Circa Survive’s Anthony Green talks musical departure of new EP ‘A Dream About Love’
Circa Survive are back with their first new music in four years, the A Dream About Love EP, out today on Rise Records (order yours). As Anthony Green himself says, their last album (2017's The Amulet) was cut from a similar cloth as the progressive post-hardcore classics that Circa put out in the 2000s, but A Dream About Love is one of the band's most drastic departures yet. It's a more chill, atmospheric, electronic release that Anthony says was inspired by the intimate VIP sets they did on their last tour where they reworked older material in a more stripped-back format. It was also born partially out of necessity, as the band could more easily demo material in this vein while on tour, but ultimately, this is just the music that the band is most interested in making right now. It's also, according to Anthony, some of the most emotionally heavy music that Circa Survive have written yet.
It was produced by past collaborator Will Yip, who helped the band achieve a rich sound that really lets these airier arrangements shine, and you can feel how inspired the band sounds with this new material. And though it's an EP, it's not a collection of leftover tracks or alternate takes like past EPs had been. This one has the same level of intention as Circa Survive's full-length albums. It feels like a fresh start, which doesn't always happen for a band over 15 years into their career, and though it marks a clear departure from their past material, it also still sounds distinctly like Circa Survive. It's what you hope to see from a veteran band; they're still taking risks, and simultaneously still staying true to theirselves.
Circa Survive play Chain Fest in California this Saturday (10/23), Every Time I Die's 'Tid the Season holiday shows in Buffalo in December, and in 2022 they'll do a belated 10th anniversary tour for 2010's Blue Sky Noise with support from Tigers Jaw and Soul Glo (including NYC's Brooklyn Steel on 2/27).
I caught up with Anthony Green to discuss the new EP, as well as the Blue Sky Noise tour, and you can read on for our chat and stream the EP via YouTube playlist below...
The new EP sounds like Circa Survive, but I also think it sounds like one of the clearest departures the band has made in a while; it's some of the most chilled-out, atmospheric music you've released yet. What was pushing the band in this direction?
I think there were a couple things. I think that 1) we were all sort of acknowledging that we wanted to try something different with the band, and we also had started doing a stripped-down set for a VIP show that we would do before our show every night where we'd play songs for an intimate group of people. We started doing this thing where it was still an electric set, with electronic drums, and everything was held back and chilled out a little bit more, in a way where I wasn't having to sing over super loud shit all the time. And it gave everything a different texture, having the synths and stuff involved, and we just sort of started playing around with the idea of writing new stuff in that way. At the time, it seemed like it was an easy way to record. We could have a recording session in the back of a bus with an electronic drum kit as opposed to a huge drum kit and have some synths as opposed to having a bunch of amps.
So did this idea start before the pandemic?
Yeah I would say it started on the last album cycle, where we had some demos and as we were building them, I think we went more towards songs that sounded like older songs, and abandoned the ones that were more of a departure. On the last writing cycle, I feel like we got really close to some of this shit, and I don't know if we had the confidence in ourselves to be able to do what we wanted. And it really came down to: the people who keep the band going and support the band have made it abundantly clear over the years that stuff that we like as a group collectively and that we enjoy playing -- they'll recognize that one way or the other, and it reflects in what people want to hear, and it sort of makes this circular thing happen between us and them. I think we wanted to be a little bit more daring and try to just make stuff that we all really like, and we didn't really think about whether or not it fit with our catalog. We wanted to all be as hyped to play it as we were to listen to our new favorite band. We took this mindset of, if anybody had any beef with something, or if somebody was like "yeah I'm just not feeling this," we cut it. We only ended up working with songs that everybody in the band was so excited about, and I think that required a lot of rigorous honesty, and a lot of decluttering. It was a cool experiment. I don't know if I'll ever agree to do it again [laughs].
Do you feel a little rejuvenated by the process, compared to the last album where you said you were almost intentionally doing music that sounded like older Circa Survive? Does this kind of feel like that excitement you had as a young band back in the day?
I don't know if even back in the day I had the capacity to feel as excited as I do now, because the excitement is sort of forged with this promise that we make with this group of people who help support us to make sure that our passion is at an all time high -- for creating, for performing. When you're creating and building from a place like that, where you can really let yourself go and be a little self-indulgent in that way, when people want that from you, it's very freeing. And I think you can hear that. More than the textural differences or anything, I think you can hear us getting the go-ahead from everybody who's supported the band to just do whatever the fuck we're feeling the most at the moment. There's these weird times -- sometimes the crowds at our shows just feel like they wanna yell shit out, and more than anything, when people start just yelling songs out, I hear people yelling back, like this weird conversation that the single entity of the crowd is having, where they'll be like, "Hey, like play whatever you want." And there will always be a group that'll just be like, "Yo, just be inspired in the moment, I don't give a fuck what you play, like I'm not here in any conditional way, or to hear my favorite song, or for you to pay me back on some nostalgic feeling I got, I'm here to experience the same kind of shit that you are, so fucking let's go," you know? That's the best, most freeing comment we can get, and I know there's at least one person out there like that; I see them, they make themselves aware, they stand out in a crowd. They've sustained our band. So we owe it to ourselves and to them to just kind of keep doing the same thing that the band's always been trying to pursue, to just get to that place of ultimate inspiration.
So this is not really your first EP, but it's sort of your first EP that's presented as its own release, not outtakes or b-sides of a full-length album. Why the decision at this point in the game, and after a four-year gap with no music, to do a shorter release?
Honestly I feel like I wanted the songs to have more of a chance of getting heard. When you put out like ten songs on an album, there's maybe three or four tracks that everybody gets to hear, and then some people will just never experience the full thing. Some songs just get thrown by the wayside and become b-sides regardless. So I started trying to look at the collection of songs that we are building as stuff that maybe we would put out in smaller doses so that you could kind of handle more of it. It all feels like heavier material to me, the songs are about the most honest that I think the band has ever been able to get, and they carry a lot of emotional weight. So maybe lessening the burden and turning the weight up a bit was kind of a nice experiment to have, you know? Rather than have some songs that are really important that kind of get buried in the mix, maybe just release more. I think the idea would be to try to make it so the band is putting more music out consistently rather than like big chunks in spaced out gaps. It'd be cooler to do less songs but release more often.
So that means more of these EPs are on the way?
You mentioned in press materials for the album that the time off the road during the pandemic allowed you to kind of reassess what you do with the band and think more about your mental health and personal lives. Can you expand on that, and on how you're approaching band life now compared to in the band's earlier years?
Towards the end of the time that the band was touring, I had gotten back into a bunch of really bad habits. And then when the pandemic came, it was during a time where I was already trying to take time off, so that I could explore being able to get into therapy, to work on some of the shit that I think I had been avoiding over the last ten years by being on tour and having little bursts of therapy but not really taking care of myself in a full-fledged way. So, during the pandemic and with the time off, my desire to be as creative as possible and also be a good dad was being nurtured, rather than being subjugated by me trying to avoid having to deal with a lot of the stressors in my life -- which you can avoid very easily by being on tour for 15 years. It feels like, "well, it's my job!" you know? But you're sort of running away. And being able to be in therapy while I was at home and address some of the addiction stuff that had come up, address some of the mental health stuff that had come up, and really get a plan for how to make a better band/life/creative experience -- better in the sense of not burning out as much, creating more healthy boundaries between me and what I think of myself, trying to give myself a chance to be less burdened by what expectations people might have of me. And I think just focusing on the stuff that's helping me -- helping me be a good dad, helping me be a good friend or partner -- is the shift in focus that I needed during this time, which I wouldn't have been able to do if I was on tour, worried about shows all the time. I think sometimes you hit a brick wall and it feels like it just destroys you, and I feel like this pandemic for us, and for me, like a really perfect opportunity to go through a bit of an inventory of what I needed to do to be a great dad and friend to my kid, make music as much as I can that is as true to what I'm feeling passionate about as it can be, and to try to help people.
You also mentioned that you were previously looking at the records you were making as therapy, but now you see it differently. How did this new outlook affect your lyrics on this EP?
I hadn't sat and written lyrics like I did for this EP on any other Circa album. I had so much time between when I started sketching the melodies out and trying lyrics out and singing it and really making sure I'm saying exactly what I want to say. A lot of the times, I was penning lyrics and threading them from old poems like day of the song getting recorded, and really making that final decision -- not haphazardly, but in a way where I was committing to the melody. And there would be times where because of that, I would be trying alternations of lyrics live that I felt like played around with the same idea of the theme of the song. With these new songs, there were a bunch of times where I got to sit with these songs and really think, "How am I saying this? Is this exactly how I wanna say it live? Is this what I would wanna say after living with it for six months?" As opposed to writing the melody and recording the final version of it a week later.
So next year, you're hitting the road for a belated 10th anniversary tour for Blue Sky Noise. You've done two of these 10th anniversary album tours already. What do you like about these kinds of tours, and what are you most looking forward to for the Blue Sky Noise run?
I like that there's this immediate connection between what you're willing to put out there, as far as re-experiencing that album as a whole and what people are showing up for. When you show up to see Circa or whoever, and the band just plays a set, you kind of never know how it's going to be leaning and where it's gonna go, and if we're gonna play the same thing. When you show up to see an album, you sort of have that comfort of knowing what to expect at a base level, and I think that there's not much in life that offers you that comfort of knowing. If you're going because you wanna hear your favorite song and it's on that record, you know you're gonna hear it, and there's something about that that I appreciate. To be totally honest with you, I don't enjoy doing these tours. They're not my favorite. I've gotten to experience tours where I've played lots of new songs, and tours where we've made the decision to play slower songs when we should have had more momentum. We've been in lots of different situations and toured for a long time, and I thrive and love the spontaneity of being able to change things up; to me that freedom is really cool. I feel like maybe I'm being a baby possibly, 50/50 that I'm being a baby and 50/50 that I just don't like having this expectation. It's like the other side of what I said I appreciate about it; that expectation is slightly limiting. I also have this new stuff that I'm really excited to sing about, and so having that stuff kind of in my back pocket weighs a ton. So I wanna give this performance of this album my 100% all, and then I don't wanna ever do a whole tour playing an album front to back again for long motherfucking time. Maybe one show? You know, like you wanna celebrate an album, you play like one show or two shows or a livestream or something. But I think after doing it three times and having so many records, it's kinda hard to start drawing the line.
Are you gonna do a couple new songs after Blue Sky Noise on this tour?
Because this tour is so long, I would really like to try to play a couple of the new songs at the end of the set, like maybe do a short set of new and old songs after the Blue Sky Noise set; that would be really cool. And maybe even play a couple little shows in different spots, play a couple little venues here and there. And it's such a long tour that I think we'll probably take the summer off maybe, and do some newer music towards the end of the year. I'm not really sure yet.
So Blue Sky Noise represented a lot of changes for Circa Survive. It was your major label debut, you made it with a guy known for producing Tool and King Crimson albums following two albums with Brian McTernan, and the sound was noticeably different too. Looking back on that period now, what do you remember most fondly about the making of that album? What would you have done differently?
I think, that thing that we were talking about, about having the confidence to do the thing that you like, I didn't really have that yet. There were a lot of times where I found myself looking around the room and feeling good about something but not really feeling good about it enough to not need someone else to tell me "hey this is good, you're fine." I didn't really know to keep going until I felt that feeling of like, "Yeah, this is really good, and you know it's what's meant to be sung." And so there were a lot of times I went through needless self-doubt, not really having faith in the process. So I would change that about it and try more things, and probably would have communicated a lot more. I say that now, but there are songs on the record that became so important because other guys in the band wrote lyrics because I literally turned to them and said "I fucking can't handle anything right now, help me write stuff," and they wrote stuff and I was like, "This one's cool," you know? And we worked together on it, and I think that that helped build our creative muscle and made it so we trust each other a lot. That happened a lot on this record.
What was the major label experience like for Circa Survive?
I don't love talking negative about anything, I do believe that everybody at Atlantic who worked with the band really meant well and wanted success for us, and secretly in some way wanted to make weird music popular. And I'm just not sure we were at the right spot, or that they were at the right spot. I had somebody at Atlantic suggest to me that I sounded too much like a girl, and that -- just as a means of experimenting -- I should sing in a more masculine way. And this was somebody who I thought was cool, someone who I liked and respected. And it really fucked me up, it threw me for a loop, it made me question like what the fuck was going on. It needlessly shattered a little confidence I had in something that set me apart, it made me sound cool -- my voice being a certain way. And all my favorite singers were women, and so a lot of it was just me impersonating Bjork or Stevie Nicks or Mary J. Blige or somebody. And so I lost my shit a little bit, and I think it fucked me up for a hot minute, and it forced me to reconnect with what I really loved about making music, which wasn't really this self-indulgent thing, it was more just doing what I was naturally made to do, which meant using my voice how it's naturally made, without judgement, without fear, and without comparison. I got a little stuck on all those things when we went to a major label, and I wanted to make back all the money they spent on it, to make everyone happy. That fucked up me a little bit. And I'm not trying to say that anyone at the label was responsible for any of my mental health issues, but I most certainly did not have the tools to handle that thing well.
As you do these anniversary tours, it's never just about nostalgia -- you always bring out cool openers from newer generations. The Juturna tour had Citizen, the On Letting Go tour had Turnover, and this upcoming tour has Tigers Jaw and Soul Glo. Can you talk about why it's important to you to have these younger bands on the tours?
I've been a fan of Tigers Jaw for a long time, and any possibility we could ever have to tour with them, I wanna do that. And Soul Glo, I've only known about them for the last year, but I've seen videos of their live shows which are so cool, and their songs are sick. We've had both experiences, where it's like, okay, management or somebody thinks that this bill is gonna do better, so we pick these bands that we maybe don't know that much about or you don't feel inspired by watching, but they're great people and that's cool. But you have a different style show when the band who's opening has you like, "Yeah I'll meet you at dinner 'cause I'm gonna go watch Soul Glo, because I need to watch Tigers Jaw." You know? I love that feeling, of looking forward to the tour because you know you get to go see this band that you'd pay to see if they weren't opening for you, and who inspires you to do better, inspires you to be more in the moment. I mean bands like mewithoutYou, bands like Foxing, bands we toured with back in the day like Days Away and Coheed and Thrice, we'd watch them and feel inspired. It makes you wanna step it up, you wanna go crazier and feel it even more, just watching them do it. That's a big benefit of having bands like Tigers Jaw and Soul Glo; it makes the whole show next level when you're invested in it like that.
What are some other newer bands or albums you've been into lately?
That Turnstile record is fucking incredible, it's so fucking good, holy shit. I fucking love that band so much. The Bronx put out a record that's really great, Quicksand. Snail Mail put out some fucking great music. Lucy Dacus put out some new music, that shit's unbelievable. This year's been crazy for new music, with like Phoebe Bridgers, Julien Baker, Bartees. Bartees is one of my favorite artists to come up in my lifetime. He's an inspiring human being, I think he's going to inspire lots of people. There's a band called Clockwise On Fire, it's two guys, one of whom is my solo drummer, who's putting out the fucking weirdest music ever, like very Frank Zappa shit. There's so much great music.
Circa Survive -- 2021/2022 Tour Dates
Oct 23, 2021 Irvine, CA @ Chain Fest
Dec 10, 2021 Buffalo, NY @ Buffalo Riverworks ('Tid the Season)
Jan 07, 2022 Sayreville, NJ @ Starland Ballroom
Jan 08, 2022 Rochester, NY @ Anthology
Jan 09, 2022 Cleveland, OH @ House of Blues
Jan 11, 2022 Grand Rapids, MI @ Intersection
Jan 12, 2022 Indianapolis, IN @ Deluxe
Jan 14, 2022 St. Louis, MO @ The Pageant
Jan 15, 2022 Chicago, IL @ Concord Music Hall
Jan 16, 2022 Minneapolis, MN @ The Lyric @ Skyway
Jan 18, 2022 Denver, CO @ Ogden
Jan 19, 2022 Salt Lake City, TA @ Depot
Jan 21, 2022 Boise, ID @ The Knitting Factory
Jan 22, 2022 Portland, OR @ Crystal Ballroom
Jan 23, 2022 Seattle, WA @ The Showbox
Jan 25, 2022 San Francisco, CA @ The Regency
Jan 26, 2022 Santa Cruz, CA @ The Catalyst – SOLD OUT
Jan 28, 2022 San Diego, CA @ Observatory North Park
Jan 29, 2022 Las Vegas, NV @ Brooklyn Bowl
Jan 30, 2022 Tempe, AZ @ Marquee
Feb 01, 2022 Dallas, TX @ House of Blues
Feb 02, 2022 San Antonio, TX @ Vibes Event Center
Feb 03, 2022 Houston, TX @ House of Blues
Feb 05, 2022 Pensacola, FL @ Vinyl music hall
Feb 06, 2022 Ft. Lauderdale, FL @ Revolution
Feb 08, 2022 St Petersburg, FL @ Jannus
Feb 09, 2022 Orlando, FL @ House of Blues
Feb 11, 2022 Atlanta, GA @ Masquerade
Feb 12, 2022 Charlotte, NC @ The Fillmore
Feb 13, 2022 Richmond, VA @ The National
Feb 15, 2022 Nashville, TN @ Cannery Ballroom
Feb 16, 2022 Louisville, KY @ Mercury Ballroom
Feb 18, 2022 Cincinnati, OH @ Bogarts
Feb 19, 2022 Detroit, MI @ The Majestic
Feb 20, 2022 Toronto, ON @ Opera House
Feb 22, 2022 Montreal, QC @ Fairmont Theatre
Feb 23, 2022 Albany, NY @ Upstate Concert Hall
Feb 25, 2022 Boston, MA @ House of Blues
Feb 26, 2022 Hartford, CT @ The Webster
Feb 27, 2022 Brooklyn, NY @ Brooklyn Steel – SOLD OUT
Mar 01, 2022 Pittsburgh, PA @ Stage AE
Mar 02, 2022 Baltimore, MD @ Rams Head Live
Mar 04, 2022 Philadelphia, PA @ Union Transfer – SOLD OUT
Mar 05, 2022 Philadelphia, PA @ Union Transfer – SOLD OUT
1/7 - 3/5 with Tigers Jaw and Soul Glo
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