Charles S. McVey is a singer/songwriter who uses the medium of music as a backdrop for discussing a wide range of emotional experiences with regard to the human condition. His upfront lyrics allow him to remain frank and open while addressing subjects such as sexuality, suffering, and religious dogmas. His 2007 release, “Modern Living” received critical praise and resulted in over 75 regional performances to promote the album. Recently, McVey contributed to the score of Steve Balderson's acclaimed documentary “Wamego: Ultimatum” and has performed with national acts such as They Might Be Giants and Ian Moore.
McVey’s newest release, “ANIMAL,” is a nine track exploration into the loss of one’s faith. Casually labeled as a “spiritual break-up” record, the songs meander through such concepts as sexual repression, doubt, and divine abandonment. The recordings are melodically saturated while remaining emotionally bare, exposing the raw nerves and the disconcerting reflections of a man who wants to believe in God – but doesn’t. The album’s erotic artwork features adult film star Scott Campbell, and mixes Maplethorpe-esque photography with religious imagery to create a sexy and confrontational package. Within an hour the “edited for content” version of the cover was reported and removed from McVey’s MySpace page.
“ANIMAL” features the same line-up as “Modern Living” with McVey on piano and vocals, Erik Kessinger on drums, and Max Paley on bass. Lawrence musicians Dan Kozak (saxophone, This is My Condition), Josh Atkinson (guitar, Kelpie), and Clark Jamison (percussion, Lila, 11:11) also contributed to the recording. Colin Mahoney (engineering, Split Lip Rayfield) mastered the final product.
The arrangement of the tracks is a conceptual downslide ending in spiritual independence or emptiness, depending on the listener’s view of the world. “ANIMAL” does not present an alternative theology, nor is its intent to offer answers or explanations, but merely to raise questions. The listener is encouraged to explore its content with curiosity and an open mind. “ANIMAL” is the culmination of a year’s worth of work based on a lifetime’s contemplation and it is Charles S. McVey at his most refined.
Charles S. McVey - Vocals and Piano
Erik Kessinger - Drums
Steven Bagwell - Bass
"ANIMAL" - April 2009
"The 'Sir' Mixes - July 2008
"Modern Living" EP - Aug. 2007
"Transition" EP - Nov. 2003
"Swallow" LP - March 2003
"Lackluster" EP - Jan. 2000
"Someplace Better Than This" LP - Oct. 1999
TMI "ANIMAL" REVIEW
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TMI WEEKLY (TOPEKA,KS) Review by Jack Partain Charles S McVey - “Animal” Impure Records, 2009 ...TMI WEEKLY (TOPEKA,KS)
Review by Jack Partain
Charles S McVey - “Animal”
Impure Records, 2009
Charles S McVey’s latest release Animal has gained a bit of notoriety throughout the mid west for a couple of different reasons. First is the fact that Mcvey is a talented songwriter whose brand of piano driven college rock
is both catchy and soulful. The second is, well, the accompanying artwork for Animal, depicts Jesus (portrayed by adult film star Scott Campbell) urinating on a priest (McVey). Personally, I’m not easily offended when it
comes to album art, but I am easily impressed by good music, which I suppose, is why I’m writing this review.
Described as a “spiritual break-up record” Animal is the chronicle of McVey’s loss of faith in the church, due not to his sexuality (he’s gay, by the way), but to the church’s view of his sexuality. That said, to call this a
deeply personal album, would be redundant at least, but it is a point that must be made. Those tempted to accuse McVey of using shock tactics in his art to gain attention would be wrong as Animal is not a political album, and in fact has more in common with Bob Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks than U2’s War. Through ten tracks of new wavey piano rock McVey, whose dinghy, gruff voice is a nice change of pace for piano driven rock, struggles with his
decision to turn his back on something that has turned it’s back on him, and comes off as more a jilted lover than an activist. No attempt is made to change the listeners mind in regards to gay rights, and in the process McVey does a great job of illuminating the subject. In “The End of Us”, which opens the album, as McVey screams repeatedly “I don’t believe”, he not only renounces his faith, but evinces a startlingly raw disbelief in the church’s denial of his basic humanity.
McVey’s been busting his balls around these parts for about ten years now, writing and producing records, performing and everything else. Animal is his first true full length after a slew of ep’s and it is his most mature work to date. You can check out him out on the old MySpace, his website godhatescharlesmcvey.com , or get most
of his stuff off of iTunes.
THE PITCH - "ANIMAL" REVIEW
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THE PITCH (Kansas City, MO) Charles S. McVey “Animal” (Impure Records) By Jason Harper published...THE PITCH (Kansas City, MO)
Charles S. McVey “Animal”
By Jason Harper
published: April 23, 2009
On his fourth and longest release so far (at nine songs), Lawrence piano-banger Charles S. McVey puts his recording-school degree to extensive use. Piled high with booming keys, isolation-booth drums, power guitars, layered vocals, and the occasional flute flurry thrown in for good measure, Animal virtually smells of
the polished wood of a fancy recording studio. As a singer, McVey shows off his unofficial diploma from the Grunge Vocal Academy, his over-the-top growl giving the dude from Seven Mary Three a run for his flannel. So similar is McVey's style to FM radio rock that this may well be the one gay concept album that straight, Nickelback-loving broheims could rock to in their extended cab pickups on the way to nab some Buffalo wings and pussy. They'd just better not look at the album art, which features McVey dressed as a priest making out with, and getting peed on by, a gay porn star dressed as Jesus.
Yet for all of Animal's religio-homoerotic effrontery, McVey's lyrics are broad and vague enough to make the songs accessible to casual music fans. You say that the way I love is strange/I think that the way you hate is
perverse and deranged, McVey bleats on "Pride," saying absolutely nothing new. But regardless of what he's on about lyrically, McVey sounds pretty awesome when he hits a sweet hook, like on the album's centerpieces,
"Prayersong I & II" and the genuinely moving "Collar." As a pompous provacateur, McVey is mediocre; as a musician, dude's got talent.
MARK OF THE BEAST - April 2009
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Let's just get it out of the way—yes, he's really getting peed on by Jesus in his new CD’s album art...Let's just get it out of the way—yes, he's really getting peed on by Jesus in his new CD’s album art.
Does Charles McVey have your attention now?
Good, because he'd like to use that sacrilegious imagery to lure you into his new music and its exploration of religion. McVey's "Animal" is a piano-based pop record filled with pretty songs about ugly topics, ranging from existential despair to masturbation.
If you can get beyond the shock value, you're in for a thoughtful meditation on faith and desire. McVey joined us to discuss "Animal" and, you know, getting peed on by Jesus. (WARNING: Graphic images that many will find offensive and/or sacrilegious are posted below. )
No-fi highlights from the podcast
lawrence.com: The Jesus on the cover is played by a porn star...
McVey: ??The cover, initially, wasn't going to be as racy as it is. My drummer Eric was supposed to be on the cover, but he recently got a tattoo that wouldn't have worked with my Jesus idea. My last album, "Modern Living," had a homoerotic cover and I wanted to be consistent, but I didn't want to ask any of my friends to take their shirt off. I ran across Scott Campbell, who is an adult film star that lives in Kansas City, and I emailed him. He checked out my music, said he liked it, and was down. Four days later, there I was—porn star in a cheese cloth.
And the bodily fluids…?
We should just talk about what it is—in the album art, you can run across a picture of me dressed like a priest and Scott in his Jesus outfit. We're in front of an altar meant for receiving communion, and he's urinating on me while I'm looking up at him with affection.??That photograph was not originally part of the plan. Eric and I kind of brainstormed, "If we have a porn star doing this, what else will he do?" It was inspired by a Clive Barker story where a priest gets baptized in urine. So it actually came from a gay horror writer's mind, not mine. I thought it was so over the top that I said I couldn't do it. ??I initially cheesed out on it. Then, the day of the shoot, I thought, "You know, this is stupid of me to be afraid." If I'm afraid of something I think is a good idea, I tend to force myself to do it. We popped the idea on Scott, and he said, "Alright." Really, anything we executed in that photo shoot was nothing compared to what he does on a regular basis. Contrary to what the lyrics off of "Animal" might lead you to believe, that was the first golden shower I've ever received. I sincerely did if for the art.
Is it confrontational for the sake of being confrontational?
It wasn't the point to just be confrontational. I feel like it complements the record. The picture itself is hidden under the tray of the CD case, which was in part a nod to the fun '90s artwork of Tool. "Animal" is about asking questions, exploring ideas, and maybe not finding what you expect. And the photo is part of that—if you're curious in nature, you'll find it.
Are you hoping for some negative feedback?
Sure, I guess so. I plan on sending the record to Focus on the Family. They were such an inspiration. I listened to a lot of Christian radio for this album.
Did growing up in Kansas, the bleeding red heart of conservative America, influence you as an artist?
Of course it did. Because of this record, everybody asks me what my childhood was like in regards to religion. I hadn't even pondered that my disillusionment started in childhood. I thought it wasn't until puberty, because that's when I really started to question things. But as a child, there were disagreements between my parents as to how I was supposed to be raised and what church I was supposed to be brought up in. They were from different religions. I thought it was the stupidest thing as a child. My very vague concept of God at the time was that God was good and everybody would get along. Of course, that's not really the case, is it?
Do you see no good that can come from organized religion?
I think a lot of good can come from people who are in organized religions, but that has to do with the individual. I think religion can be inspiring, but the idea of morality derived from religion is just silly. "Thou shalt not kill" is just a good idea and shouldn't have to come from God. My problem with religion is that people are taking irrational beliefs and acting on them. We have 21st century technology with 14th century values. People kill each other on a daily basis because of religious differences. All they know is that you're a Jew or you're a Muslim or you're a Christian, and that's worthy of death. That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard.
Do you think that's just human nature, and religion is just an excuse to act on those impulses?
No. I have more faith in human nature than that. I feel like human beings have really great potential and that we've held ourselves back with religion. Those ideas and morals were meant to control us. Some people don't even want evolution discussed in schools.
Charles S. McVey’s Exuberant Blasphemies
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Charles S. McVey’s Exuberant Blasphemies AUTHOR: NATE LOGSDON PUBLISH DATE: 4.15.09 April 19th, 2...Charles S. McVey’s Exuberant Blasphemies
AUTHOR: NATE LOGSDON
PUBLISH DATE: 4.15.09
April 19th, 2009 · 1 Comment
Charles S. McVey’s new album Animal is a confrontational concept album that unabashedly addresses a God that the singer simply cannot respect. The record is a piano-driven rock album with songs that sound, at first, like traditional pop compositions: strong melodies supported by driving rhythms and organized into verses, bridges and choruses. But the pop framework acts as an agreeable disguise for a very non-pop preoccupation with Christian orthodoxies and the imposing Father figure that motivates them.
McVey has referred to the record as a “spiritual breakup album.” This phrase captures both the pop sensibility and the intense spiritual engagement of the record. The title of the album’s opening song, “The End of Us” sounds like the title of a radio-ready, i’ll-get-over-you-cuz-i’m-strong pop single. But, counter to the radio paradigm, the “us” of the title refers to the broken relationship between McVey and Christ. It’s not a good relationship anymore: “You really should have known when you crawled up on that cross / that this was the beginning of / the beginning of the end of us,” he sings, leading to the bitter chorus: “But what about this love we hold onto? / It’s just a special effect of our long and cruel charade / designed to hold you back / and keep you in your place.”
The record’s title song “Animal” opens with a floating synth over the piano’s melodic line. McVey’s vocals come in as if from far away, modified by an ethereal echoing effect: “I’d run away from you for all of my life.” Those words are the only lyrics in the song and as he sings them over and over they become a sort of inverted mantra, an atheist’s prayer.
McVey emphasizes - and contextualizes - his apostasy by identifying with Judas Iscariot, the betrayer of Christ. Judas is the ultimate bad guy of the New Testament, but McVey has sympathy for him. On his website, there is a picture of McVey holding a sign that reads “Pardon Iscariot.” One of the song’s tracks is even more explicitly pro-Judas: “Judas got a raw deal / he did what he did … because he had to.” This isn’t exactly the interpretation of, say, The Passion of the Christ. But what makes a song like this one unsettling is the presentation. “Judas Got a Raw Deal” has a lovely and light piano arrangement that would be fitting for a worship song at a high school youth group. The contradiction of the lyrical content and the musical arrangements is the distinguishing feature of the album and is the heart of McVey’s artistry.
This album is not for the faint of heart - or the sincere of faith. In addition to the openly irreligious subject matter, the album art features photos of homoerotic twists on religious imagery. And on the inside cover of the CD jacket, there are mocking excerpts from Leviticus 18:22, the famous passage (a favorite of gay rights opponents) that forbids homosexual acts. Open the CD case and you can read the words, “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination. Nor shall you mate with any animal, to defile yourself with it.” Charles S. McVey’s Animal is a pained, yet catchy, rejection of a Christian tradition that would consider such a statement to be God’s holy word.
"Modern Living" Review
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Charles McVey – Modern Living (Impure Records) Modern Living, the most recent EP from singer/songwr...Charles McVey – Modern Living (Impure Records)
Modern Living, the most recent EP from singer/songwriter Charles McVey, a Lawrence, Kan., resident, might be a bit rough around the edges, but his unique brand of pensively introspective, melancholy piano rock is actually quite brilliant. At times unmistakably butch and unabashedly gay, his clever juxtaposition of brutal images, stark lyrics and beautiful melodic lines makes each multilayered entry more than memorable. Whether singing about a lost cyberspace romance (“My Space”), the BDSM subculture (“Sir”) or the sins of a psychopathic killer (“Toby”), McVey’s visceral story-songs have a rare accessibility far beyond the use of obvious social stereotypes. The ability to reference both Falcon films and Mommie Dearest in one cohesive narrative is a skill that in and of itself deserves high praise, but that is only the least of this gravelly-voiced crooner’s talents. Granted, the length of this CD’s too short set-list is somewhat regrettable – a minor criticism at worst – but it should at least whet listeners’ appetites for more.
Look for McVey on tour nationally, and log on to myspace.com/charlesmcvey or cdbaby.com to purchase a copy of Modern Living.
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Sir Charles Lawrence songwriter Charles S. McVey spreads the gospel of "Modern Living" By Richa...Sir Charles
Lawrence songwriter Charles S. McVey spreads the gospel of "Modern Living"
By Richard Gintowt (Contact)
Monday, May 12, 2008
Charles S. McVey doesn't seem like the sort of guy who enjoys his down time. In addition to freelance engineering at Black Lodge Studios and playing keys for Lonnie Fisher & the Funeral, McVey labors over his own recordings and maintains a busy local performance schedule. McVey enlisted drummer Erik Kessinger and bassist Max Paley to back him on his 2007 release "Modern Living", which candidly addressed matters of sexuality with pathos-packed ballads and 80s influenced alt-rock. McVey's song "Sir" has since been remixed by a handful of admirers while he records his next release and prepares for a slate of Pride Festival gigs this summer. He stopped by our podcast studios shortly after delivering cookies to The Breeders, a band that he loves almost as much as The Cure.
No-fi highlights from the podcast:
You had a good story about chasing down The Cure in Hays, Kansas.
Somebody else actually chased them down for me ... I loomed at a table staring at them for quite a while before I approached them. I was very eager to meet them, but I decided to be polite and let them finish their pizza.
How is it that they ended up in Hays?
This was in 1992, so they were on tour for "Wish".They were going between Denver and St. Louis and I was living Hays, where I grew up. A friend of mine happened to be eating at Pizza Hut, and he came and collected me and took me to meet my favorite band.
I believe the way you put it earlier is that you were "one of those kids."
I didn't have the hair or the makeup, because that would have been a little extreme in Hays. But The Cure were my band, for sure, and I had the posters and I bought everything I could find.
Could you give us a little insight on your song â€œMySpaceâ€?
My boyfriend and I had broken up. He moved to Portland, and we weren't speaking. So I found myself stalking him on MySpace. I realized that somebody else was doing this to somebody ... I know he was doing the same thing to me. I wrote the song and we recorded it and uploaded it on MySpace with two other songs on Valentine's Day ... It worked - he came back.
Could you tell us a bit about the song "Sir"?
Sure. It's a love song from the viewpoint of a submissive.
Care to expand on that?
Im not exactly sure where I got the idea. I know I was watching a lot of "South Park" at the time and the joke was that it was Mr. Slave's love song ... I've gotten a lot of interesting responses to that song. It's very frank, and it comes across a little confrontational sometimes with people who aren't really expecting it. But my intent was sincere when I wrote it. I wanted it to come across the way I though someone in that situation would say things. "Daddy's whore" is not something I would say is part of my regular vocabulary. But it seemed to fit the song. I also felt like the dominant/submissive thing is an element of every relationship ... Your co-workers, your boss - there's always that kind of power play.
You put a lot of yourself out there in your music with lyrics about relationships and sexuality. Was it always that way for you as a songwriter? Or was it a process of becoming that way?
I think it was definitely something I cultivated over a period of time. When I was younger and I played with an angry-boy rock band, I found myself writing more vague lyrics than when I started doing solo stuff. I feel like there's a real lack of out artists who write music that is also as open as they are about their sexuality. There seems to be a lot of gay artists who kind of mooch off the gay community but leave their songs vague so it can have a broader appeal. I don't waste my time with that. I look at it this way: I listen to songs written about women by men and vice-versa. Either way, I can still relate to all of those tunes. My objective is just to be honest and speak about what I know. I'm not heterosexual, so ...
Local artist's piano-rock ventures deeper
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With a strong, raspy voice reminiscent of Pearl Jam frontman, Eddie Vedder, Charles S. McVey explore...With a strong, raspy voice reminiscent of Pearl Jam frontman, Eddie Vedder, Charles S. McVey explores several adult topics throughout his new EP, "Modern Living," often going deeper than many mainstream artists dare.
Available for $5 at his shows - or $8 at cdbaby.com for those who cannot wait - this six-song disc flows seamlessly from one song to the next and boasts some suggestive album art from Topeka's own Melissa Treolo.
Each song has a refreshing edginess to it, which help "Modern Living" stand out from the rock-saturated local band scene. Recorded in Lawrence with McVey's friends Eric Kessinger (drums) and Max Pale (bass), the EP proves the piano has other applications than purely classical.
McVey rocks the piano to create his self-described "rock/alternative/new wave" sound and is surely not for the faint-at-heart, as the album's photography suggests.
One of the more dance-worthy songs, "Sir" begins softly with piano and McVey's scratchy voice cooing "â€¦ as you laid me down you'll know I'll be back for more / because I'm my daddy's whore and I want to please youâ€¦ ." A minute and a half into the song, the beat picks up and continues to the end, making for a rather enticing love song for those who require more than the typical slow sappiness.
Charles S. McVey's next show is 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, at the Bottleneck in Lawrence, but for a taste of the new EP now - and a free download of "Sir" - check out his MySpace page, http://www.myspace.com/charlesmcvey.
It just might make you "feel like dancing in the rain like every old cliche"
"Modern Living" on DoorQ.com
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Charles McVey examines the horror & ecstasy of “Modern Living” much like Clive Barker’s “Hellraiser”...Charles McVey examines the horror & ecstasy of “Modern Living” much like Clive Barker’s “Hellraiser” these depths are explored with heartfelt emotion.
Everything is covered from the song “MySpace” to the Pinhead-esque domination love song “Sir.”
With his gravely Tom Waits like voice and the in your face look at the world, Charles is a musical force, may it be with you, to reckon with.
We doorQs are a special breed who like to walk on the edge - Why not let Charles take you there. Pinhead would be proud.
Singer has 'a heart' for Topeka Aids Project
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Singer has 'a heart' for Topeka Aids Project Topeka Capital-Journal, The, Feb 10, 2005 by Melis...Singer has 'a heart' for Topeka Aids Project
Topeka Capital-Journal, The, Feb 10, 2005 by Melissa Treolo Capital-Journal
Charles S. McVey, a local singer-songwriter, will stage a benefit concert Sunday called "Have A Heart" for the Topeka Aids Project.
McVey, 27, said musical events can be effective in bringing change and improvement in causes, such as the AIDS epidemic.
"I think music is a good communication tool, and it also brings people together," McVey said. "Having a benefit is a good opportunity to not only raise money but social awareness."
The concert will be 8 p.m. Sunday at The Boobie Trap Bar, 1417 S.W. 6th. Tickets will be $3, and all proceeds will go to TAP. McVey will sell compact discs for $10, with half the proceeds going to TAP.
"I wanted to do something to help them, but I didn't have the free time to volunteer, so I thought that helping to raise money would be the best option," McVey said.
Since first singing in public as a child, McVey has parlayed a lifelong devotion to music into a number of concerts and two self- produced albums titled "Someplace Better Than This" and "Swallow." He is a freelance audio engineer at Black Lodge Recording in Eudora and also freelances at Alibi 6 Recording in Lawrence. He earlier studied at the Conservatory of Recording Arts and Sciences in Arizona.
McVey's atmospheric music and soothing voice are a throwback to influential bands like Radiohead or The Cure. His lyrics contain hints of moodiness, as well as perception, making his music an intimate and emotional experience. He tries to connect with his audience, not sing to them.
"My music reflects a lot of human emotion and human elements," he said. "This allows people to relate more personally to the human condition."
Debbie Guilbault, executive director of TAP, said she is thrilled about this collaboration with McVey.
"I'd really like for Charles to know how much we appreciate his support of our program and the action he has taken to support us in such a manner," she said.
The money raised will go toward HIV testing and services, such as AIDS prevention education, medication assistance and independent living assistance for those living with HIV or AIDS.
Opening for McVey will be Lawrence-based musician Lonnie Fisher.
"I've never played Topeka before and I've never done an AIDS benefit," Fisher said. "But something like an AIDS project? That's just time well spent for everybody."
Sets are mainly composed of original material and range between 45 minutes and 1 hour and 15 minutes.
Set List from Auntie Mae's 9/26/08 (Approx: 1 hr 20 min)
Someplace Better Than This
The End of Us
Setlist from Ritual Cafe (solo) 7/31/08 (Approx: 50 min)
Father Figure (cover)
Like a Virgin (cover)
There are no upcoming dates at this time.