’ve ever met the woman who sang backing vocals on it as well (Selena Cross). So it’s very much a black box to me. He comes up and I record some stuff and he goes away and comes back 3 months later and says here’s our album–and I go wow that’s incredible!
SLIS: Is there a particular track or tracks on the album that you’re particularly proud of that stands out to you the most?
SK: I really like The Law of the Jungle—-I’m confused by the title because I sing decayed of love/you were made to glow and fade in that song. But he took glow and fade from those lyrics and named the first song off the album Glow and Fade.
I also really like the last track (One is All)–which he sampled from our first album–it samples a track (All is One) where I sing spirit/come and take me now. So he’s created a new piece of music built from that sample. So I really like those tracks.
SLIS: Are there any live dates planned to support the album?
SK: Well we did a show about 6 years ago and Martin had such a bad time he said he’s not doing any more live shows.
SLIS: Oh really?
SK: Yes he sort of didn’t like having to be the guitarist and the bandmaster and having to organize it all and buying plane tickets and having to arrange the hotel and all that. Afterwards he said this is just too much for me-I can’t do this anymore. I said that kind of gives me a bad feeling that I’ve driven you to retire from live music!
Yeah! I can have that effect on people.
So I think unless something absolutely peculiar happened and someone came out of the woodwork and went we’re going to do a proper tour I don’t think we will.
SLIS: I read you’re currently working on another Church album, how has that been going?
SK: Yeah it’s about 3/4 done and I think we’ve recorded about 14 songs now and I’ve got to go in today and do some more singing. So yeah its pretty much done, it’s just having the final tweaks and some fairy dust sprinkled on it
SLIS: Anything you can tease fans with as far as what to expect sound wise?
SK: The thing is…when a band has randomly created something…I’m still trying to figure out what it is so I can put in some kind of capsule for people and say oh yeah its sorta emo/goth/latin/salsa/punk or whatever.
I haven’t really figured out what we’ve done? It’s quite quirky: its got some really strange little songs on it. It’s not a great big, thundering monster.
SLIS: This will be the band’s second album with guitarist Ian Haug. How has he contributed to the sound-and has his role evolved on this new album?
SK: Oh yeah, he’s been incredible on this record. He really has. He’s come up with a lot of stuff. He’s really stepped up the plate and owning it. Quite a few of the songs started off from him directly…so he has really been a huge part of this.
But he was also really a huge part of the last album–but on the new one, he’s really done a lot on it.
SLIS: I saw the band will be touring in the U.S. this summer: any chance of debuting new material?
SK: That’s the idea. We’re going to try to release a single beforehand…so yeah as we many as we can get in there, but balancing that with our older material. It’s a weird paradox: our manager says you’ve gotta have a new album to tour, and yet when you tour people want to hear all your old songs!
So that’s kind of weird thing to get your head around. But yeah, we’re going to do at least one or two off this upcoming record.
SLIS: I also saw you performed some Cure songs recently a tribute for the 25th anniversary of their album Wish. Was that fun to take part in?
SK: Well I really like The Cure. I really like the album Disintegration. So even though it was the Wish show–I did all Disintegration songs. And I played 6-string bass and I really enjoyed that. I mean I’m not a slavish Cure devotee or anything like that, but it was a lot of fun to do those songs and play 6-string bass.
And I’m doing some more of that now. They sort of made me a financial offer I couldn’t refuse. I was sort of like Uh, I don’t really wanna do that, and the guy came back and said would you do it for this much? And I was like, alright I have to do it for that much because it was a lot of money to just do some Cure songs. So I’m going to do that in Melbourne and Perth in July.
But its a weird thing doing other people’s stuff. And I admit its weird that I’m doing it and now that the shows are going on sale, people are ringing me up going Are you doing the Cure?
It’d be like if someone came up to you and said hey, do you like Abba? And you go yeah I guess so. And they go well how about we give you $20,000 to write an article on them? And you’d go yeah, I’ll write an article about them! You know what I mean?
Sometimes you just have to do that. Because there’s some things that I’d do for free. If someone came up to me and said we’re having a Big Star night, or a T. Rex night or a Dylan night, I’d do that and wouldn’t even ask how much it is. And there’s other things where I go if you make it worth my while I’ll do it. And then there’s other things where no matter how much they offer me, I wouldn’t do it. So The Cure are on that scale where I’m like yeah I don’t mind doing that if the money is right.
SLIS: Speaking of album anniversaries,The Church’s Priest=Aura turns 25 this year as well. Any plans on a reissue or a live performance to celebrate its legacy?
SK: Well this is another weird thing about the music business in this day and age: someone has reissued it! I don’t even know who they are or if they’re even going to pay me…this label has already reissued it on vinyl, so I’m really mixed up with how this is all working. So we aren’t reissuing it, but someone affiliated with us, or not affiliated with us, has already reissued it.
So I don’t know if we’ll be getting paid for that or what. It’s so fucking hard to keep track of all this stuff. I mean you sit at home and someone goes oh this record is out now on this label…are you getting any money from that? And I don’t know. Its sort of so hard to tell what’s fucking going on anymore.
SLIS: That’s got to be frustrating.
SK: it is a bit. It was nice back in the old days when at least you could keep track of your own releases and at least you were supposed to get paid. Whether you did or not is another thing, but now it just seems like anybody out there can do it–I mean why don’t you do a reissue of it?
You could reissue it and do whatever you like! So yeah, I’m not sure.
SLIS: I think that album is criminally underrated. I know when it came out it didn’t get much fanfare but it’s one of the best Church albums.
SK: Oh definitely. Even when we’re working in the studio now, sometimes people go oh I really like this track it sounds like Priest=Aura. So we’re still sort of chasing that in our own heads a little bit and trying to figure out what was so great about it. And I don’t know what it was–it just sort of came out really well. The album before that was rubbish and the album after that I thought was rubbish, but that album there was just brilliant.
SLIS: There’s just something about it. Such a scope and atmosphere. I still listen to it often.
SK: It’s sort of widescreen. There was a lot of talk in those days about something that you never hear mentioned anymore: the big music. I remember The Waterboys were talking about the big music, and U2 were talking about it, and Simple Minds were talking about it, and I think on that album…we created the big music and never figured out how to do it again quite like that.
SLIS: Before we wrap up, is there anything else you’d like to add about Glow and Fade are there any other projects you’d care to promote?
SK: Well I’m still digesting it myself. It’s a strange album. Its 8 tracks, one as you mentioned was 16 minutes long which has really given in to all Martin’s Pink Floyd leanings and influences. I think if only all these Pink Floyd fans out there who are grasping at straws like The Endless River–remember that? The one that came out a few years ago. You know it wasn’t really Pink Floyd at all. It was just some old jams and bits and pieces.
I think that Martin and I among many other people have taken up the mantle of Pink Floyd. So if you want the type of stuff they used to do, you can definitely find it on this album.
My accountant who is a very astute guy, I play him all my music and he rang me up and said It’s like Bowie singing with Pink Floyd! So if you’ve ever wondered what David Bowie singing with Pink Floyd might have sound liked–that’s Glow and Fade for you!
And I’ve also got a solo album that’s been in the can for about a year. Since Martin’s on the same label as my solo album, he bumped my solo album out of the queue–and The Church album is coming out in September I believe, so I’m not sure when my poor old solo album will be coming out so that’s sitting there waiting. So when these 2 are done they’ll be another one as well, and people will go fuck that guy he’s flooding the market!
Many thanks to Steve for taking the time out for this interview. You can purchase Kilbey Kennedy’s ‘Glow and Fade’ from Amazon below.