Candi Carpenter didn’t feel welcome growing up in the church. Though she got her musical start early as part of a family gospel group, The Carpenters—but not those Carpenters—the vetted artist found more sanctity in the music than the message.
“I knew I would never measure up to the standard of goodness and morality being drilled into my skull,” she says. She now understands the others in the pews were not meeting their mark either. “I lived with a feeling of guilt and dread lodged in the pit of my stomach and lay awake at night worrying about what was waiting for me on the other side. It’s taken me a lifetime to reprogram my mind knowing that I am not broken or bad.”
At 15, Carpenter was a high school dropout, living in the Shoney’s Inn Motel in Nashville with a “manager” her parents met at a bar. The situation, she explains, turned out “just about as well as you would think.” But she made her way as a teenager and even considered The Grand Ole Opry as her high school. She began touring with Jack Greene at 16, opening roadshows for Loretta Lynn, Porter Wagoner, and Little Jimmy Dickens—who then hired her as a housekeeper for a year.
“My career has had a lot of false starts,” she explains.”Because I grew up this way, I never had the chance to find myself as a teenager because I wasn’t around kids my age.” At 20, she fled her situation with her manager and found safety in a hiatus before signing with Sony at 25. Her first single was charting, then pulled. The what-if’s almost ruined Carpenter, and then she met an unlikely partner, British rocker, Josh Doyle. Together, bound by songwriting serendipity, they formed Church of Roswell—a real band but a fake cult.
Spurred by what she can only compare to a fever dream, Carpenter encountered an evangelist on her family’s tour as a child who claimed aliens had abducted him and sent him back to earth to tell everyone about it. He sold cassette tapes after the show, and her grandmother purchased one.
“She wouldn’t let me listen to it because she thought it was too scary,” says Carpenter. “And ever since I’ve just obsessed over that tape. I always wondered, what if he wasn’t crazy and it actually happened? It probably didn’t. But I love creating characters and worlds to get lost in, and thought presenting Josh and myself as traveling evangelists with a cable television show is the type of entertainment people needed right now.”
Neither of them intended to be in a band. But to their dismay enjoyed working together and freedom in writing and creating together instead of worrying about their individual careers. Together “Sister Candi” and “Brother Josh” wield dynamic lyricism, spell-binding harmonies, celestial soundscapes, alien conspiracies, and absurdist humor in hopes listeners everywhere might drink the Kool-aid.
Their current single, “Rocketeer,” was penned in 2017 during a management-organized co-write for Doyle’s solo project. It was the magic made on that work tape that confirmed their need to join forces. Carpenter describes the song as a “song thermos that keeps happy emotions happy and sad ones sad.” This single follows their 2020 entrance, “The Witcher,” and dives deeply into some conspiracy theories that were weighing heavily on the band’s minds as they recorded.
The rest of the track list is not intended to indoctrinate, yet they cover universal through lines that resonate almost religiously. “Werewolf” is about drinking too much and not recognizing yourself the morning after. More upbeat than it sounds, “Love is a Killer” details the anxiety of the person you love leaving the world before you do. “Canary” chronicles the enduring sting from a past heartbreak.
Their new EP features special guest musician Peter Levin and members of Jason Isbell’s acclaimed band, The 400 Unit: Derry deBorja, Chad Gamble, Jimbo Hart, and Sadler Vaden. Carpenter and Doyle admired producer Ryan Hewitt for his work on Stadium Arcadium to The Lumineers and The Avett Brothers. They believed he would be an aptly suited candidate to mix their upcoming EP, and it turns out their intuition was correct. With the help of their brilliant engineer, Joe Costa, Here Comes Church of Roswell escalated into fruition.
“We were the first band to use a brand new studio,” Carpenter explains. “And at one point after a large bang, smoke started rising out of the mixing board. He quite literally held our session together with toothpicks, duct tape, and some incredibly creative patch bay witchcraft.”
Carpenter and Doyle stress that Church of Roswell is not a real cult. Rather, as two people fascinated by the off-the-wall, the creative endeavor is more of a social commentary—a combination of existentialism and absurdism.
“Church of Roswell is a different kind of sanctuary, inclusive of everyone and free of obligation and fear,” says Carpenter. “The tenets are easy to follow: be kind. Love without kindness is hollow. This EP is a time capsule. Each track is a musical photograph of our blood, sweat, and fears, and the people we were when we wrote these songs.”
Listen to Here Comes Church of Roswell—Candi Carpenter and Josh Doyle’s new sonic creed as Church of Roswell, here.