Considering the scads of bands with best-laid recording plans whose albums nevertheless fall flat, perhaps more musicians should follow the lead of Al Church and State by throwing caution to the wind and making albums with less forethought and more fervor. Matter, the local band's new split album alongside comrades I, Colossus, was completed in just seven hours, after weekend studio time at the Sound Gallery unexpectedly opened up a few days prior.
"It was pretty tense, the whole recording session," recalls Church, 26, of the weekend this past fall when his band laid down the six songs that would become their half of Matter. "When we got there we thought the elevator wasn't working so we loaded all of our gear up five flights of stairs. From there it was just a very hurried situation. We really had no time to relax and I was completely on edge. Everything you hear is pretty much live and sometimes even the first take. Of course it turned out later we just didn't know how to work the elevator."
That sense of urgency is palpable on the finished recording, which channels the same infectiously catchy power-pop spirit as the band's impressive early-Weezer-copping December 2009 debut, Secret One, and throws in a dash of '70s classic-rock swagger. During the course of the six-song set, the band's music confidently veers from sinuous and slinky ("Lady") to bubbly and silly ("Your Song Is Awesome"), capping things off with a Free-Energy-style fist-pumping anthem just for good measure ("Truly"). Throughout, the band strikes a nice balance between ferocity (there's plenty of power-chorded electric-guitar crunch) and finesse (the spot-on helium-high harmonies of bassist Matthew Sandstedt). The lyrics similarly flit between heartfelt sincerity and high-spirited goofing, with Church's malleable voice adapting accordingly—one minute he's a sneering punk rocker, the next a clear-eyed crooner.
"I'm definitely not above writing a song purely for comedic purposes," admits Church. "I have an internet comedy show that I do, too, and it's really fun to write a song with essentially zero substance that is just funny. But sometimes even a silly song is coming from a sincere place. 'Your Song Is Awesome' [which features loopy lyrics like: 'Your song is moving mountains/Overthrowing dictatorships'] was my attempt to cheer up a friend who wrote these pretty earnest and political songs and was getting bummed out about the process and thinking his stuff was no good. It was my way of saying, 'Hey, you put your heart on your sleeve and that's cool.' One of the things I like most about songwriting is that it doesn't have to be about me."
Fortunately for Twin Cities music fans, the key to Church's chameleonic music-making ways is never far from reach. "I'm always writing and thinking about songs and melodies regardless of where I am," explains Church. "I'm just lucky that there happens to be the technology now that if I have a melody and I'm walking down the street I can sing it into my phone and record it; having that anywhere access to capture ideas tends to broaden the scope of the songs. Sometimes I'll write in the morning and be really looking forward to the day and I'll write a more upbeat tune based on the mood that I'm in. The more somber and serious stuff tends to come at night when I'm feeling moody. I try and stay pretty open to anything. Sometimes I'll just go to a park in Minnetonka and end up writing a song about baseball."
Having made the most of an unexpected recording opportunity, Church and his band are now focusing on fashioning the proper follow-up to Secret One, although it appears they may have caught the instant-album-making bug. "One thing I definitely learned from this process is that playing music live in a room with the other guys is the ultimate way to record for me," offers Church. "Secret One was recorded off and on over the course of a year, and a lot of the time it was just me and our drummer Gambit [Meeks]. The excitement that comes from a more collaborative live thing is just a really great change. We're looking to have our next album out by the fall—I think we're going to do it in like two hours [laughs]."
AL CHURCH AND STATE play their split vinyl release show for Matter with I, Colossus and Laarks on FRIDAY, JUNE 3, at Nick and Eddie; 612.486.5800