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 inbetween?
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 show.
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 over.

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 10".

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 have?
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 it there.
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 shit.
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 like that.
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.

H:Oh dear...
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 Elastica stuff.
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 up.
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 drummer.
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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