Coffee & Cigarettes With Jane Church

On a beautiful summer’s day Jane Church frontman Matthew Stevenson and I sat outside a café enjoying coffee and cigarettes while talking about his newest adventures as a musician.

As he lit his cigarette, I asked Stevenson why he goes by Jane Church. He smiled and corrected me. “There’s no one in the band named Jane Church, it’s just the band’s name.” We laughed and he told me Jane Church began as his solo project and then expanded to the full band of today.

“I definitely don’t ever not want to have a band again,” Stevenson says. The last band he was in, the ‘70s psych rock-inspired Spires, broke up about a year and a half ago and only got as far as an EP. Though they blew up pretty quickly, Stevenson admits it wasn’t an ideal situation for a first-band experience. “It’s funny that that old band had any sort of traction whatsoever because I was so new to everything at the time—I didn’t know how to handle any of it,” he says.

Now he’s making sure Jane Church is completely his baby. “I don’t want to call myself a control freak, so I’ll call myself a benevolent dictator,” he says laughing. “This [Jane Church] is more of a relaxed vibe, not everybody has to dedicate to it as much as I have to, so it’s easier in that sense.”

Currently, Jane Church only has one song available on Spotify, “Rocket To The Kremlin,” and a video recently released for “This Here City.” Still, they already sound like a seasoned group. With experimental vibes paired with refined melodies, they’re a new age rock group with only a pinch of ‘70s psych feel.

Jane Church will be releasing a full-length via Greenway this October and playing several local shows, with one coming up July 20 at Elsewhere. In the meantime, read the entire interview at Topos Bookstore with Matt Stevenson below.

BTRtoday (BTR): Why the name Jane Church?

Matt Stevenson (MS): Jane Church is the name of a demo that a band called Sparks made in the late ‘60s. I found a recording of it somewhere and I needed a name for this project, so that’s pretty much it. [The recording] sounds like a gothic version of The Doors. It’s really futuristic for 1968.

BTR: Tell me about this new music video for “This Here City.”

MS: There’s a number of Ethiopian artists that I’ve found on YouTube and I have no idea when these videos they’ve posted are from, but they basically look like the video we just put out. It’s completely ripping off that Ethiopian TV studio vibe, specifically Kennedy Mengesha. We thought it would be funny if I looked really hungover and disheveled; I was neither of those things that day.

BTR: So “Rocket To The Kremlin” references Russia and “This Here City” has a lot of religious terminology—what are some of the inspirations that go behind your writing?

MS: Well, with “Rocket To The Kremlin” I was nervous people were going to think that was some kind of Trump song or something, but it’s not. I came up with that [song] before Trump was ever even elected. That song in particular is a story; I pictured it in comic book frames. It’s just about a young spy, like a cartoon version of Edward Snowden or something. So in that respect, I think it’s fairly apolitical.

“This Here City,” that’s like the only song I’ve ever written that had lyrics before music. I had those lyrics lying around in a notebook for like a year before I did anything with them. Then right before we were about to record last summer, I think the day before, I was like, “you guys I have this idea.” And it worked out.

Jane Church, “This Here City”

BTR: You were in a Spires before this. How does it feel to transition to Jane Church?

MS: Well, I definitely don’t ever not want to have a band again—that was like a year and a half [hiatus]. I was recording during that time, but it was very uncertain, I felt very anxious during that time. So I’m happy to have something going on again.

BTR: Would you say Jane Church sounds totally different?

MS: Oh, absolutely. I mean, it’s not really up to me to decide the differences, maybe there aren’t any, [but] I definitely think there are. I think the overall songwriting quality of the record we’re about to put out is way better than anything I did a couple years ago. I think lyrically this stuff is stronger. It’s funny that that old band had any sort of traction whatsoever because I was so new to everything at the time—I didn’t know how to handle any of it. We broke up before we ever released a full-length record.

BTR: So, Jane Church is more your baby?

MS: I don’t want to call myself a control freak, so I’ll call myself a benevolent dictator. I’m happy to collaborate with people as long as they aren’t my own songs. I just think it’s easier for me and the people I play music with to just have me in charge of everything. [laughs] I really don’t miss being in arguments. Maybe I’m not the easiest person to work with. This [Jane Church] is more of a relaxed vibe, not everybody has to dedicate to it as much as I have to, so it’s easier in that sense.

BTR: Musically, who are you inspired by? What kind of bands do you tend to listen to?

MS: Well, I’m inspired by all kinds of stuff. But the songs on the [upcoming] LP, listening back to it I can hear the phases that I was going through. Like certain songs I was listening to a lot of Big Star… Then on this stuff that we tracked most recently for the album I was really into the recording techniques that Brian Eno used on his first two records. Like deliberately using things that sound like shit and making them sound good. The song that opens up the album I played on a guitar that I don’t think is possible to keep in tune, but we somehow pulled it off. It sounds like a toy, but they way we mixed it and amped it… I would never dream of using that live, but we just made it work—I enjoy experimenting with stuff that way. It was really fun.

BTR: So tell me a little about the rest of the band—have you played music with them before this?

MS: I’ve been playing with them for the past year, but before that we hadn’t really played together. We mostly met through mutual friends. Our guitar player actually lives in Philadelphia. I met him because he was a member of a band called The Needle Points that I had known for a while. They don’t exist anymore, but they were good.

BTR: I’ve seen you live, but how would you describe how your shows go down?

MS: Generally about 35 minutes long, we play most of the album. I try to take as little time as possible to tune my guitar even though I have to tune like every four songs because I use a lot of alternate tunings and capos and all that. I think they’re pretty good, I’m really looking forward to the ones we have in the next couple of weeks.

BTR: Cool, tell me about what else you’ve got in store for the future of Jane Church.

MS: A full-length LP out sometime in October and more recordings. We’ll have a seven-inch out next year in the winter. I just want to keep pushing forward and playing and recording as much as possible. Also, we’re looking to expand the lineup, anyone interested in playing keys and/or percussion in Jane Church should email me.