There’s a long and storied history of musicians who got their start in the church. From Johann Sebastian Bach to Aretha Franklin and Al Green, the confluence of spirituality and song has set many an artist on their creative path. There’s a recent addition to that estimable list: local art-rockers Telethon.
“There was this thing called the Church of Light, Sound and Touching that we did in somebody’s house,” says Telethon founder Matt Kamm. “I would call it a psychedelic church. It was kind of an outcast church where we would do dunkings rather than baptisms, and there was this light bowl – a huge bowl, maybe two feet wide and a foot deep that had this light coming up from underneath it – and we’d all wear robes and get dunked in the light bowl. There’d be a blunt, and activities like going through a giant set of sheets that they had sewn together to be a tunnel. So I met Justin [Luper, keyboardist] there outside while we were playing hacky sack.”
Kamm had been releasing – often at a breakneck pace – home recordings under an array of noms de guerre before that, and he was known around Orlando for his work in the Heathens and Dodger. But it was after meeting Luper that the idea of Telethon as an ongoing and concrete musical project solidified. Kamm had been “dicking around” with old friend Zac Jaggers providing bass-playing assistance, but mostly all of his Telethon-related projects were basically Kamm on his own.
“I was doing it by myself for quite a while,” Kamm says. “I was just recording albums and not really intending to do anything with it. That’s just what I do naturally. I just need to get it out and listen back to it and feel like I’m achieving something.
“I recorded a lot of demos, and they were fun and easy, but within an 11-hour period I was really stoned and figured, ‘I can finish a full album and release it.’ So I posted a Myspace comment that said something like, ‘My new album will be finished by tomorrow and available for free download at 10 p.m.’ But after I did that, I just kept making these albums with titles and names that were a little funnier or a little different than the one before.”
Now, with Luper, Jaggers, and drummer Ryan McTighe onboard, Telethon have moved past the banged-out-in-24-hours releases and the multiple-permutations-of-a-band-name phase of the early days, and are evolving into an actual band.
Of course, there’s music to be heard (a new seven-inch, People Eat Humans or Humans, the Human Animal is out now) and costume-draped, fantasmagorical live shows to be seen (the band just completed a national tour), but the “new” Telethon are a considerably more focused beast.
However, you would be a fool to mistake “focused” for “ordinary,” as Kamm and Telethon still seem hell-bent on providing the most brain-scrapingly weird perspectives on indie-pop this town has seen.
“It’s becoming such a connected thing. It’s really coming together as a collaborative effort,” Kamm says.
“But it’s still Telethon. It hasn’t gotten normal or anything.”
First appeared Sept. 30, 2010 in Orlando Weekly.