By Jeremy Hallock
By James Khubiar
By Observer Staff
By Kelly Dearmore
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
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Over the phone, Josh Jones doesn't whisper and then suddenly break into fits of maniacal laughter like he does on Evangelicals' first two gloom-pop albums.
It's a bit surprising.
After penning the songs on The Evening Descends, a cinematic album bursting with skeleton men, bizarre religious visions, ghosts, bats, a mental institution and Francis E. Dec, one pictures Evangelicals' frontman all wide-eyed and huddled in a dark corner of a dank, cobwebbed asylum scratching out lyrics on the walls. But when Jones answers the phone for an interview, he's standing on a sunlit front porch, drinking a cup of coffee.
A far cry from the images of his songs—but that's the point.
"I'm a big fan of movies and escapism," he says. "I try to create an alternate reality in the songs. I'm a fan of the aesthetic of kitschy, old horror films. I'm not like an expert on them or anything, but why let the goth bands have all the fun with that stuff?"
Actually, when a band emerges from Norman, Oklahoma, in the middle of the Bible Belt, calling itself Evangelicals, you figure it is a thrash-metal goth band flipping the bird at the religious right. That or an outfit of holy rollers hell-bent on saving your soul. But despite the numerous articles and reviews that play up the irony of the band's name, Jones says that it wasn't meant as a poke in the eyes of evangelicals.
"People always want to know where the name comes from, like it's supposed to be ironic or something," he says. "But it was never my intention to be like, 'Hey, we'll call ourselves Evangelicals as a big "fuck you" to evangelicals!' or 'We'll be funny and ironic by calling ourselves this.' It was a band name that hadn't been taken, and I liked the way it sounded...[which is] very important when coming up with a band name."
Turns out, though, that Evangelicals could just as easily have been called Only the Only—or one of the other "influences" the band lists on their MySpace page, all of which were made up by Jones. There's: Alabaster Baboons, Olive Loafe, Knives Bleed Like Blood Through Water, The Fantastic Tans and The Daryl Strawberries.
"Knives Bleed Like Blood Through Water," Jones recalls fondly, "that was a goof on some of those grindcore emo band names, and if I had an emo band that's what I would call it."
In 2005, though, Jones finally settled on a far different sound. And, in an effort to recruit other band members to his new vision, he started recording songs by himself using a four-track and an old computer. Like a fanatic proselytizer trying to win converts, he passed the tracks out at concerts and around town. Eventually, Jones nabbed drummer Austin Stephens from the graveyard shift at a local convenience store. A MySpace invite enticed synth-man and bassist Kyle Davis into joining.
After signing to Misra, the band released its hyperactive debut So Gone on June 6, 2006, to mostly positive reviews. Its 2008 follow-up, The Evening Descends, is equally as impressive, sounding like what you'd get if The Shins met up with Danny Elfman and went for a stroll in a dark wood with David Lynch. Again: It's a far cry from Jones sipping coffee on his sun-filled porch at home. But Jones likes that distinction—and he gets especially excited when told that his upcoming Dallas gig falls on a Friday the 13th.
"Oh really?" he asks. "I didn't know..."
Then he laughs—a little maniacally, too, almost like he does on his band's records.
"Well, there you go," he says. "That kinda fits."