Syncretism – 45 Years in the Making
Syncretism – the amalgamation or attempted amalgamation of different religions, cultures, or schools of thought.
Syncretism – two multi-instrumentalists who declare themselves “modern retro old school guitar rock neo-psychedelic pop classicists”.
Syncretism – The Church’s Peter Koppes, based these days on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, and one of his oldest friends, Sydneysider Dave Scotland.
Syncretism – the debut album, Lone Drifters?
Baby Grande, 1975
In the beginning…
Koppes and Scotland first worked together in Canberra back in 1975 in a band called Baby Grande, which also included a moody young singer named Steve Kilbey.
Koppes had been drumming in another band with Kilbey, a glam rock band called Precious Little, but in 1975, Koppes switched to guitar and the pair teamed up with guitarist Dave Scotland, bass player Joe Lee and drummer Ken Wylie.
Unlike a lot of other Canberra bands of the time, Baby Grande were determined to be as original as possible. As a consequence, gigs were few and far between. Yet, as Kilbey told me, “We got some demo time from EMI.”
There may or may not have been a deal pending with EMI, but in the event, nothing came of it. “No one ever liked us,” Kilbey suggests wryly, “and we didn’t even like ourselves.”
Koppes had quit the band before the demo sessions, and after Kilbey too had left, Scotland, Lee and Wylie regrouped as DJK, an acronym of their respective Christian names.
As such they independently released a limited edition single titled Venus Flytrap in August 1977 on their own Glo Audio label.
And Then Came The Church
In 1980, meanwhile, Koppes caught up with Kilbey in Sydney and, after initially deciding to manage the songwriter, was soon picking up his guitar to join him in a new venture – The Church.
Making their way to Sydney in 1983, Scotland and Lee put together a studio line-up to record an independent EP, before Scotland picked up a gig in a concept band called Skooldaze put together by a songwriter named Pat Drummond.
When that folded, he opted for the quiet life working at Turramurra Music, quietly honing his skills.
Over the next four decades, apart from a couple of periods when he recorded and performed as an artist in his own right, Peter Koppes carved an international reputation and profile as a singer, songwriter and multi-instrumental with The Church. But he never lost touch with his old friend Dave Scotland, and in 2018, Koppes started collaborating with Scotland in a bit of songwriting.
Inspired by Koppes’ story-teller lyrics, Scotland began to record vocal parts in his Sydney home studio. Between them they could play more than enough instruments to create the right musical context for the songs, while between they could also program, arrange, engineer and produce the resulting songs.
Before they knew it, they had an album’s worth of songs. So, very much a collaborative effort with Scotland the designated lead singer, dubbing themselves Syncretism, they’ve set up a website, as you do, released several songs as digital singles accompanied by film clips, and have now released their debut album, Lone Drifters? on their own Syncretis Music label.
The beginning revisited…
As for Baby Grande, in October 2018, HoZac Archival Records released Baby Grande 1975-77, featuring a dozen studio recordings the band had made that most had previously thought lost.
As the label describes them, Baby Grande were “one of the very few Aussie bands to successfully bridge the gap between glam rock and the quickly emerging snarl of first wave punk.” That’s probably overstating things, but you get the idea.
One of those song, Zephyr, was included on a 60-song 3CD anthology released in January 2019 by RPM Records titled All The Young Droogs, subtitled 60 Juvenile Delinquent Wrecks, ostensibly a Nuggets-style compilation of tracks by bands considered ‘‘70s glitter” by the compilers. Here endeth the history lesson!
Story: Michael Smith.
Michael Smith is the former Associate and Contributing editor at The Drum Media and The Music, freelance music journalist for RAM, Juke, On The Street, JAMM, Sonics and way more, freelance book reviewer for Overland, Island and Quadrant, author of What’s Been Did (And What’s Been Hid): A Narrative History of Australian Pop and Rock, two volumes completed to date, Volume I covering the artists and acts that emerged between 1955 and 1963, Volume II those between 1964 and 1969. Bass player with Mushroom signing Scandal 1976-78, and legendary instrumental surf guitar band The Atlantics 2006-12.