Grace Cathedral Park
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Grace Cathedral Park

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The best kept secret in music


"Seeking Converts... Part rock, part orchestra - fans will tell you it's just plain good music."

By Kent Kimes

Tympani, cello, viola and violin are not your typical rock band instruments.

Then again, Grace Cathedral Park, which incorporates those classical instruments into its sweeping, atmospheric sound, is not a typical local rock band.

"It is as unique as it could possibly be," said Jeff Roberts, co-owner of now-defunct Sounds Familiar record store and a longtime observer of the Grand Strand music scene.

Grace Cathedral Park, which includes former members of notable local rock outfits The Drag and Candella, is making waves nationally with its all-instrumental debut disc "In the Evenings of Regret," released by New York-based independent label La Verdad Records.

The album, which is receiving national airplay at various college radio stations, checks in this week at No. 169 on music publication CMJ's Top 200 Radio Play chart.

On Sunday, Grace Cathedral Park seeks new converts with a CD release performance showcase at The Main Street Theatre in Conway.

Admission to the show is by invitation-only, but invitations can be obtained by sending a request via e-mail to

There's an after-show party Sunday at Carlito's Way on the Superblock in Myrtle Beach, starting around 10 p.m.

Grace Cathedral Park began as a studio experiment by former Candella guitarist Michael Graham and ex-Drag drummer Chris Tucker.

They laid down the initial tracks for "In the Evenings of Regret" at Sea Note Recording Studios in Myrtle Beach, and gradually added friends and musical associates as the concept took shape and the urge to perform live hit.

"We recruited all our friends," said Graham, the band's visionary, guitarist, main songwriter and arranger.

Other members of the group include former Candella mates tympani player/percussionist Mark McGowan and bassist Charley Bell, guitarist Shane Smith (of McDowell Shortcut), guitarist Nick McNeil (another Drag alum), keyboardist A.J. Rownd, cellist Kerrine Gifford, and violinist Lauren Carol Brown.

"All my friends were in it, so I joined too," McGowan said.

The lineup has fluctuated to include up to 10 players - gargantuan by rock standards.

Getting everyone on the same page for studio sessions, rehearsals and gigs hasn't been easy.

"It's rather difficult, but it's worth it," Graham said.

Getting listeners to engage and embrace epic instrumental tracks, some of which surpass the 17-minute mark, is also a daunting task.

"The instrumental format spooks a lot of people," Roberts said. "But you have to sit down and actually listen to it. There is no lyrical hook. But you can't be a casual listener."

Because of the transcendental nature of Grace Cathedral Park's music and typical clack and clatter of the bar scene - crowd noise nearly drowned out multiple Grammy winner Norah Jones' performance at the House of Blues in North Myrtle Beach last year, for instance - the band chose to celebrate the release of "In the Evenings of Regret" in a more listener-friendly setting.

"We wanted to do something different," Graham said. "Bands around here haven't done anything special in awhile. I wanted to do more a sit-down thing."

A light show and digital image projectors will accompany the performance.

The theater and cinematic images are also symbolic because Graham, whose other devotion besides music is independent films, envisions Grace Cathedral Park doing movie scores.

The band's laid-back, cosmic sound is hard to describe, Roberts said, but Graham likens it to other instrumental outfits such as Godspeed You Black Emperor and "slow core" band Low.

"We get a weird reaction," Graham said. "But I think it's a record that crosses a lot of boundaries. My grandmother even likes the record. It's a mellow record. But I still think it's a rock record."

The album's second track, "It's All Well Above Wonder Anyway," and the crashing crescendo of "Settling for the Broken in the Things Never Forgotten" display some Pink Floyd tendencies.

"Being compared to Pink Floyd is not a bad thing," McGowan said.

And like Pink Floyd, which got its moniker by combining the names of two obscure bluesmen, Grace Cathedral Park is borrowed from a Red House Painters song.

"I was always a huge Red House Painters fan," said Graham. "And it's got a nice ring to it."

Grace Cathedral Park's deal with La Verdad is also a bit unusual for the notoriously money-conscious recording industry. The band and label owner Kate Mariani didn't sign a contract but made a verbal agreement that once she recouped the cost of producing 500 CDs, profits would be split down the middle.

"I don't work by contracts," said Mariani, who was introduced to Graham via a mutual friend who lives in Myrtle Beach. "It's a big risk-taker."

But Mariani, a Sirius satellite radio programmer who runs La Verdad on the side, believed in Graham and Grace Cathedral Park.

"He [Graham] is a very talented musician ... beyond words," Mariani said. "And the album, it really is beautiful music."

But the band did make a shrewd business decision, contracting with Vitriol Radio Promotion of Minneapolis, whose clients include Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven.

Vitriol's Jerry Steller said he sent the album to 150 radio stations, including North Florida University's WOSP Osprey Radio, where the disc topped the station's play chart.

Also, according to CMJ, 24 college stations reported that they were spinning "In the Evenings of Regret" this week.

"We paid Vitriol $900," Graham said. "But what they've done with it is priceless when you think about it." - The Sun News


in the evenings of regret - 2004


Feeling a bit camera shy


Grace Cathedral Park formed in the winter of 2002 as a collaboration among nine people wanting to create something beautiful and inimitable. Their debut album, In the Evenings of Regret, was released July 2004 on La Verdad Records. With three members of Candella and two members of former Island recording artists The Drag, they have shared the stage with
such national acts as Low, Yo La Tengo, Longwave, Pulp, Jolene, and many more. In a word, they are stunning. They do not dwell or dominate, but
tip-toe gingerly only to sweep grandly, swallowing up listeners. Blue and ponderous, their music shimmers.

Grace Cathedral Park have been compared to Mogwai, Low, Sigur Ros, Godspeed You Black Emperor, and Explosions in the Sky. They will catch you off-guard with epic-length songs that simmer just below the surface before swelling into arresting climaxes. In the Evenings of Regret consists of only six tracks, but clocks an impressive 77 minutes of music with a tremendous force underlying the seemingly fragile casing.