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"Local Cut: Church "Bee Cave""

What do the names Richard Laws, Brandon Laws and Cristof Hendrickson have in common? A door prize to whoever picked the correct answer: All three names belong to members of the locally anchored, California hailing experimental pop trio Church. When Blackbird promoter Aaron Hall sent out a last-minute gig notice a few weeks ago alerting me to a Church show I clicked on the band’s MySpace link in curiosity. Plus I can never know enough local acts in this line of “work.” Anyway, I wound up on the band’s page for an hour, letting its songs flow. I was enchanted by the lush melodic songs built upon echoing acoustics, with themes culled from the sea…and, apparently, cats.

Richard Laws, one half of Church’s brother contingent, fills us in on how “Bee Cave” came to be:

“Bee Cave was written while traveling alone through the middle part of Texas. I didn’t have any reason to be there but I had one of those free plane tickets you get when an airline overbooks your flight and it was going to expire, so I pretty much had to go somewhere. I was writing a lot, and in the habit at the time of addressing some of those things I was writing to cats that I had met. This song was put together after the fact by taking little bits of those cat letters and mixing them together. I wanted the song to sound like traveling by yourself and maybe trying new things because you don’t know anybody, like writing letters to cats. Bee Cave is a town outside of San Antonio.”

Richard’s brother Brandon alerts me that the three all live together in a house—Kings of Leon style circa 2003—along “with a handful of chickens and a stray cat named Arigato.”

Can I write letters to Arigato?

-Nilina Mason-Campbell - Willamette Week

"Fun world"

Rise, and open your hymnal, because the generically named Church makes music that is anything but. Soothing, beautiful songs are given plaintively sparse arrangements: Clattering floor tom, omnichord, and pipeline guitar are augmented by careful, soulful vocals. Brothers Richard and Brandon Laws are accompanied by Cristof Hendrickson on an array of vintage synthesizers, and dynamics swell like a tide rising up a beach. While Church's gorgeous songs reach for the firmament (and more often than not, manage to touch it), it's done in a humble, humane way. Take the low-fi sparkle of the Shins' first record, slow it down to a pudding-crawl, add some Eno ambiance, and you've got music that's not only suitable for drowsy Sunday mornings, but quiet prayer sessions throughout the rest of the week. NED LANNAMANN - Portland Mercury

"The good book of Church"

God ain't got nothing to do with this band's symphonic folk
By: Shane Danaher
Issue date: 5/9/08 Section: Arts and Culture

Despite changes of the past couple years, Portlanders still seem to prefer their indie rock as "big" as possible. With local folk orchestras stretching their memberships to the breaking point, and Craigslist ads appearing daily to inquire about the availability of a competent oboist, it seems that texture has grown into a paramount concern for emerging artists.

Anyone who frequents this city's multitude of basement shows can attest that such ambitious projects often collapse under the weight of their own symphonic aspirations. Such difficulties make it all the more impressive when a band can combine mood and layered arrangement into songs which achieve their intended intricacy without succumbing to overindulgence. The recent emergence of the band Church has provided us with another example of just how this balance can be utilized to impressive effect.

Based on the collaboration of brothers Richard and Brandon Laws, Church have created a perfection of texture that leaves little room for improvement, even on the tracks of their recent debut EP, With All Our Love for Francisco the Man. Despite consisting of only three members--the brothers Laws and roommate/collaborator Cristof Hendrickson--the band's music has managed to project an expansiveness which defies its limited membership.

"Richard and I have known for a while that we would be playing music together full time at some point," said Brandon Laws. "It was just a question of when. Cristof and I had played in electronic groups throughout college, and we would e-mail each other often. Most all our conversations eventually led to music and all of its beautiful possibilities. Church is the result."

Among three members, Church manages to pile guitar, moog, banjo, glockenspiel, Rhodes organ, percussion and a metric ton of reverb onto their songs without sacrificing the tunes' cohesive feel. No small task, mind you, but the group's cock-eyed approach to instrumentation has in some ways dictated a sound that has no choice but to seek out odd sonic nooks and crannies. With three distinct voices in their writing process, Church have become experts at the art of creative balance.

"We usually add most the layers as a full band," Laws said. "And actually, when we write a song we purposely leave it very open to the interpretation of the group. We tried writing music first and ended up with these intense jams that weren't flexible at all. It's too easy for us to get attached to certain elements of a song and forget the whole, unless we make a conscious choice to write with the whole song in mind.

"We like to write music very sparsely … and then once a song is mostly completed, we will try it out with several different instrumentations. Something will usually feel 'right,' and then we'll keep adding things to it until we stop."

Though Church's songs feel like they could have fallen apart due to one overdub too many, they instead stand as enticing, complete works whose sudden emergence has caused a widespread double-take on the part of Portland's music aficionados.

Less than two months after the release of their debut EP and still working without the assistance of a booking or PR agent, Church have nonetheless managed to make a name for themselves in one of the nation's most populous music marketplaces. Having just released a single on Tender Loving Empire Records, the band is set to spend the next month on the road, snaking down through their native California in promotion of their debut release.

"The tour only happened with a little help from our friends," Laws said. "We are not very good at taking care of the business part of it at all. At some point we will definitely have a booking agent, but mostly just because booking shows is not something we are good at."

Despite their apparent lack of talent for the "business" aspect of their careers, Church have been gathering steady buzz over the past couple of months, exclusively on the merit of their infectious songcraft. If anything, this proves that business ability is meaningless, if not coupled with creativity, an attribute that Church have in abundance and are likely to continue displaying.

"This is what we have wanted to do for years. Somehow my brother and I haven't lived in the same town for any extended period of time since high school, but now that we are finally in a band together, there are all these ideas we have had underneath the surface--dormant volcanoes--getting their chance to be actualized. We are definitely moving at a faster pace than most bands, and I don't see us slowing down at all for at least a year."
- Vanguard


"King Crow" single out on Tender Loving Empire record collective.
April 2008

"With all our love for Francisco the Man"
debut e.p.
February 2008



Based in Portland, Oregon, Church is at its heart two brothers who grew up listening to the Beach Boys and Kraftwerk, while staying up too late in their parents’ home playing guitars and singing songs. In late 2007 they moved to a house together with electro-whiz Cristof Hendrickson.

These boys live and breathe music. You can feel this love at first listen--songs strong enough to sound as though they have always existed, but there is a new element hidden underneath...some beautiful and dark noise snaking in between the lines. It will catch you off guard. It will win your heart.