INTERVIEW: Church Friends Talks (And Premieres) New Album “Deer Park”

With all the genres that exist in today’s music, have you ever heard of “Kush Rock”? If not, allow your first impression to be Louisville, Kentucky-based group Church Friends. With influences such as the Grateful Dead and Anderson .Paak, Church Friends cultivates a sound rich in groove-based psych rock combined with R&B Fusion. Their blended sound can also be attributed to having three out of the four members share writing and vocal duties along with each of them sharing their talents on guitar, bass, and keyboard.

Their latest album “Deer Park” was written over the course of the past two years while the band lived together in the Deer Park neighborhood of Louisville, Kentucky. The album was written, recorded, mixed, and mastered by Church Friends in its entirety. Considering every member of Church Friends are natives to Louisville, they wanted “Deer Park” to reflect how much living in the Louisville area got them to where they are in life and as musicians. In addition, “Deer Park” features other Louisville musicians who have made an impact on Church Friends and their music scene. These musicians include Zaniah, Boa, and Jordan Jetson; all featured on select tracks.

“Deer Park” kicks off with the track titled “Intro” with the sound of birds chirping followed by soothing vocal melody. Seems appropriate to start this album with a song that makes you feel like morning has come, sun is up, and it’s a new day. After establishing the start of a new album, the “Kush Rock” sound kicks in with the second track “Flower Girl”. Soulful lead and harmonized vocals accompanied by a “mellow funk” guitar riff with a driving-funk drum beat. Other notable tracks include the driving/ambient “Old Man”, the dance floor-enticing “The Ladder”, and the soulful/gritty “Season of Change (ft. Boa)”.

Church Friends is one of those bands that like to combine all the genres they love versus claiming and only utilizing one genre. With all the genres that exist in today’s music, Church Friends has something to offer for people of most tastes in music. “Deer Park” is an invitation for the listener to get a glimpse of Church Friends’ self-proclaimed “Kush Rock” sound while providing insight on the impact living in Louisville, Kentucky has made on the group. It may cause you to reflect on where you grew up and the people you surround yourself with. 

Hi guys, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?

We have been pretty kush all around, and thankful for another day. 

Can you talk to us more about your song “Flower Girl” from the new album Deer Park?

This was a song of firsts for us. It’s the first time all four of us sang a vocal part and the first time we experimented with more of a pop music sound on the production side. 

“As long as the sun continues to shine, you don’t have anything to worry about. So why worry my friend?”

That’s the message you’re gonna get from the church of friends. Let this song take you away…. 🌺🌺🌺🌺

Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?

As far as Flower Girl goes, it was not necessarily a particular event, it was more an era in Grant’s life where he began to feel particularly connected with who He was and more at peace with himself. This song is very much about finding peace and letting it take you where it takes you.

Any plans to release a video for the track?

We sat down with an incredible video team in early February of 2020 and laid out plans for a music video to be shot in late Spring of 2020. Little did we know that the world was about to shut down. This screenplay for this video is not in line with social distancing guidelines so we elected to wait until gatherings of lots of people are safe again to shoot this video. Our fingers are crossed that a music video for Flower Girl will be released in 2021. Better late than never! 

The single comes off your new album Deer Park – what’s the story behind the title?

Our city of Louisville is a web of many neighborhoods some bigger and some smaller. Deer Park is actually a neighborhood inside of the larger neighborhood of The Highlands. It’s where the four of us first lived together in a band house for the two years we spent working in this album. It will always feel like home. If you want to know what Deer Park looks like take a look at our album cover! 

How was the recording and writing process?

Writing for us is fairly streamlined between our three main writers, Grant, Aaron, and Connor. We bring mostly finished songs to the group individually and work them up with our sound from there. It helps diversify our styles quite a bit and really pushes us as musicians in the process. We recorded everything ourselves from the ground up with major props to our sound engineer and guitarist/vocalist Grant Snell. He was our gateway to creating the exact sound we wanted. We couldn’t be happier with what we are putting out for our first full album.

What role does Louisville play in your music?

Louisville is full of incredibly talented musicians who we are proud to call peers in our field: Boa, Zaniah, #Space, Private Garden, Dr. Dundiff & Otis Junior, just to name a few. To say that we continue to be inspired by the up and coming musicians all around us is an understatement.  We have been friends with the guys in Boa since we were young, and seeing bands like my morning jacket and white reaper make it big out of our hometown I think gave us all the realization that our goals were achievable.  That feeling continued even more when we saw our best friends sell out Zanzabar and eventually get a spot at forecastle. (the Louisville festival we all have been going to for years) Since then we have had the opportunity to meet so many very talented musicians around our city that both motivate us and provide opportunities for collaboration as seen on Deer Park.  

How has Anderson .Paak and Grateful Dead influenced your writing?

The Grateful Dead came first. We all started listening to them at different times but eventually everyone came around to the dead and we decided we were in love with the idea of “jamming”.  All four of us consider ourselves naturally decent improvisers and when we are able to write songs that give us the freedom to capitalize on that, we thrive.  That idea, juxtaposed against a 2016 Anderson paak tiny desk performance provided inspiration for the 2019 single “Strawberry Cough”.  Aaron had already been listening to some bands that share Paaks genre like Hiatus Kaiyote or Moonchild but seeing this specific live performance gave him a new idea of what could be packaged up inside a solid groove.  To this day we love using group improvisation enough in songs to “take it to left field”

Where did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?

We have three writers, see below: 

Connor = I look for inspiration in my songs mostly in my own life patterns. I find myself playing these patterns of myself over and over again, and I find inspiration in the emotions I feel there. I feel very inspired by the flaws I see in myself and that reflects in my lyrics mostly. I try to keep a very lighthearted comedic exterior as well and I try to feel that through my music at times. These feelings are usually playing off of each other in one form or another as I write. 

Aaron –  I find inspiration for my lyrics and songs in my everyday life.  Most often it’s relationships but second most often is unfortunate situations I’ve been in.  My life is very comfy but I think the sticky or challenging situations I find myself in provide the most inspiration for creativity.  Like tension and release in a song.  For example our song Sunstroke Serenade was written by being stuck inside with a 3rd degree sunburn while my family and friends were enjoying the beach. (Comfy but unfortunate, I know) Another example is Moonbug.  That song was written while I was in school and didn’t know what to do with my life or how to live it.  I was given advice by a lot of people telling me different things and in the heat of the stress of not knowing what to do I was able to calm down by writing out Moonbug.  I feel like the sounds that come out of the instruments at the end of that song is how my thoughts would sound when I’m in that heated situation.  Personally I am someone who has an internal dialogue so a lot of times I manage to turn that constantly jabbering voice in my head into poetry about what I’m thinking or feeling at the time, and sometimes I like it enough to write it down. That is how NBD was written for the most part.  

Grant –  As far as my lyrics and songs go, a lot of the inspiration comes from either stuff me or my friends are  going through in life or just experiences I’ve had. For example The Ladder was about realizing you don’t wanna work a 9-5, and Season of Change was about having a rough year but moving on. 

What else is happening next in Church Friends’ world?

As we anxiously await the full return of    live music, we have spent a lot of time writing new music and making non-music related short videos. Inspired by our mutual interest in funny internet videos we post new clips every Sunday on our Instagram (@church.friends). As we move into 2021 we will re-enter the studio to start cooking a new batch of songs to release throughout next year.

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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