Brutally honest, texturally raw, and absolutely wild in a live setting, Church of Sun is unlike any local OC or Long Beach band I’ve seen in a long time. The fact this eclectic group is comprised of seven hooligans exuding many levels of musical and artistic talent is just the base of their appeal. On lead vocals are the slightly insane Josh Cairns and Melissa Vexler, with Kevin Burwick on guitar (as well as behind the scenes as engineer and mixer), Brandon Villegas on keys, vocals, and guitar, Jaclyn Bassaline on bass and vocals, Jayson Gera on drums, and Drew Selna rounding the sound out with percussion and vocals.
With that sizable combination, trying to pinpoint exactly how to categorize this crazy bunch is quite a task considering the diversity and range of their dynamics. Traces of punk, mixed with desert rock, LA psych, folk rock, and straight up rock ‘n roll makes a musical cocktail that will knock you on your ass, then entice you get back up and ask for another round of that good shit. The group doesn’t really care much about fame and fortune, which gives them a no-bullshit attitude that is refreshing and actually makes their music even more alluring.
After releasing their debut album, 3 Days in 21 Nights, named after their experience at The Distillery in Costa Mesa with engineer Mike McHugh back in 2012, the group then returned with their sophomore album, High Moon, recorded in 2014 with Mike Troolines at Sound Asylum Recording Studio in Santa Ana. This time around with their latest LP however, guitarist Kevin Burwick took charge of recording their scorching 13-track junior effort, Golden Ram, set for an official release this coming May. As far as recording goes, Burwick is enough of an audiophile to notice the subtle recording techniques of bands like Radiohead, Queens of the Stone Age, and The Stooges, and has educated himself to implement his own version of clever recording and mixing practices. Burwick’s process is also incredibly DIY, although you wouldn’t necessarily think that when listening to the final product of Golden Ram, which is clean but still retains a perfect balance of fuzz and distortion.
As for musical themes throughout Golden Ram, each song succeeds in being varied enough to stand alone, while keeping the common thread that displays Church of Sun’s distinct style. As for the vibe the ensemble brings to the album—it feels like a straight shot of adrenaline. But while Golden Ram might be filled with high-octane tracks, listen close for instances where they are choosing to say some quite serious and thought-provoking stuff that ends up fluctuating the overall intensity in a good way. Cairns and Vexler always teeter the line between vulgarity and absurdity, and a kind of hope and sincerity that is quite endearing.
To grab a copy of Golden Ram in the vinyl version—which is being released by Dave James and Lisa Amend on their recently established Noise Noise Noise Records—head to Factory Records this Saturday, April 22nd for Record Store Day to get your copy. Church of Sun also returns to the stage this week for back-to-back performances at Memphis Cafe in Costa Mesa on Thursday, and then 4th Street Vine in Long Beach on Friday to celebrate their album release. If you’re on the fence for attendance, just know that the last time I saw Church of Sun at Memphis Bar, the patio area was crammed tight with a full crowd, waiting patiently to catch the crazy antics of Cairns and Vexler, supported by the talented orchestra of Villegas, Bassaline, Burwick, Gera and Selna.
At one point I recall Cairns was picked up and carried up over the crowd with hand still gripping the mic held to his mouth, as Vexler sang while balancing atop someone’s shoulders. The whole crowd swayed and enjoyed their buzz, and I remember getting hit by some red wine flinging from the dark bottle gripped in Cairns’ other hand. Whatever Church of Sun may be, they are definitely always a good time.