According to their singer Sebastian Major, the Dirty Church has but one commandment: “shake your ass!”
The band’s sound, a brew of mid-twentieth century rockabilly, garage, and soul, arose naturally from the minds and hearts of the principle songwriters Major and his co-founder Stephen Weir.
“Steve and I both played in bands that were really into 60s garage and surf,” says Major, “and we are both really into soul music and punk rock. So that combination was the initial idea for the sound of the band. And then when we got together, it was clear that there was this 60s vibe.”
After establishing their common influences and laying the sonic blueprint for their temple, they turned their thoughts to the live show.
“We really wanted a ‘get up and jump’, high energy show, like you’re watching Otis Redding or something like that,” says Major.
To achieve that effect, Dirty Church appropriated iconography and rhetoric from charismatic Christianity, the kind of snake-handling, speaking-in-tongues, pseudo-cults that exist most commonly in the southern US.
“When we first got together, we had an idea of what we wanted the show to be”, explains Weir. “So even before we had the pseudo-religious elements, we talked about doing something with that kind of theatricality. Originally we were going to be called ‘Boss Priest’, and that religious connotation started to build with that.”
Major picks up the story: “I have always loved that theatrical thing in bands. All the things I’ve done in the past have had a band uniform- I am NOT afraid of a gimmick. And our old bass player Justin came up with this idea of all of us wearing white, and doing this old-timey religion thing.”
“We wanted to play music that is fun, and would be a crazy-assed party that would make people dance. The religion thing came in later, but we knew that the band would be a fun concept,” says Weir.
The band recorded their debut last year in a barn owned by the family of their producer and now bass player, Ryan Warner. Given their name and their overall vibe of inclusion, their writing process was appropriately communal.
“Ryan was like a silent partner in the band even then,” says Weir. “As the producer, he had ideas about the songs, and when he spoke up he had some ideas that really worked. We’ll bring things in and work them up together, and the band will add bridges and other parts, and normally after a few runs we know if something is going to work.”
“In terms of ideas, nothing really gets thrown out,” says Major. “We all have really good ideas and we like each others input, so we follow those things because they always end up in cool places. We’ve never ditched an idea, but sometimes things end up drastically different from what they were at the beginning.”
“The writing process between us is cool, because we’re different people but we’re pulling from similar places, and our voices all work well together,” adds Weir.
The band is already working on their follow-up, some of which will be previewed at their gig on Saturday July 26th at the Magpie Taproom. Since their recording they’ve lost a couple of members, and added new musicians on saxophone and bass. The swapping of these sonic pillars has caused some necessary re-modelling of their temple.
“The new songs are same mixture of influences, just done better,” laughs Major. “It’s a cliche that all bands say, but the new songs are the best.”
“There’s a new level of song-writing and arrangement happening in the new songs,” says Weir. “Some of the arrangements are a little more aggressive, a little more guitar-heavy, and that’s taken us in a new direction somewhat.”
“Of the new songs that we’re gonna play on Saturday, one is my creation, one is Steve’s, and one is Ryan’s, so we’re excited to show those new sides of the band,” adds Major. “It’s good to have some new presences and new energies. It motivates us all to push a little harder, to bring our A-game. When you bring in a new person who you know is really talented, then you have to push your belief in your own ideas to another level.”
The Church plans to continue spreading their message via new recordings. “We’ve got all these new songs, so we’re going to do a bit of recording in the fall. We’re not sure if it will be in a studio or in the barn again, but that’s the plan,” says Weir.
Read the Audio Reckoning review of their EP here.