Churchwood

  • Bill Anderson (guitar)
  • Joe Doerr (vocals, harp)
  • Adam Kahan (bass)
  • Billysteve Korpi (guitar)
  • Julien Peterson (drums)

Churchwood, according to Joe Doerr:

Bill Anderson approached me in the fall of 2007 with the idea for a band that straddled two of Austin’s primary music scenes: blues and alternative. Bill envisioned taking Captain Beefheart’s Spotlight Kid/Clear Spot as a point of departure and using it as a means of exploring the musical and lyrical interests that he and I have shared for the past 25 years or so: blues, punk, country, psychedelic, and so on. Yeah, musically, Bill and I go way back to the mid 1980s when he and I were in an Austin band called Ballad Shambles, a group that Michael Maye (former member of Evan Johns and the H-Bombs) and I hatched after I left the LeRoi Brothers in 1985.

When Ballad Shambles fell apart, Bill and I formed a band called Hand of Glory, recorded two records on the Skyclad label, and toured Europe a couple of times.

Ballad Shambles – which made one EP, also with Skyclad — was, I think, an experimental blues band in its own right, as unrealized and short-lived as it may have been; while Hand of Glory wanted in some way to be a bastard grandson of the 13th-Floor Elevators or maybe Blieb Alien, with lots of references to the occult in what I think we’d hoped would be perceived as a psychedelic blues setting.

I think Bill and I have always been – and I’m afraid it was frequently to a fault — very catholic if not outright schizophrenic in our musical tastes. Sometimes we wanted to contain too much in our sound, and our direction would get obscured.

Direction is something that we now have a handle on with Churchwood, and I think that’s due not only to our having more experience in knowing how to produce exactly what we imagine, but also to Bill’s vision and his having assembled a stellar lineup in Churchwood — it’s hard to beat this bunch for style and imagination.

When Hand of Glory broke up it was, I think, in part due to our being frustrated by ambition. Bill went on to form a punkrock bluegrass band called The Meat Purveyors, and I went back to school to study Modernist poetry. While I was writing my first book, Order of the Ordinary, Bill was touring with The Meat Purveyors and playing around Austin with other experimental bands like The Horsies and Cat Scientist.

Julien, who had played bass in Austin bands like Brown Whörnet was also the bassist for Cat Scientist. Initially, Bill had asked Julien to play bass in Churchwood, but Julien decided that he wanted to try his hand at drumming and we’re damned glad he did – he’s a natural. When Bill approached me with his idea for Churchwood, he and Julien had already begun to jam together as just drummer and guitarist in an effort to record many of the musical ideas that would eventually become Churchwood’s first full-fledged songs.

Also at that time, Bill was involved in the musical aspect of a stage production called Speeding Motorcycle, a trippy dramatization of Daniel Johnston’s psyche. It played for two months in Austin, from mid February to mid April. Bill teamed up with a group of musicians that included Adam to provide the musical setting for the play. Adam, who has played bass for Austin bands like The Invincible Czars and Jazzus Lizard for years now, got Bill’s invitation to the blues done Churchwood style, and Adam signed on.

Meanwhile, Bill had contacted Billy Steve Korpi of the Crack Pipes, Austin’s coolest garage-blues band, presented him with the Churchwood concept, and asked if Billy Steve would like to handle half the guitar duties in the band. Though Billy Steve was already playing lead guitar in a number of bands besides the Crack Pipes – bands like the Bloody Tears and Victims of Leisure – once he agreed to give Churchwood a shot, the path was cleared for all of us to finally come together as a group.

I had been busy singing again with the LeRoi Brothers, which I’d joined again in 2005 after my brother Steve asked me to come back – it was almost exactly 20 years to the day that I had left. And I had a taken job putting my new doctorate to work by teaching writing and literature at St. Ed’s University here in Austin. So when April 2008 rolled around and my busy spring semester concluded and Speeding Motorcycle ended its run, all five of us got together for the first time and began to rehearse.

The songs started coming together as quickly as I could put lyrics to the music. We spent the summer of 2008 practicing and we did our first show that fall. We now have enough material for at least a shot at a Clear Spot of our own and there’s a lot more where that came from.

Churchwood is the most creative and interesting band I’ve ever been in – as Julien once put it, “We are the sum of all our parts; and those parts are pretty diverse.” As I like to put it, “We are Churchwood, and we meant to do that.”

Leave a Reply

Texas Live Concert Series