The idea behind the “Cathedrals” concert series is to pluck popular Northwest rock bands from their natural environment – nightclubs, beer-soaked taverns – and drop them into venues that many hold sacred. It's secular rock as spiritual muse. Series founder Nathan Marion held the first installments at Seattle's majestic St. Mark's Cathedral. And, on Nov. 16, the third Tacoma session will take place at Immanuel Presbyterian Church, a setting that's sure to underscore the spiritual yearning of “Faded Explanations: Vols. 1-3,” the dreamy, new album from Tacoma's Goldfinch. A dozen new tracks ooze with pedal-steel tinted heartbreak. Singer-guitarist Aaron Stevens confesses that much of their subject matter is so intensely personal that it's often difficult to sing. “If I think too much about the lyrics when I'm singing the songs, I have a hard time choking them out,” he said with a bit of self-deprecating laughter.
Cathedrals Featuring Drew Grow & the Pastors' Wives, Goldfinch and Pollens 8 p.m. Nov. 16 Immanuel Presbyterian Church 901 N. ‘J’ St. $16 (253) 591-5894 or http://www.broadwaycenter.org
“So Cathedrals is gonna be interesting, to see if I can actually hold my stuff together. I think I'm more nervous for the audience than I am for myself. I'm pretty comfortable with the fact that I'm an emotional person. But I don't necessarily relish the idea of making an audience uncomfortable.” Though the lyrics aren't always literal accounts of things that have happened, they draw on a tumultuous and occasionally tragic year: the rockiest stretch of Stevens' 14-year marriage; leaving a church he now finds morally objectionable; a workplace accident that broke his brother's back in five places. Luke Stevens, an occasional fill-in band member and producer for Goldfinch, fell off a roof on in May, but has made a partial recovery. “He still doesn't have proper use of his right hand or his right leg. But he can walk now, actually, without a cane,” Aaron Stevens said. “One of the songs on the record that we wrote together is called 'Long Road,'” he said. “Some of those lyrics, though not literal, are very tied into what he was going through with his accident and how it has transformed and changed his life.”
The latest incarnation of Goldfinch is also drummer Paul Hirschl, bassist Mikey Bergstrom, singer-cellist Emily Ann Peterson, pedal steel player Steve Norman and new guitarist Alex Hart. For the first time, the band doesn't include Steven's long-time collaborator and sister-in-law Grace Sullivan, who left the band to pursue her solo project called Apartment Lights. “It's gorgeous. It's beautiful,” Stevens said of Sullivan's new tunes. But, admittedly, their parting of ways was not amicable. “To lose her as a bandmate was really difficult,” he said. “It's still something that causes a bit of grief all the way around.” Stevens said his band was offering the new album for free download on Band Camp (find at at goldfinch.bandcamp.com) in part because so many people donated time and resources for free when his band couldn't otherwise afford to record, notably Tacoma producer Zach Varnell who led sessions at Kent's Castle Studios.
“Zach was absolutely brilliant,” Stevens said. “He played the house like it was an instrument. (He) put in fireplaces, put mics under the floor, put mics under the stairwell. It was pretty impressive to see him go to work on that. … He had as much to do with the way the record came together and sounded as we as the band did.” Seattle's Pollens and Portland's Drew Grow & the Pastors' Wives will make the trip down I-5 to fill out next week's bill. It's been a year and change since the latter released its last, self-titled debut album, a trippy, pastoral and vaguely gospel collection that helped earn a supporting tour slot last year with Wild Flag, Carrie Brownstein's newest band. For next week's set, band namesake Andrew Grow promised mostly new tunes that have “more backbeat and pulse … than what we've been doing before.” Grow added, “My influences over the last few years are much more in the vein of Tom Waits and Nick Cave and Patti Smith and that kind of thing, while at the same time I've really been listening a lot more to pop-punk and that kind of thing. So it's really a strange mashup. It has a lot of poppy elements, but hopefully a lot of soul as well.”
You'll find songs by Goldfinch and Drew Grow & the Pastors' Wives on the Weekly Mix Tape http://www.tacomaweekly.com/mixtape. And you can also listen to outtakes from our interviews with Drew Grow and Goldfinch's Aaron Stevens on our Daily Mashup blog http://www.tacomaweekly.com/dailymashup.