“When we first started the band, one of the things we did was go to this psychic in Midwest City” says The Purple Church frontman Robbie Harris in his deadpan drawl. “I think at first she was kind of pissed, like what are these kids doing here.”
“Like she thought you were making fun of her?” I ask.
“Yeah, yeah, but when we told her who we were and what the band was about, she got really into it. We got a photo of our band aura.”
Casual revelations of supernatural consultations would seem strange coming from most other local bands, but coming from the spooky eccentrics behind The Purple Church, it doesn’t seem out of place at all.
Named for the site of a reputed satanic cult in eastern Oklahoma County, The Purple Church makes music that would not be out of place on the soundtrack to a zombie movie: dense, driving minor key soundscapes, periodically shot through with melodies that break through the grime, like sunshine through a mushroom cloud.
I saw them perform recently at the 51st Street Speakeasy. “We’re apparently the loudest band that has ever played here,” Harris tells a crowd that seemed, at the risk of stereotyping, more suited to John Mayer and Dave Matthews than the dark, stoned psychedelia that they were treated to. I got a chance to talk to them after the show, and was somewhat surprised that such effusive and enthusiastic people can create music so relentlessly apocalyptic.
Drummer Lucas Dunn, Harris, Austin Tackett (guitar) and his brother Aaron Tackett (bass) all grew up in and around Midwest City, listening to 70s metal and post punk, influences that they wear on their sleeves. “Really what we all agree on musically is early seventies rock. Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin are, I think, touchstones for all of us.” said Harris, “We also all really love Joy Division and Syd Barret Pink Floyd” chimed in Dunn. They have known each other since high school and played together occasionally, but didn’t coalesce into a unit until last year. “Basically we were all sort of between bands” says Dunn “and we just started playing together. I don’t think anyone thought it would become a band really.”
About the name
The band’s namesake, a decrepit shell of a building on private property near Spencer, has been the topic of local lore for years. I remember kids driving out there routinely in high school to smoke pot, drink, and generally tempt fate. Youtube videos of such treks abound. Nowadays you are more likely to get shot at while visiting the actual Purple Church than witness anything occult; the owner of the land takes a fairly serious and shotgun-based position on trespassing. Still the legends and stories persist, like any good urban legend.
“Robbie has a great Purple Church story” volunteers Austin. “Yeah, in high school we decided to just drive out there. You drive out on this dirt road for a long time, and then you come up on it. The place was pretty underwhelming, just graffiti and beer bottles and shit, but then we turn around and there is seriously a dead dog there, like cut open.” I have no evidence to verify this tale, but for whatever reason, I believe it. It certainly fits the bands music.
Trapped Under Ice and other easy listening
The band’s new EP Woodsporn, recorded with Chris Harris (of Nice People Records fame) in Norman, drips with dread and malice. “We do a lot of ambient stuff, Aaron especially. We don’t want to sound like any one particular thing. Icy psychedelia, I guess” said Austin Tackett. “Recording with Chris was really great, and I think you can hear that on the EP.” I asked if a release on Nice People was forthcoming; “We kinda kept hoping he would bring that up.” he laughs. The EP certainly seems like it would fit comfortably next to other dark Nice People releases by Gentle Ghost and Depth and Current.
The highlight of the record is Trapped Under Ice, the second track. Named for one of the levels of hell in Dante’s Inferno, it manages to be the rare breakup song that is so dire that you desperately want the author to seek professional help. Melodic and charging, it’s the closest thing to an anthem that they are likely to write.You can download their entire recorded output for free at their bandcamp. It’s another year until Halloween, but I think this may be the ideal soundtrack.
Depth & Current/Bizarro Kids/The Purple Church @ Opolis
Location : Opolis Production LLC
Time:9:00PM Friday, December 17th
(c) Colin Newman All rights reserved.