By Paul Rodgers
CALGARY – This isn’t the first time we’ve written about Calgary’s illusive duo Chuurch, comprised of Jeff Wilson (a.k.a EviCtion) and Justin MacLean (a.k.a Makemdef). In fact it’s not the first time we’ve found ourselves sitting on a couch together either.
When whispers of their name first emerged on the scene early in 2016, it caught the attention of many. Their debut performance at the Sled Island Block Party saw the mysterious duo materialize out of a murky cloud of intrigue, establishing themselves as forerunners in the scene.
The two officially met outside Habitat Living Sound in 2014. MacLean recognized Wilson’s university ring for St. Francis Xavier; it was from his hometown school in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. They began talking, realizing they shared a mutual friend and mentor who pushed them to pursue music seriously. They actually had unknowingly both attended his wake, but it wasn’t until that chance meeting outside a club in downtown Calgary that they connected, and thus began making music. Thus far, it’s been an ambiguous, creative, and highly danceable mix of electronica, house, and hip-hop that’s dark, sexual, and heavy.
“It was fate, it was crazy.”
Fast-forward from their chance meeting to November 18. They’ve converged: MacLean brings his prolific hip-hop background to the equation; Wilson brings his university-jazz-guitar-schooling-turned-DJ background. The result was an unstoppable flow of original material.
“We had so much ammunition,” says Wilson. “When the styles got cohesive like that, then there was like a whole career’s lifetime worth of two people coming together and that’s a huge power. There was so much to work with at the time and that’s why we have so much music right now.”
“It’s a ying and yang,” adds MacLean, “ … he’s a listener and I’m a doer.”
Around that time, dubstep turned techno artist Skream came to Calgary to play a five-hour set. Wilson brought the DJ back to his house after the show to hang out.
“So we had five or six people back and we had one person that was very, very, very important,” says Wilson. This was also the first time this writer met Chuurch; way too late at night on a couch with Skream. The next time was seeing their explosive debut set at Sled Island’s block party last summer.
Eventually, Skream asked Wilson to put on music. Wilson obliged, opportunistically vouching to play Chuurch material for someone he admired. It was kismet: Skream dug it.
“I challenged him to e-mail people, and he e-mailed [British producer] Switch, and that was the turning point for not just me quitting my job, but Justin quitting his job. And that’s what led us a year later to get down to L.A.”
The duo had not previously been able to disclose the fact that it was this encounter that led them to Los Angeles. The relationship formed with the legendary producer whose clients include M.I.A. Christina Aguilera, and Major Lazer opened serious doors.
“He’s the legend, he’s the OG, he’s a huge supporter of us, he’s our big homie … being around that guy is honestly like hanging around Jay Z,” reminisces MacLean.
After an initial five-day excursion to meet Switch and show him they were real, Chuurch received some financial backing from friends. They returned for a three month trip which turned into a tumultuous but productive two months.
“We went there man on a dollar and a dream,” muses MacLean.
“You had a dollar?” Wilson retorts.
The music created during that period is to be announced; in the meantime, upcoming live performances are abundant.
“We had a vision and the cards fell into place. What we did in five days there equalled out to what we could accomplish in five months here. Making music down there was awesome, the thing is, every time we were making something really dope, I would get the familiar feeling of us just being at home.”
The duo retell the harrowing experience of their last night in L.A. They were sleeping out of the studio, as they had nowhere else to stay, and had to take public transit from Van Eyes to play a gig at the Globe Theatre with their computer (which showed up cracked and damaged when it first showed up in the mail in L.A.) along with all their gear in tow in a raggedy box.
“It couldn’t get any harder, not necessarily the worst day of my life but our most difficult day of Chuurch was [that night]. But we made it work; we did a show, we killed it, we had people come out for our show, we partied the whole time and then we went on the plane and came home. That was the hardest and best day in LA. It was feast and famine.”
“There were a lot of times that I wanted to give up and go home, cause it was just getting so overwhelmingly hard, but then homie would keep me grounded,” says MacLean, adding with a nod and a clink of the glass towards Wilson, “respect, G.”
Like with all other challenges they have faced together, they made it work and turned that struggle into something positive. They returned to Calgary enriched, having sparked the interest of a larger international community. Despite finding something special in L.A., the duo gives serious credit and respect to the groundwork laid Smalltown DJs, the Hifi Club staff, and people at PK Sound that helped Chuurch get established.
Keep watch on what these black-clad, lean bass hustlers will churn out next, it’s guaranteed to be something big.
Chuurch perform on April 20th at the Commonwealth Bar in Calgary with Amine Edge and Dance.Amine Edge and Dance, Chuurch, Commonwealth