Steve Kilbey. The Bang Tidy Mad Uncle of Psychedelic Rock

Steve Kilbey : The Church for The National Treasures Series. Photographer Toby Burrows. Zoë Porter

For 35 years, Steve Kilbey has been the mighty frontman and gloriously outspoken spokesperson for beloved Australian band The Church.

Kilbey has been enjoying a hectic global schedule for a while now, which he is taking in his stride, riding high on this current wave of respected notoriety and well-earned celebration that has appropriately followed years of endurance and tenacity in the fickle world of rock and roll.

Steve Kilbey. The Church for The National Treasures Series : Zoë Porter

2014 saw Kilbey publish his memoirs in his lucidly candid autobiography ‘Something Quite Peculiar.’ Undoubtedly cathartic to pen, he eloquently depicts a dusty and humble childhood in Canberra after his family’s arrival from the outer suburbs of London in the 1970s right through to the mind-blowing and seductive world of fame and all the hot mess and heart-break that predictably ensued.

It’s quite an insight into a whole other life for those who choose the road more travelled and, in true Kilbey style, it is completely void of bull. From global applaud, international radio play and the heady heights and grubby lows of drug immersion to the desperate ball grabbing by hysterical teenage girls side of stage, it makes for an intriguing read.

Luckily his tackle somehow survived the combat and proceeded to take 50% of the credit for the birth of 5 beautiful daughters. Two of which have exploded on the european music scene in the last few years as the very pretty and musically gifted duo Say Lou Lou.

Kilbey’s girls. Dreamy music duo and models Miranda and Electra Kilbey – Say Lou Lou for Vogue UK

Of course, it very easily could have all ended in tears for those he holds dear, stood by an early grave and lost for words but he thankfully dragged his sorry arse out of the gutter, relaunched his life and dealt with a few demons.

When all is said and done I think that it’s fair to say that Steve Kilbey won’t die wondering.

Steve Kilbey. The Church

Further Deeper

2014 saw the exit of long-serving band member Marty Wilson-Piper and the swift and seamless integration into The Church clan for guitarist Ian Haug (formerly of another great Australian band Powderfinger). In October of the same year the band’s 25th studio album Further Deeper was released.

According to Kilbey, Haug has in some ways ‘rejuvenated’ the band and so far, this new set up has worked out rather well. “Almost like it was meant to be” Kilbey states with a hint of relief in his voice.

Further Deeper is a hypnotic and intoxicating album with true to form psychedelic depths, wave-like melodies and harmonious guitar inter-plays. I’m not knowledgable in regard to The Church’s vast back catalogue but, in my humble opinion, this album flowed delightfully. A music journalist I am not and for reasons stated in the paragraph below this is one time where I wouldn’t dare try to be either. So, I hereby, quite simply state that Further Deeper sounded wonderfully great, played deliciously loud through my wicked new speakers last night.

 The Wrath.

The Church aside, Steve Kilbey has a fan base that is loyal. To the death. They live to love him and they fearlessly slay anyone who dares sling mud or is slack in the fact-checking department as I discovered reading through countless reviews as well as enduring a little light battering myself after my first interview with Kilbey in 2011. Good job I’m long in the tooth and sufficiently jaded by life not to personally take it on board. Do your research and play nice or you could find yourself bitten, burnt and spat out. Make no mistake.

Steve Kilbey. The Church

Musicians and Artists

His passion for supporting Australian music is evident, not just in his (now notorious) Aria Hall of Fame speech in which he whole heartedly celebrated Australian bands and artists with gusto, humour and respectful adoration but also in my time with him.

“There’s so much to like here… Tame Impala, The Loved Ones, I could go on all day and Underground Lovers have been good forever.”

I tell him that earlier that day I’d seen Tim Derricot from Dappled Cities play an impressive acoustic set at a private party. “Dappled Cities, they are great, really great. He enthuses “I thought they deserved to be massive actually. What’s happening with them? Why aren’t they huge?”

When I ask what was the most memorable gig that he’d ever been to, without hesitation he replied “The Easy Beats in 1966 in Canberra.”

Eccentricities and Humour

A self-professed eccentric, Kilbey is now of an age and a mind-set where he pays no mind. Ever. He doesn’t strike me as a man who ever paid much mind but, on occasion, it seems he has, “Yes I do have regrets, I think that a lot of people do, they just don’t admit it. I have, without doubt, been an idiot at times.”
Gifted with the nickname ‘mad uncle’ by a music journalist following his remarkable and impromptu acceptance speech when he and fellow band members took their rightful place on stage at the Aria Hall of Fame Awards in 2010, the phrase was welcomed by Kilbey and he wasn’t remotely offended. “I’m totally cool with it” he says with a big grin.
Steve Kilbey. The Church

He is a complex character, with many facets to his personality, swinging between joviality to solemn thoughtfulness in an instant. On one hand, he talks in simple terms without added zest for dramatic zeal. He’s unequivocally honest and he takes no prisoners. The next moment I feel like I’m being hypnotised by some kind of 21st-century lyrical wizard as he poetically charges every sentence with intriguing words that I’ve never heard of before. Something about religion? spirituality maybe? I don’t know what Arcane wisdom is but I’m pretty sure that I don’t have it and besides, he lost me at Ephemeron…

That said, and just to add an earthy dash of balance, Kilbey’s humour swirls with undercurrents of London dryness, cutting whips of sarcasm and self-deprecating wit. Although he lost his father at the age of 14, it’s clear that he’s proudly carried his dad’s cultural heritage and spirit around with him ever since.

“My dad was an amazing, diamond geezer. He could play piano and drums and he could paint and fix things, yet he was a very solid kind of father. I stole lots of his ideas, sayings and jokes.”

Breaking Waves

Spiritually he embodies an eclectic mix of beliefs, hand-picked and made to measure in his mind and his life. Yoga also plays a part but nothing floats his boat like the beach and the sea.

“I can’t live without them. I’ve got to get in salt water every day in Sydney when I’m home. Even in winter, especially in winter. The endorphin rush from the cold sea water is addictive”.

Clearly, none of the above are doing him any harm. The absence of hard drugs and the refusal to eat anything that once had a heartbeat have surely attributed to his physical form. Statuesque, lean, clear skinned with crystal blue eyes and a golden winter tan. Not bad for a man of 60.

Steve Kilbey. The Church

Steve Kilbey

Heritage and family

I was born in England but don’t feel English. I was raised in Australia but I don’t feel Australian.

I’m kind of mixed up about what I am supposed to be, so really I have no true allegiance to either place and I’ve tried to pick the best bits from the 2 things.. thereby having cake and eating it too.

My mother spent her childhood dodging bombs. She is a tough, no-nonsense type of Englishwoman and she never molly-coddled me.

My brothers are more Australian than me having been born here. They both pursue arty and creative careers.


I am an ok dad with all the usual dad problems I guess. My 5 kids are all pretty nice. It’s not hard to love them all.  They are all pretty wonderful.


1967 The Seventh Seal. Ingmar Bergman. Watched on a little tv in my bedroom. It blew my tiny 12-year-old mind.

The perfect holiday

Sweden in summer, in a cottage, on an island, with no electricity.

In your next life you’ll……..

Remember some of the silly things I did in this one.

What you would change in Australia

Have one bloody guess. Give you a clue…he’s got big ears.

Early introductions to music

It all started at age 4 with Frank Sinatra’s ‘Only the lonely’, A melancholic gem from the fifties featuring some incredible songs and arrangements.

Steve Kilbey. The Church

Superstitions and character traits

13 is my lucky number. I like black cats. I am a flaky fraudulent and financially inept.

Long haul flights

Valium and good movies.

The worst question ever asked in an interview

Why don’t you ever smile?

The best question ever asked in an interview

What’s the last thing you want to think about on stage?

The worst gig you ever played

Too many to pick.

The best gig you ever played

The Sydney Opera House with an orchestra.

The best album ever bought

Ziggy Stardust. Life was different for everybody after that.

Your most recent significant dream

I was trying to get something done that I could never get done.


Trees and rivers and angry snakes.

Your profession in the next life

A professor in ancient languages.

Most listened to track ever

Get it on by T Rex.

The best song you ever wrote

Oh …everything..!

Your tips on life

Don’t work with children or animals.


 The Church
Aria’s Hall of Fame Acceptance Speech
Toby Burrows for The National Treasures Series
Photographic Assistant – Jeremy Shaw
Many thanks to M.J Bale, Andrew McDonald ShoeMaker and Strand Hatters
Wardrobe Assistant – Milla Jeffryes

Hound – Bebek


  1. read this late last night – bravo. king of understated c-c-cool. I’m even more intrigued by him. images are bang on – still feel like there’s so much more lurking in the shadows out of the spotlight.

    Dimity Noble m. 0414 335 603



  2. Yet again, I was glued to every word… Entertaining and enlightening as always. What a national treasure he is. Like all other fans, I’ll be loyal to the end.


  3. Me too!!!But there is no end!!!Yes, he is!!!And very special, he did a lot. And he´s still alive after all. That means so much to me.


  4. Steve Kilbey is a visionary lyricist, diverse vocalist, stellar bass player, informative blogger, talented painter, compassionate vegetarian, exercise phenom and a mind of the highest order.


    1. I need to be more precise on a few matters. Steve Kilbey is an illumating blog writer and he’s been a numane vegetarian for 43 years (Longer than Paul McCartney and Morrissey). His side projects Kilbey and Kennedy and Isidore are incredible. SK is boundlessly talented. Thank you for the awesome interview and article. God bless you !


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