Things were rolling along nicely for Corner Gospel Explosion. The Bend-based quartet formed in 2015 and quickly gained a following. Later that year, they were named Central Oregon’s best band by the local alt-weekly. In early 2016, they released their first album, Tension. And then everything ground to a halt in June 2016, when the band’s keyboard player, Chase Mickel, died in a one-car accident near La Pine. “We decided to retire all of our previous material,” said Bradley Parsons, Corner Gospel Explosion’s drumming frontman. “It felt too heavy to continue as the band we once were.”
But Mickel’s spirit still guides the band, now pared down to a duo—Parsons, who plays synths in addition to drumming and singing, plus his younger brother Tyler, who plays bass. Corner Gospel Explosion’s new concept album, It’s Hard to Be a Kid, is a candid examination of faith, fear, power, control and fragility. “One thing Chase was good at was being honest. He lived without any preconceived notions,” Parsons said. “So in his spirit, I realized that I needed to be honest and share the story of my and Tyler’s childhood. The album is all about reliving those experiences through our eyes as children.”
The Parsons grew up in what they call “a hyper-spiritual Pentecostal church,” and that upbringing informs both their current view of religion (“the more I grow up,” Tyler said, “the more odd it all seems”) and their art. On, It’s Hard to Be a Kid, spiritual and earthly bewilderment is a constant thread running through the band’s dense fusion of danceable rhythms, buzzy rock ’n’ roll and effervescent synths. They sound like a rootsier version of the Killers, if they’d come up in the Bible Belt instead of Las Vegas. A concept record of synth-rock songs about religion isn’t exactly a safe play, and that’s the goal. “I personally feel driven to take bigger risks in life seeing how fragile it all can be,” Tyler Parsons said. “As for the band, I think we wanted to re-approach writing music in a more personal way. This is us taking that step.”
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*A winner has been selected for this category* Congratulations to Ashley J. in Bend!