Back in September, Colin Frangicetto of Circa Survive took the time to sit down and answer a few of my questions about their new album Violent Waves via email. I was thrilled with his responses but it gave me a powerful hankering to fire off more questions at the uber-talented and outspoken five-piece. As luck would have it, bassist Nick Beard and drummer Steve Clifford were available for a quick chat before their show at the Royal Oak Music Theatre on March 12th, so I got my wish. We talked about the Waves Overhead tour, the evolution of the post-hardcore scene, and more. Check it out.
TIS: You guys have just finished your headlining tour and have now jumped into this co-header. Have there been any noticeable differences between the two? How have the fans responded?
Nick: It’s been pretty similar. I mean, the shows have been really good.
Steve: Yeah, it’s a co-headliner with Minus the Bear, so I feel like we are playing to more new people than I was expecting. But we’re still co-headlining, so the kids go pretty crazy. And there’s a few places we’re going that we’ve never even played before, so it’s pretty cool to be playing for kids for the first time and still have some people that have been fans of the band for a long time.
TIS: It’s not like you guys are worlds apart, musically speaking, but you have come from very different places, so I guess there would be a lot of people out there that haven’t seen you yet.
Steve: Yeah, I feel like a lot of people are fans of both bands, but then there is still a bunch that aren’t, so it’s pretty cool.
TIS: You have been jumbling up your set lists a lot over the past two tours, jumping all over your discography. Do you find that your early songs have different energies than your newer ones?
Steve: Sometimes I don’t even remember…well, I remember what albums the songs are off of, but I don’t really think about that ever. So…no.
Nick: I feel like every album has the different spectrums in them, you know what I mean? Like, I don’t feel like the albums – between each other – have crazy different feels. Maybe slightly, here and there, but when we’re playing them live it just feels like, “Oh, this is a really heavy song” or “this is a lighter song.”
Steve: And we’ll change up the songs a little bit, and we’ll have two songs flow into each other and do a little jam here and there, so it still feels fresh to play old songs. It doesn’t really feel any different to me.
TIS: Seeing as you are able to jump around with these songs so much now, are you finding that you can jam more? Is that something you’re doing more on the fly, or is it stuff that you have worked on in the past?
Nick: We never really jam on the fly. Well, not completely on the fly anyway.
Steve: Yeah, it’ll be more like Brendan has a guitar change, so Nick will play a few bass notes that will lead into the next song.
Nick: We have jammy things that either start songs or end songs. They either will work into certain songs or they won’t, and we have to look through the set list and figure out which ones, key-wise, would be kind of strange. And sometimes we screw that up and it gets really weird.
Steve: Yeah, because if you have a key in your head from one song, and then you jump into another and it’s just bass notes, it sounds like the chord that’s going to come in is going to be in that other key because you’re just on the bass line, and then it comes in and it’s like, “What was that chord?”
Nick: It’s interesting sometimes.
TIS: Recently, I’ve been watching the Sound of Animals Fighting DVD a lot and it always strikes me as amazing that they were able to join music, dance, visual art, and film all into one show. I imagine it was incredibly expensive and very difficult to organize that kind of thing, but if you had unlimited resources, is there anything you would change about or add to your stage performance?
Nick: If we had unlimited resources, we would have insane shit. We would have so many fucking lasers on stage.
Steve: I want to get this shark tank that has a riser, but you can’t tell that the area where the drums are has air in it, and it would have bubbles that look like they’re coming out of my mouth.
Nick: So it looks like you’re dipping into the shark tank! And there would be live sharks in the tank!
Steve: Yeah, and the sharks would swim around me. We could churn the waters too.
TIS: It’s incredible how much you have thought this through.
Nick: We really have talked about a lot of ideas that, well, most of them are jokes because…well…
TIS: Well, shark tanks are expensive to move.
Nick: Yeah, I mean, either they’re literally impossible to do, or you couldn’t do them unless you were playing arenas. But if we had unlimited resources, we would do crazy stuff.
Steve: We would do insane things.
TIS: You have toured with and collaborated with many of the most influential bands in the post-hardcore scene. In the past few years we have seen the ends of many of those bands, perhaps most notably The Receiving End of Sirens in 2008, Thrice in 2012, and Thursday shortly after. How do you feel about where that scene has gone? Do you think it’s dying, or was that more of a passing of the torch to bands like O’Brother?
Steve: That’s tough. I mean, I don’t think it’s gone, I think they’re just all different cases. All three of those bands broke up for completely different reasons, and I mean, all of the guys from TREOS are still doing things – The Dear Hunter has been going on longer than TREOS ever did and they are really successful. And Thrice and Thursday had been bands for so long, and they broke up for really different reasons. But I’m sure we will see those guys do other things. Geoff is already touring all the time, and I’m sure he will put out a record soon.
TIS: I just remember in that week, when Thrice announced it on their website and then Thursday did days later, and it was like the world was falling apart. I had a text message on my phone from a friend that said, “Have you seen Jesse Lacey? Is he still doing things?”And I immediately went to your website to see if you guys were still around.
TIS: It was just a really weird feeling.
Nick: I think it was just a weird coincidence that those two bands went at the same time, because they had so much of the same stuff happening at the same times in their careers. It was almost fitting that they went at the same time.
TIS: Yeah, it really felt like an end of an era.
Steve: Yeah, they had a lot of the same stuff happen. They co-headlined together, they signed to majors at the same time.
Nick: The same major too.
Steve: Yeah, and then they both left the major at the same time too, didn’t they? And they stayed for the same amount of albums. But yeah, I’m sure those guys are going to do other things soon. And really, that’s a pretty long time to be a band.
TIS: On a related note, you have all spoken at one time or another about the benefits and drawbacks of downloading music. In fact, I was particularly moved by an interview that Colin did with Under the Gun, in which he said that music is now being viewed as a disposable good. Do you think that the kids being raised in this downloading culture are hurting the potential efforts of new Thrices, Thursdays, and yous, that think outside the box and will always hover on the outskirts of the mainstream market?
Steve: It’s really tough, and I go back and forth about it all the time. There’s just so much more music now, and it’s so easy to find everything. So in that regard it’s a good thing. I mean, I don’t really buy much music any more, because I’ve moved several times and I just hate CDs.
Nick: And everything’s on Spotify, pretty much.
Steve: Yeah, and it really sucks that downloading got so bad that companies like Spotify were able to come in and basically make it legal to not pay bands anything for their music, but I still do it, and I’m not going to tell anyone else not to. I would just say that if you really like a band, you should try and support them. I don’t know, it’s good and it’s bad.
Nick: The thing is, that really any band can get their shit out now. I mean really, anyone can do it. It’s just that there’s so much luck involved with the right people hearing it and it becoming something that people are sharing, and sharing, and sharing until it blows you up. But at least that’s a thing you can do now. I mean, in the past you literally had to get with a big label to get on the radio, and that was the only way you were going to get your shit spread globally. And now, anyone can do it, as long as you have the Internet. But the odds are bad, you know? But they were bad before, so it’s just a double-edged thing. There’s no right answer, I don’t think. It’s just different.
Steve: Even when a member leaves a band, they will try out kids on YouTube and stuff, and it’s crazy that it’s like that now. But if there’s some kid who’s really fucking good that is willing to make a YouTube video to try out for something, you know… I guess it’s just going to make everyone better.
Nick: I actually look forward to a day when it’s just that, when there is no big label that pushes you forward any more, you just have to put it out there yourself. And if it’s good, it still doesn’t guarantee anything’s going to happen, but it’s up to the world, it’s up to the people. Because at that point, if it ever does happen, the only shit that will be really big is going to be good. Because there won’t be any fake, big money things being pushed.
Steve: Or it’s just going to end up being ‘Gangnam Style.’ I mean, that’s what it is now.
Nick: That’s true. Never mind, I correct myself, because that does happen too. If there’s a gimmick to it, it can get big also.
Steve: Yeah, but I’d rather something funny off YouTube be big than some asshole that takes himself seriously and really fucking sucks.
TIS: And lastly, you have never shied away from stripped down and acoustic performances of your material, including songs that are nuanced and technical on the albums. Is it tough to re-imagine your songs like that? Or were some of the more aggressive songs originally acoustic? How does that transition work?
Nick: Ummm I guess a couple of songs started with just chords…but when the new album was getting mixed, I would just sit down and, well, I know my bass notes, and those aren’t always necessarily the roots, but it’s really easy to just stick with majors and minors and figure out a good arrangement that makes sense for the song. And they always sound good (laughs), it’s crazy. Sometimes when I figure it out, I’m like, “Oh this is what we were doing? Wow, this is really cool.” Because when we write our songs, we aren’t really thinking about the arrangement, we’re just molding things until it is what it is, but when you break it down, some of the songs have really sweet chord arrangements.
TIS: Yeah, it’s amazing. So many of the guitar parts are broken apart and syncopated and things, so it always sounds weird to hear them acoustic, but it sounds just as good, just very different.
Nick: Yeah, it’s awesome.
And with that, the boys went on to play one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. They were incredibly nice guys and I can’t thank them enough for taking time out of a frighteningly hectic schedule to talk to me. If you somehow haven’t checked out Violent Waves yet, give yourself a stern slap on the wrist and do it now. It’s every bit as awesome as a Circa Survive album should be.
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