Interview: Kim Churchill on returning home for FOTSUN, fresh from touring Europe with Milky Chance

Kim Churchill is no stranger to the Australian festival scene. Easily one of the country’s most popular and hardworking performers, Churchill found himself home from Europe and back into the swing of things earlier this month, hitting the Festival of the Sun stage in Port Macquarie. We checked in with Kim as the weekend rolled out!

It’s always good to chat to you, and it’s been an incredible year for you. Not just releasing the record, of course. We’ll talk about that in a moment, but you’ve just come back from a massive overseas trip touring with Milky Chance. Could you tell me a little bit kind of those shows and playing in Europe in the last few weeks?

I mean I guess we’ve taken a lot more time this time sort of strategise; how and why and when we go places. It was amazing. I kind of became friends with those guys a few years ago at the Falls festival over here.

They’re based in a little place called Kassel, which is so cool. Everybody still lives there. They’re really sweet guys. They’ve got their shit together. They asked for me to come over and do these shows and I was like, it’s like a dream tour. We’ve had a few places that we wanted to do headline shows [in] like Amsterdam and London and Bristol, and we wanted to do headline shows in Germany, as well. When they offered us that, we just  went, “Okay, cool. That’s like playing for 5,000 people at night.” You know, in every kind of pavilion around Germany. We sort of book ended the headline shows with all of the shows with Milky Chance, and they were just incredibly inspiring.

Those guys put on such an amazing show and they’re really quite relaxed about the whole thing, which I think is so important. I am a very high energy person who can learn a lot from people that know how to chill. It was good for me.

It’s an interesting experience, I think, kind of seeing how the crowds respond to you before Milky Chance. The photos I saw, it looked like the response was phenomenal. Talk me through that, talk me through what the crowds were like.

Well it worked incredibly well. When I was writing this latest album, I kind of had this vision in my head of these two drummers on either of side of my one man band, singing harmonies and everything. Then, when I caught up with the Milky Chance boys at Groovin the Moo, they had introduced a drummer. They essentially had a drummer and then Philipp does a lot of percussion, so they had like two kicks. And then Clemens [is] out in the front with Antonio playing harmonica and a bit of guitar. So it was like, I’d say their live set up is the closest thing in the planet to mine, you know what I mean? This was obviously more dance orientated and a bit more electronic, but in terms of the double percussion and the layers of harmony and stuff, it was great. They have a lot of harmonica in their set, which is quite odd for pop music.

That’s sort of what I always liked about them, they play – they’re very radio friendly. They’re a live band and I mean, that’s for me always the difference.

They base their entire thing off The Tallest Man On Earth. I never realised that…and as soon as you understand that, you listen to the way Clemens sings. It just worked really well. I would come up in their last song, a big harmonica gem with Antonio. Like duelling harmonicas. It was beautiful. It was really the most perfectly matched support I’ve ever done, in that sense. And their crowd, I feel like they’re sort of hungry for that kind of pop music that sort of has, I don’t know what you call it. You wouldn’t call it like an acoustic, folky edge, or whatever but utilises…

It’s a live experience sort of, so it’s almost as simple as that.

They’re flawless. They were really into it which was just great.

Though it’s a big room.

Yeah, it was a quite a hit of adrenaline. Everybody was there from the first song. Like, we didn’t play anything less than a full house over the course of the eight shows.

You don’t get that in Australia, support like that. Well, sometimes you do.

Yeah, yeah. I thought it must have been a German thing, but I talked to some people when I was signing stuff; I was like, ‘It’s so rad that you guys come so early. Thanks for being here early,’ and they’re like, ‘That’s cool’. I’m like, ‘It must be a German thing,’ but they’re like, ‘No, not really!’ I think they thought it’s a Milky Chance thing.

I guess it’s lots of screaming girls that want to be in the front. I think that’s what it is, pretty funny. I’d go to the merch desk after I’d play, and like nobody would be there. And then I’d go at the end, and it’d be mayhem. I realised that nobody’s losing their fucking spot. Doesn’t matter how much they liked it, doesn’t matter if they were going to buy every one of my CDs and a t-shirt. You know what I mean? They wouldn’t be there to the end. You know, it might be that.

It’s interesting that they’d strike me as the band that would have that sort of response. So that’s awesome.

There’s a bit of mania to it, for sure. Can’t argue with mania.

Can’t argue with mania. Now looking ahead to next year, you’ve got some shows lined up.

Yeah, we’re doing another Raw Files tour, which is sort of my way transitioning back to my old style of performing. We sort of do one tour a year in Australia that’s called the Raw Files Tour and it’s where I just break everything down to my solo show. The way I used to busk, that sort of setup. Then, we go to all of the places that we can’t take the biggest show.

So no Mikey and Tom…

Oh Mikey and Tom know, those guys are going to go off and play at the beach or something. I don’t know.

They’re all in like, fifty projects so I think they’ll be fine.

Yeah,  I have a funny feeling that they’re not going to be playing at the beach. It’s important to me to do that solo stuff still. You know, it’s what I’ve done for eight or nine years and it’s still incorporated very much in the live show that we’re doing. It’s good to get out there and hit a lot of rural places as well. That’s what I did in the early days and beyond it be, to play to those people and to give them a show still. I really love it, like I really love that basic form of touring and those smaller venues. It’s a real treat for me. It’s almost like my little holiday, that tour. So I’m quite excited about that.

And seeing the new songs live, it really feels like the current live set really acts very kindly to the new songs. It’s built around the new songs, the new band. You mention that you chance, I was thinking that there are very few bands that have two drummers. Big Black Delta, who’s an act that I really love out of LA.

I’m going to go check that out.

The live set feels like it’s really built around those new songs. You know how have you been enjoying playing them live, how have you felt people have responding to them?

It’s good, it’s good. It’s the best I’ve ever managed to create a live show that is reflective of the album. I think in the past, I’ve always smashed out an album. This time I just had, especially after canning that other album and going through that whole process, a very strong vision about what I wanted to do and what I wanted to do on stage; how I wanted that to be on the album. That was with all of these layers of percussion and vocals and acoustic guitars. I’ve never had a problem beefing the acoustic guitar up to be this monstrous thing but all of the percussion, I didn’t want to, I still have my kick and my snare. Between the three of us, we all have almost a kit’s worth of kit. It kind of allows a real high energy, which I have always had in the one man band form, I feel that in a much more kind of reckless sort of raw, unpredictable way.

It’s been really nice building a solid foundation and very refreshing for me, kind of creatively and to be on stage with other people and bounce off of them and laugh. It’s the most fun I’ve ever had on stage with these lads.

It’s the end of the year, so we’re kind of looking back on the year a bit. Your favourite moment of 2017 as a live artist or just as an artist? And your favourite record of the year?

This is going to be kind of probably going to confuse people a little bit, but my favourite music of this year has been an EP [Kaleidscope] by Coldplay. Believe it or not.

Really? Wow.

The first song they brought out. It’s called “Hypnotised” and it’s a real throwback to Parachutes kind of stuff. It’s really good. There’s one song on there that I don’t vibe on, but there’s some other songs on there that I’m just so absolutely moved by. So, I’ve been really, really liking that. Did the alt-J album come out this year? Relaxer? That would be really up there for me.

It just didn’t click with me but I’ve got to give it more of a chance.

It’s the kind of thing you need to listen to when you’re very very relaxed and open minded and kind of you know, not in a hurry.

Well that’s the name of the record. That was their ambition with them. Wasn’t it? It was to make sort of like, an easy listening, elevator record or something.

Yeah, yeah. And my favourite moment, I really had a wonderful time at Party in the Paddock. That was an incredible show and probably one of the most special evenings for me.

Well what set that apart from the million other shows you’ve done this year?

It was a really nice vibe backstage as well. Stickies were there, it was their last show ever so that was kind of emotional.

For now.

Sampa the Great, who I kind of idolise, she’s playing in the background right now. Kind of got to hang out with her a little bit, which was really special. Remi was there and there were just a bunch of people I really love. So many incredible people.

But the other moment would be the show we played in Amsterdam, which was like last week. I’ve never done a headline show in Amsterdam and it was full. It was a beautiful venue, the big balcony and it was a great experience for me, to play a headline show in a city that I’d never played one in before. You just never know what’s going to materialise from that. That was just magic that the Dutch are so incredible to play to. That felt really special to me, as well. It’s fresh in my mind also.

 

Keep up to date with Kim Churchill, here!