Q&A: Sex Church's Levon On Autumn, Depression, And Creepshow
If any single phrase summarizes the Sex Church approach to reverb-drenched bombs, it's unquestionably "virulent erosion." The Vancouver-based outfit showcases a series of intense, furiously clanged and flanged slow/whoa! dissolves on its full-length debut Growing Over (Load). From the swirling active-chainsaw guitars and tea-kettle banshee shrieks of "Dull Light" to the nagging guitar crunch and strangled syntax of "Beneath the Bottom" to the warping, discordant weariness of the title track, this resolutely-no-last-names-please foursomeguitarist/proclaimer Levon, guitarist Caleb, bassist Nick, and drummer Mikedemonstrate a relish for feeding bloody hunks of garage, metal, and punk bait into the sonic equivalent of an especially ferocious garbage disposal, then just as malevolently withdrawing them.
Squalling interlude "Colour Out of Space" forgoes melodic substrata altogether, plunging fathoms deep into a dizzying feedback din that's among the best no-form jams any Forced Exposure reader will hear this year. While these Ladies Night, Catholic Boys, and Modern Creatures veterans generated an impressive collection of EPs and 7-inches in its run-up to joining forces with Providence underground stalwart Load, Over ups the ante in terms of the players' chemistry and intensity, a nocturnal black hole that acknowledges indie-rock touchstones as disparate as Come, Calla, and Dead Meadow. (Tangential side note: if you haven't listened to this album at triple-speed yet, hang onto your face and give it a try. Seriously. Sick.)
SOTC emailed with Levon about Halloween, touring, and the band's early influences.
On the Sex Church last.fm site, it's noted that it rains a lot in Vancouver. Do you guys find that conducive to songwriting, rehearsing, and practicing generally? Has it been a relief so far, on tour, to be away from that weather?
Yeah. The rain in Vancouver is an influence on the band, especially in the songwriting department. The general gloomy atmosphere for nine months of the year that is in the area is both shitty and great. I've only ever lived in coastal British Columbia, so it's all I know. It's nice to see some sun on the road, though.
That's fitting; so many Sex Church songs come on like storm surges, with the vocals seeming to arrive from several football fields away by CB radio.
Waves of depression.
Does the feeling you get playing live resemble the depression or despair that inspired the songs, or is it something more uplifting or positive? What would you compare it to?
Playing live is an emotionally draining and cathartic experience. Things rarely go as planned, unlike recording. Ultimately, it's uplifting in some weird way.
I was watching a Sex Church performance someone shot on a cameraphone the other day, and there's a protective inwardness to your stances onstage, as if you're inclining to the music itself more than the audience. Do you guys experience that thing where people chatter through your shows, or are they usually caught up in the roiling tidal waves of sound?
I would hope that people aren't yapping each other's ears off during our sets, but I don't think we'd notice. The audience is not usually a big part of our performance. I would say we are all lost in our own sound, not the reaction.
If you had to choose one, what's been the best Sex Church show you've played yet, where everything gelled and felt right?
Too hard to pick, and nothing is really sticking out in my head right now. There are more awful shows that really stick out; for some reason I only remember failure and embarrassment.
Tell me about the circumstances under which Growing Over was written. What was going on?
I wish I had a better or more dramatic answer, but it was written in the midst of boring daily life in the winter of last year. Monotony can be inspiring, I suppose.
Growing up, what were you into musically? What made life worth living, what was absolutely indispensible? What made you know that you had to make music?
Nirvana, the Germs, Black Flag and lots of other real crap. I never had an interest in making music until I was around twenty and heard bands like the Oblivians, Gories, and Reatards that made it seem possible. I'm not sure that there was any profound reason to start playing music. It was just fun and made sense; a good way to pass the time, make noise, get wasted and hang out with friends at the time.
Sex Church, "Not Anymore"
An interesting thing about Growing Over is that I never feel like I'm on solid ground with the songs; what at first seems at first like a garage tune or a metal stomp collapses before long into whirlpools of feedback. It's like sitting in a normal easy chair for an hour and getting settled and lazy, but then all I'd a sudden the chair is pulsating and glowing like an Energon cube from the Transformers animated series, and its propelling you into space. Do you ever feel disoriented by your own music?
Yes. But that's a good thing. Hopefully lots of people are.
I'm always fascinated by the fact that when asked whether they listen to their own music, the great majority of musicians say "No."
By the time it comes out, you've already heard it a million times and are usually sick of it. There are a lot of other records to listen to.
Tell me about the album artwork. It's interesting in that it feels Spartan and sensually confused even as the record itself is this clanging, determined force. Who created it, and what drew you to that aesthetic?
The cover art was done by our friend Jesse Lortz. I explained the theme of Growing Over as a moss of depression covering a body, and he took it from there.