Indierec.com interview with The Churchills Spring, 2005
Our beloved Churchills have just released a new long player and I am happy to be one of the first to review it and also to feature an exclusive interview with Churchill mastermind Ron Haney.
The Odds of Winning builds on the band's style of intelligent modern rock that they have been cleverly honing for the last ten years. It features 12 songs of refreshing rock and roll intended to shake you from the doldrums of the current pouty rock scene. Mixed in with the powerful melodic alt-rock are some beautiful ballads. It's quite a cohesive effort that defines the term 'album' in that it is sequenced perfectly and once it kicks off there's no need to take that beam off the disc. The Chuchills have crafted some of the finest songs of their career. Displaying their range of influences that includes The Beatles ("Do You Want me to Go Away" borrows heavily and affectionately from "Yesterday") and Fountains of Wayne ("I'm a Sucker for a Girl in Uniform"), The Churchills have released their finest album to date. And when you listen to their last two albums, that says quite a lot!
IR: Hi Ron - What's new since the last record and the last time we spoke?
RH: Hey David- Thanks for having me. The Churchills have been busy with our new record "The Odds Of Winning". We've toured Europe and Japan and have made a video for our first single "Sometimes Your Best Isn't Good Enough". We've also made a "making of the album" EPK that pretty much chronicles our doings since "Big Ideas". You can see it on our website www.thechurchills.net. Don't forget the tissues if you do watch it; it's a real tearjerker.
IR: The new album sounds great. I see that it is out on Near Records - who runs this label?
RH: "The Odds Of Winning" is our best work yet. Hopefully you always feel that way about your recent work, but this record is more complex and rewarding for the patient listener. There are layers, that took us months to construct, designed to reveal themselves over repeated listening. Near Records is a concoction of The Churchills to promote our music and the music of bands we produce. It's "Near" to our heart.
IR: How did the distribution deal with Redeye happen?
RH: I think friends of ours, The Push Stars, suggested us to them. Apparently they had a relationship with Redeye and pointed them in our direction at a time when we were looking for distribution. We were just finishing our album so the timing was perfect. It's good to have nice friends.
IR: Are you still in the record producing business and if so what types of artists do you look to work with?
RH: Yes, Bart (Schoudel, bassist & singer) and I are currently in the studio finishing a record for a Brooklyn singer/songwriter named Justin Glanville. We've been blessed to have worked with some amazingly talented bands over the last few years. Obviously, we want to work on projects strong on songwriting with an emphasis on melody and composition. It's always good for us to work with younger bands and to impart our knowledge to them and help them make the record they want to make. There's definitely a sense of pride in making a good band better. Check out our producers site to hear some of the projects we've worked on. It's accessible from our website www.thechurchills.net
IR: How difficult is learning how to produce records?
RH: Like anything, you learn more from doing than anything else. We worked on our stuff for so long and honed our craft to the point where we felt comfortable sharing our discoveries with other bands. We enjoy working with singer/songwriters where we can truly shape the overall sound of the record with unique instrumentation. With solo acts there are usually no preconceived notions of what it should sound like. There's only been acoustic and voice so the palette is clear. We are working with an artist named Andrew Holtz who is the real deal. There's been an incredible amount of development during our recording and writing sessions. With his record we tried a lot of new things and that's how you learn what works. Sometimes we'll do something really cool on another band's song and say "I wish we had this sound on our record". It's all part of the cycle.
IR: Has your music been influenced by your relocation to Brooklyn a few years ago? There is quite a music scene there these days.
RH: Well, this record is sadder in tone and that's directly correlative to the move. I love Brooklyn but the adjustment from the 'burbs was difficult at first. You definitely have to detach yourself a bit from the harder elements of city life. Getting towed and robbed in my first week was harder to detach from. There's a harsh reality of fast-paced life here. You see the full spectrum of life's creatures here. From the very rich to the homeless, there's an urgency to everyday life that I like. You're right about the music scene here...it's pretty awe-inspiring. Great bands any night of the week in Williamsburg or Park Slope. Lots of 80's influence.
IR: Synchronization licensing rights to music has become a very lucrative avenue for artists these days but as the saying goes, it's good work if you can get it. You have managed to get your songs on TV shows like Scrubs, ER, Third Watch, and Spin City, among others. This is quite a feat and a great way to promote your music since radio doesn't seem to want to play any new music these days. In fact since shows like American Idol have proved to be so successful, Sony Music has just entered into some kind of agreement with a network for a reality-based show featuring their artists. I find it sad that today people have to hear new bands through the television whether it be ads or shows, but that is reality. Meanwhile the synch fees help compensate for the loss in sales when iPod playlists are shared among friends and songs are downloaded illegally every day. How are you continuing to generate so much interest in your music for synch deals? Do you work with an outside company that tries to secure these deals or are you totally DIY?
RH: Yes, we have been very lucky with television placements. We have licensed everything on our own up until now. We are just signing with a company now that will place our songs for the future. It's a great way to get your music out there and make some money to fund future musical endeavors. We have had songs on Everwood, Summerland and The Division also. I think television is the new radio. It's no longer frowned upon to have your music on prime time television. The whole dynamic has changed. We are leaning the way things are trending. Plus, it makes my mother happy to hear our songs on tv. At least it justifies my musical existence in her eyes. We are hoping to have lots more placements this fall (fingers crossed).
IR: This new record, The Odds of Winning, shows a level of growth and achievement from prior releases. There is much in terms of diversity with mood shifts and instrumental passages mixed in with the poppier rock fare yet as an album is flows together nicely. Were you consciously trying to reach another level with this effort?
RH: Yes, and that is a great question. We were trying to create a mood from start to finish. We all have favorite albums that we listen to and for us they all contained great songs mixed with instrumentals that ran the gamut of emotions from happy to sad; light to dark. As you get older you want to say more and try to create more lasting impressions. It's the way God wired us. We hope we have reached another level with The Odds Of Winning. There was also a line-up change from our last record that contributed greatly to the overall sound. We added Jed Higgerson on guitar and Scott Haskitt on drums. They both add great ideas and years of emotional distress to draw from.
IR: Is the lead off track, "Not So Goodbye" being promoted to as a single? It is such a strong and melodic song.
RH: It's not the first. We are going with "Sometimes Your Best Isn't Good Enough" as the 'official' single but with the internet, all music is so much more accessible and people will be able to find what they like. I love "Not So Goodbye"! It's a song about our own mortality and I think the lyrics resonate with listeners. We'd better make it our 2nd single! Good suggestion!
IR: How are you working the publicity angle for this release?
RH: We are working with a PR company called PAI Media to promote The Odds Of Winning. They are doing tour press and national stuff as well. But since you're offering to help.....Seriously, if any readers want to be a part of our team, please contact us at email@example.com and we will put you to work. There is an Associated Press article in the works right now that will run in a couple of weeks. Hopefully that will help a bit.
IR: My personal favorite on the record is "Unpopular". If people hear this song I think they'll buy this record. It is just so hard to get people to hear music.
RH: I'm grateful to hear you say that. I love the production on Unpopular and the feeling it gives me. It's a bit different from our other stuff in the way that it develops without guitars and drums. I hope this song winds up on your favorite television show and gives you the same feeling that I get when I hear it. There are a couple of super visual songs on this record. "Do You Want Me To Go Away" is another one that when I hear it I can just close my eyes and envision scenarios unfolding. Now everyone reading has just gotten permission to go to iTunes and download 'Unpopular". David DiSanzo and Indierec said so!
IR: It's a great record that would please any fan of "modern rock" or "indie". Thanks for the music and for answering some questions for the indierec gang.