Australian Guitar - - Feature - BY MATT DO­RIA

It’s 11 o’clock on a Fri­day morn­ing when

Aus­tralianGuitar gets a hold of Kim Churchill. WeightFalls – the Novo­cas­trian folk-rocker’s long-awaited fourth al­bum – has only been out for a few months, but Churchill is al­ready keen to brew hype for LP5. “I’m parked in my van out­side a record­ing stu­dio,” he tells us, “Wait­ing for the pro­ducer to kind of awk­wardly come out and ask why I’m here two hours early.”

Though it’s un­likely we’ll see new ma­te­rial sur­face any­time soon, Churchill is over­flow­ing with new ideas. It’s cru­cial, he stresses, that those ideas hit tape be­fore he dives head­first into the tour­ing cy­cle for WeightFalls.

“I reckon when you re­lease an al­bum and tour it, you be­come quite… ‘Stoic’ isn’t the right word… Maybe ‘solid’,” he muses. “You’ve al­ways got a gru­elling sched­ule; you’re play­ing things repet­i­tively and wor­ry­ing about prac­tice and be­ing in shape and all of this other stuff, and it wears you down over time. I want to get the juices flow­ing while I’m still a lit­tle bit hun­gover, with enough sleep and not too much else on my plate.”

Af­ter the clus­terf*** of anx­i­ety that was the pro­duc­tion cy­cle for WeightFalls, it makes sense that Churchill would trust his creative in­stincts on what­ever comes next. The one-man band spent 18 tire­less months slav­ing away on the fol­low-up to 2014’s Si­lence/Win – with a healthy dose of pres­sure at the hand of that al­bum’s main­stream break­through – be­fore de­cid­ing to scrap it all and re-write a whole new record in the span of a week. “We had been work­ing on mixes for [the scrapped al­bum] for so long – we were on mixes #17 and #18 for some of the tracks,” Churchill sighs, “And there just comes a cer­tain point where you be­gin to spi­ral down­wards with a song. If you’re not get­ting it right and you keep go­ing back to it, over and over again in quick suc­ces­sion, it be­comes more like you’re lay­ing bricks than cre­at­ing art. At that point, you just need to let it go. It took me a long time to fi­nally re­alise that, and when I did, I knew that the art I wanted to cre­ate was go­ing to be so easy be­cause I’d had that ‘trial and er­ror’ ex­pe­ri­ence.”

Hav­ing learnt that over­think­ing kills cre­ativ­ity, Churchill ditched the idea of mak­ing LP4 a grandiose pro­duc­tion – as was the la­bel-backed orig­i­nal con­cept. In­stead, he tran­si­tioned to a more laid­back process that re­lied on sim­ple MIDI struc­tures in Garage­band over labyrinthine stu­dio mod­ules.

“I was chop­ping up bits of my gui­tar and play­ing with these dis­gust­ingly ba­sic drum sounds,” he says. “It al­most re­minded me of a Wes An­der­son film, with these big acous­tic move­ments that all had a gritty, kind of home­made feel to them. It was the kind of en­ergy I was in­ter­ested in ex­plor­ing to be­gin with, but didn’t know how to cap­ture.”

Part of Churchill’s new­found stripped-back spirit meant us­ing the world around him to de­velop fresh and ex­cit­ing sounds. “I was tap­ping pens on the desk in my room, tap­ping on coke cans, clap­ping, click­ing or us­ing those pre­set sounds in Garage­band,” he ex­plains, “And then over-gain­ing them into the mix­ing desk to make them sound re­ally fat and ugly and weird. When that whole world of cre­ativ­ity opened up to me, it was like, ‘Okay, cool, this is what I want to do.’ There’s no char­ac­ter in just get­ting a drum­mer and putting them in a huge, beau­ti­ful stu­dio to make them play some­thing that sounds crys­tal clear.”

The phi­los­o­phy of tak­ing in­spi­ra­tion from one’s sur­round­ings, how­ever, is no for­eign con­cept for Churchill, who’s been in­fected with an in­cur­able travel bug since the early days of his ca­reer. As he ex­plains, travers­ing the globe for nearly three years straight fed into both the lyri­cal and mu­si­cal themes ex­plored on WeightFalls.

“When you’re re­ally open to what you’re ex­pe­ri­enc­ing,” Churchill says, “And when you have an open pas­sage­way to your emo­tive state at that time, all of those feel­ings that you want to chan­nel into your mu­sic start to come out. For ex­am­ple, hik­ing through the moun­tains in Peru gave me this in­cred­i­ble feel­ing of hu­mil­ity. All of a sud­den I’d start play­ing this chord pro­gres­sion – it’d be the tini­est, most sim­ple thing I’d have ever writ­ten, but in a sense it em­bod­ied the hu­mil­ity I felt from be­ing in that enor­mous moun­tain range.”

Ul­ti­mately, the big­gest les­son Churchill learnt in his pur­suit to catch light­ning in a bot­tle was one of vul­ner­a­bil­ity. “You need to al­low the feel­ings in, and then be open to giv­ing them back out,” he ad­vises. “Both take an enor­mous amount of brav­ery, and it’s rare that I reach a state where I feel like I can pull that off. But when it all works out, I feel like I’ve un­locked the se­cret to song­writ­ing.”

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