If you haven’t heard the song “Change” by folk/rock band Churchill on the radio, chances are you will soon. (The video is embedded below, if you don’t want to wait.)
Since 2009, this five-piece band has been gaining a solid following in their hometown of Denver, Colorado, selling out mid-size venues and winning local band competitions, and being mentored by The Fray and other prominent Denver acts. Recently, Churchill released “The Change EP”, and their single “Change” started getting picked up by radio stations around the nation (and as far away as the Philippines). With the band’s recent signing with A&M Octone Records (label home to Maroon 5 and Flyleaf), Churchill is now set to reach a much wider audience.
Two members of the band, drummer Joe Richmond and guitarist/vocalist Tim Bruns, had a conversation with us recently about their record deal, where they’ve come from, and where they are going from here.
MIMO: First of all, let me offer congratulations on the record deal with A&M Octone. I wonder if you could share just some of the events that led up to this deal, anything that comes to mind, telling the story of how you got signed.
Joe: So we’ve been playing in Denver a lot for the last couple of years, and that led to meeting some people in the Denver music scene and doing some shows and that kind of stuff. One of the big things that kind of led to getting some attention from record labels The Fray having us out on a couple of shows. That got us some recognition from some people…[and] that kind of started the ball rolling. Also, we had a song that we recorded that a local radio station, KTCL, got behind and started playing and kind of put us in more of a spotlight nationally in terms of radio and industry people, and people that had not heard us before. So I think those are the two big things that sparked some people’s attention. People started coming out to shows and seeing us, and we started meeting people. The song continued to do well at radio. So that’s kind of what sparked the whole thing was the song and then, you know, that opportunity to play with The Fray.
MIMO: So did you entertain several offers and have to pick one, or was it pretty much all the way A&M Octone?
Joe: We had a couple of different labels that we were talking to for awhile. A&M was definitely the first, and the most excited, and the most willing. They came out to Denver to see us play and then brought us out to New York for us to meet them and the whole team. So they were definitely on board first. We had some other people kind of jump in along the way, but I think we stuck with A&M Octone because we felt like they would really work hard for us and that they really were excited about the band. It wasn’t just the song that was doing well, or it wasn’t just something they could turn us into. They just really were excited about what we were already doing, so they wanted to jump on board with that.
MIMO: So obviously signing to a label will help a great deal with promotion and distribution of the music, but as an indie band, what did you do before now to get your name and music out there? What did self-promotion look like for you?
Tim: For us, our promotion has always been . . . I mean, we’ve always done everything in-house from the very beginning. It’s been a weird transition having to have other people on our team. But for us, it started with the songs and then playing live. As soon as we felt like we were a good enough live band, we started playing bigger and bigger shows and bringing more and more people to them. We did iTunes and stuff. We haven’t done a lot of indie marketing. We have YouTube videos and stuff like that, but I think every band does that. We were lucky enough to get a song in rotation on the radio station; I think that was kind of our big thing.
MIMO: So essentially getting that kind of exposure for the song ended up bringing the labels to you?
MIMO: How would you describe your sound as a band, and what and/or whom are your influences?
Tim: Mike [Morter, our mandolin player] actually had a great way of describing it the other day. He said it’s kind like if Nickel Creek and Coldplay started a band together, that’s kind of what we’re like. We’re like a rock ‘n roll, folk band. It’s always hard for us to answer that because we have a hard time even knowing what kind of music we make, and we’re always wanting to make something different all the time. It’s a hard one. But it’s pop rock music at its core.
MIMO: Okay. I’ve listened to some of your earlier stuff, and it sounded more like there was kind of more of an indie-folk vibe to it. But correct me if you think I’m wrong, but it seems like your style is kind of shifting more toward pop than it used to. Would that be a fair statement?
Tim: I think so, for sure. I think we all like pop music. We all listen to all kinds of . . . the majority of the music we listen to is not like indie music. It’s sing-able melodic rock or pop music. So that’s what we’ve always wanted to make. I think we just want to be louder and louder every chance we get. [Laughter] In like a year we’ll probably want to be really quiet. I don’t know.
MIMO: Who are you listening to now if you don’t mind my asking? Who’s speaking to you guys musically? It may be different for everybody, but is there anybody that you’re listening to as a band right now?
Tim: We’ve all been really into Brandon Flowers and the Killers. Their new single, I think, last time we played or last time were all in the van together I think we listened to their new single like four times. Then Brandon Flowers’ record we’ve listened to a bunch as a band. We all love Fleetwood Mac. Joe, what else do we love?
Joe: Yeah, it’s funny. We don’t listen to a lot of newer music. We listen to a lot of Motown…Yeah, Fleetwood Mac’s definitely a big one. If there’s any band we’d want to be, it would be that band.
MIMO: Given the reputation of labels nowadays, there are a lot of indie bands that prefer to stay indie, and even some label acts end up striking out on their own. At the end of the day, what swayed you in favor of signing to a label?
Tim: I think for us it was the way we wanted to grow, it was the timing. Signing a record deal wasn’t like the end goal. It wasn’t like, “Oh man, when we sign a record deal, we’ve made it.” That’s been interesting because none of us really feel different now that we’ve signed a deal because to us it’s like, “Well, what’s our next project? Where are we going? What can we do to get bigger?” For us, that was always the goal…The timing worked out perfectly that the label was on board with what we were doing and the direction we wanted to go. So we all decided as a band that the best thing for growth for us as a band at this time would be to join forces with the Octone folks.
MIMO: So what does signing to A&M Octone mean for your career at this point? What’s on the horizon for you as a band? What are your next steps?
Joe: Well, it’s funny. There’s kind of like this feeling that if you sign a record deal, then all of a sudden the record company is doing everything, and they’re in control and that’s all that’s going to happen. But what it ended up being for us is we found a team that is interested in us as a band because of what we’ve done on our own, [doing] everything in-house. It’s kind of just like jumping on board alongside us instead of them running the show. So for us, we’re going to keep trucking as we have been, doing what we did in Denver, trying to do that in different cities along with the radio campaign. I think for us right now, the single doing well on radio is the direction that we’re headed, to kind of push at radio and see what happens there.
MIMO: Okay, so what is A&M’s role in this? Have they picked up the EP, or what are they doing with your existing music collection?
Joe: They picked up “The Change EP.” Since we already had released it earlier this year, they’re just going to continue to push that and push the song at radio and everything. We’re also going to turn that into a full-length record and probably have that out sometime next year.
Tim Bruns—vocals, guitar
Bethany Kelly—vocals, keys
Mike Morter—guitar, mandolin