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By Chloe Roth

Most bands wouldn’t admit that they are in it for the swag: “I wanted some free jeans,” jokes Churches frontman Caleb Nichols, 29. Eternally sassy and sarcastic, Nichols has an ebullient personality that belies a tumultuous childhood; an on-again, off-again relationship with high school (he dropped out) and college (he repeatedly dropped out and re-enrolled); and his struggles with being gay in the conservative “bedroom community” of Los Osos, Calif.

“I don’t fly a rainbow flag,” says Nichols, referring to his place in the world—being neither straight nor culturally gay—as a “no-man’s land.” “I always felt outside of it, partially because I never made it to the big gay mecca.” While he doesn’t hide his sexuality, he never felt like he belonged—not just in the gay community and in his hometown, but also as an indie musician.

Which is why, over the last 10 years, Nichols has jumped around between cities, bands, and careers. It was in 2008, while selling the “come do some trust falls and everyone will be so happy” team-building experience at a summer camp in Big Bear that Nichols resolved to be a musician once and for all. (Looks like those trust falls work after all!)

After stints in local acts Grand Lake, Port O’Brien, Waters and Zach Rogue’s Release the Sunbird, Nichols finally recruited seasoned Rogue Wave members Dominic East (bass) and Patrick Spurgeon (drums) to bring his own vision to fruition. Produced by Van Pierszalowski (Waters, Port O’Brien); recorded by Ian Pellicci at Tiny Telephone, John Vanderslice’s iconic analog studio in the Mission; and mastered by Myles Boisen in Oakland, the debut Churches EP is a truly local project. Available for free (or donation-based) download at, much of the album deals with the issues of alienation and belonging. We caught up with Nichols to find out more.

What was it like growing up gay in Los Osos?
It leaned toward the conservative side, so while I was confronted with some people who were relatively open and supportive, many more were openly hostile. School was tough. I was subjected to my fair share of harsh bullying and name-calling. The word “fag” was used liberally.



This article was published:
Art & Design Issue - Released July 2012
Issue 11 / Version 2 | Buy print copy here
Issue 11
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