Al Church

Summer's coming early this year if Al Church has his way. His new solo LP, Next Summer, is a suite of pop confections conjuring up carefree days of his youth. His summers were filled with driving around with the windows rolled down bumping Dr. Dre's The Chronic and R.E.M.'s Monster. "My album is like [Monster], but with saxophone and keyboards instead of Peter Buck's guitar tremolo," the Duluth-raised multi-instrumentalist exclaims when the Athens alt-rock legends' "Strange Currencies" hits the speakers. He's with City Pages at Mackenzie Pub on a frigid night in downtown Minneapolis.

Actually, Next Summer is more reminiscent of Beck's funky soul circa Midnite Vultures. But there are even more chill Yacht Rock flourishes with the aforementioned saxophone, played by Cole Pulice, who performs with Sonny Knight and the Lakers as well as Black Market Brass. "Cole is a genius sax player," Church says. "He basically took the role of lead guitar on the record. When I think about lead guitar, and all the solos and stuff — that was all replaced by Cole. It was super organic, and he just flowed over everything."

Pulice's wailing sax and Church's retro synth strains on "Next to You" have a Billy Ocean flavor, but they don't overshadow the vocals. Just as powerful as Fitz & the Tantrums vocalist Michael Fitzpatrick, Church's treated falsetto is always in control, even amid an over-the-top story of drunk, text-messaging ex-boyfriends. On the piano-laced title track, he sounds more like Queen's Freddie Mercury. Church's affable personality soaks into the endearing Next Summer like suntan lotion on the neck. He freely speaks about music, sports, and Minnesota living over beers for nearly an hour before getting around to the record.

"You And I" comes off as a dynamic combination of Dirty Projectors' angelic harmonies and the effervescent pop that filled the original Miami Vice soundtrack, like cruising in a white Ferrari to a hot house party or to solve a crime. A rare guitar solo appears on the earnest blue-eyed soul of "You Came Into My Life," affectionately written for Church's new fiancée after they got engaged in Paris. "I think it's almost like a vibe," Church says, when asked how he knew which songs to put in this project. "These songs just didn't fit anywhere else. I think it's partly because of the content, but also because of the structure. I don't really have any interest in your typical A part, B part, verse, bridge, song structure. I wanted to experiment with the idea that maybe this whole thing is just a verse, or maybe it's all chorus, or maybe it's just hooks."

Like much of his past work, Next Summer has plenty of heart beneath the gloss of the dance-party jams. Up until this point, Church had more of a rep for guitar-centric work in BBGUN, Dear Data, Al Church and State, Clustercuss, and Private Oates (a Hall and Oates cover band). He's also been a sideman with Haley Bonar, Pink Mink, Frankie Lee, and Actual Wolf, among other local acts. "All of these other projects, I've been hiding behind something in a way," Church says. "I wanted this to be more naked and revealing. I'm treating this more as my rock band — or my solo rock band. I gave myself a lot of time to do this. I didn't have any deadline, really. And that freed me up to try anything."

Church's many projects kept Next Summer percolating for the past two years. After starting out modestly, the songs grew with guest vocalists Mina Moore ("The Clock") and Gabe Douglas ("Birthday Party," "The Clock," "S.A.T.J.") along with producer/synth player Matt Sandstedt during recording at the Hideaway studio in Minneapolis. The key players on the album frequently drew inspiration from a secret Google doc filled with lyric snippets and random song notes.

His lyrics are frequently as radiant as the arrangements themselves. "Turquoise Sun" is where "Memories drag on like a cigarette," and "The Clock" might start a new dance craze. "Birthday Party" took shape when Church overheard a euphoric father and his young son in Brooklyn. "This guy was just hanging out with his kid, singing, 'I'm coming to your birthday party! I'm coming to your birthday party!' And I just thought, 'That's a song right there,'" Church reminisces with a hearty laugh. "In fact, I had to do some research to see if it was already like a Rihanna song or something."

To match the album's joviality, Church's release party will have a middle school carnival theme, and will feature a dance party, karaoke, and a cake walk. "It's going to be a really fun party," Church says animatedly. "You've got to prepare for summer, even in March." [Erik Thompson for City Pages, March 2015]

Past Shows


Nov
29
th
2019
Turf Club
Nov
29
th
2019
Turf Club

A TRIBUTE TO THE REPLACEMENTS and The Melismatics

with Annie and the Bang Bang, MAD RIPPLE HOOT FOR SLIM, Al Church and more!
Aug
31
st
2019
Schell’s Stage at Schilling Amphitheater
Aug
31
st
2019
Schell’s Stage at Schilling Amphitheater
Aug
30
th
2019
Schell’s Stage at Schilling Amphitheater
Aug
30
th
2019
Schell’s Stage at Schilling Amphitheater
May
10
th
2019
7th St Entry
Apr
27
th
2018
Turf Club
Apr
27
th
2018
Turf Club

Al Church

with 26 BATS!, Jennie Lawless, DJ YSHEYELLIN and more!
Feb
2
nd
2018
Turf Club
Feb
2
nd
2018
Turf Club

Jackson and the Roosters, Eleganza!, Sam Cassidy and more!

with DAVE and RYAN from SOUL ASYLUM in the Clown Lounge
Dec
9
th
2017
Turf Club
Dec
9
th
2017
Turf Club

A TRIBUTE TO THE REPLACEMENTS and The Melismatics

with Eleganza!, Early Eyes, The Bad Man and more!
Dec
8
th
2017
Turf Club
Dec
8
th
2017
Turf Club

Reina del Cid

with Al Church and Dusty Heart
Oct
4
th
2017
Turf Club
Oct
4
th
2017
Turf Club

All Tomorrow's Petty

with Aby Wolf, Frankie Lee, Al Church and more!
Sep
24
th
2017
Turf Club
Sep
24
th
2017
Turf Club
Jul
14
th
2017
Turf Club
Jul
14
th
2017
Turf Club

Little Riddles

with Al Church and ERIK BERRY & RYAN YOUNG (of Trampled By Turtles)
Jul
14
th
2016
Turf Club
Apr
23
rd
2016
Turf Club
Apr
23
rd
2016
Turf Club

DULUTH HOMEGROWN MUSIC FESTIVAL

with Hobo Nephews of Uncle Frank, The Social Animals, Superior Siren and more!
Jan
8
th
2016
Turf Club
Jan
8
th
2016
Turf Club

Al Church

with tiny deaths and THE THREE TRES PROBLEMOS
Nov
27
th
2015
Mainroom
Nov
27
th
2015
Mainroom

A TRIBUTE TO THE REPLACEMENTS

with The Melismatics, Al Church, NATO COLES & THE BLUE DIAMOND BAND and more!
Nov
13
th
2015
7th St Entry
Nov
13
th
2015
7th St Entry

PETER WOLF CRIER

with Al Church and J.E. SUNDE
Jun
6
th
2015
7th St Entry
Apr
22
nd
2015
7th St Entry
Apr
22
nd
2015
7th St Entry

Howlin Rain

with Al Church
Mar
13
th
2015
Turf Club
Mar
13
th
2015
Turf Club

Al Church

with Alpha Consumer, Lady Heat, STARAOKE (in the Clown Lounge) and more!
Feb
1
st
2014
Mainroom
Feb
1
st
2014
Mainroom

TURNING REBELLION INTO MONEY

A Tribute To JOE STRUMMER
with BNLX, Andrew Broder, Al Church and more!

More Shows

Mar
14
th
The Fitzgerald Theater

An Evening with
Gaelic Storm

Sep
25
th
The Fitzgerald Theater

Boney James

Dec
31
st
Live Stream

Lucinda Williams

Jul
2
nd
Target Center

Rage Against the Machine

with Run The Jewels