Patrick Walford had the opportunity to sit down with Circa Survive vocalist Anthony Green. We talk about his upcoming solo record Beautiful Things, Blue Sky Noise, the possibility of a The Sounds Of Animals Fighting reunion, his influences, and much more.
You have a new solo record coming out later on this year called Beautiful Things. Going into the recording process, how do you decide what is a solo song and what is a Circa Survive song?
A lot of times I’ll give all the stuff to Circa Survive. Some of it will get picked and some of it won’t. I take whatever they didn’t like and make it into a solo song. Every song starts out with an acoustic guitar and me. Then I start building from there. This album I went crazy. We only spent a little bit of time in the studio, but I went nuts.
I took the songs in weird places. I tried to make them as weird and funky as possible. Maybe not to the liking of people expecting Avalon Part 2. It is real folksy and still mellow, but it’s really different. I’m excited about it.
The big differences are I get to call all the shots. If we all like it, it’s good. But if anyone else has a different idea, you make compromises. That’s what makes Circa so awesome. That’s also what makes it fun to write for Circa. Very rarely is anyone unsatisfied, especially now the way that we learned to write on Blue Sky Noise. We really got a chance to learn how to communicate.
The solo shit is real self-indulgent for me. I don’t care if people like it, if it’s going to sell, if people’s visions are being seen through, it’s all what I want.
It’s one of those things where Circa Survive is 100% your main focus, and you get to mess around with other ideas you have that you want people to hear.
I love releasing music. I wanted to be able to release the songs that weren’t getting any attention with Circa. I wanted to share them. Sing them. Play them. It’s nice to be able to have the opportunity to have a project like that. To be able to get everything creatively out that doesn’t fly with them. Circa is definitely my main focus.
When were you in the studio and who did you bring in to produce Beautiful Things?
We brought out friend Jason Cupp into the studio. He has produced a ton of stuff. He produced the new Maps and Atlases record. He came in with us from January 1st to 6th. We recorded 13 songs. He made things sound so much better from the start. He is a really professional dude and has such great ideas. We went crazy and had fun. We filled the sound up with different things. On my phone I have a video of Tim Arnold just playing Pots and Pans for this one track that’s…. the weirdest song. You can hear it in the background. All these little nuances that aren’t drums. I can only do so much on my own.
I like producing stuff but having somebody like that who when you say “Let’s get some Pots and Pans up in this shit” and they can make it sound good and not make it sound like you are doing some weird thing. He can make you hear the pots and pans and have it fit. It’s great.
There has constantly been a buzz around it so I’ve gotta ask…any possibility on The Sound Of Animals Fighting doing some shows in the near future?
I really wish I could say more about it. I would be so happy if we got to do that. I wanna bring them to the east coast and do a tour so bad !But those guys are always busy, Circa’s always busy. I think the bandits, they get bummed out on the whole Screamo thing too. I think they look at some of that stuff as having to contributed to a lot of these people liking shitty music (laughs). We’ll see. I’d love to keep recording some stuff with Rx Bandits. Maybe call it something else.
Rx Bandits drummer Chris Tsagakis just sent me a bunch of songs he has been working on with the Bassist of The Mars Volta Juan Alderete. We are going to start working on some shit.
Shifting gears from your solo stuff to Blue Sky Noise, you guys came up to Toronto to record at the Rattlebox studio with David Bottrill, who has worked with some incredible bands in the past. Muse, Tool, and the list goes on. What was it like to come up north to work with such a renowned producer who has done so much great stuff?
First of all, Toronto is so cool; it’s a amazing city. I hadn’t really spent a lot of time up there so i was super excited to record there. We had so much fun. I would be walking up and down Queen St. everyday. Man, it’s such a beautiful city.
David Bottrill really breathed new life into the band. I don’t think we really learned how to communicate with each other until we got into the studio with him. He was like “Oh no, see! You can do that still. He can work out in that time signature and do it this way.” There would be times where we would be frustrated in not being able to see things and he would be able to help us see them through..
When you are dealing with artistic and creative freedom, everyone wants to get out what they want. He was able to make everyone happy and really see a compromise. “This is the best thing you can do for the song.” Take the individual out of it so people didn’t feel attached to some idea they came up with. It was what we needed to do for each song and not for ourselves. Everyone wants to write the coolest part. Sometimes you just gotta chill back and let it develop. He really helped us with that.
Later on in 2010 you then released the Appendage EP. These are technically Blue Sky Noise b-sides, but they don’t come off that way at all. Any of these songs could have made Blue Sky Noise. How hard was it for you guys to choose what was on the record, and what was on the EP?
We sorta knew what was going to be on the EP as soon as we decided what was going to be on the record. We knew going into recording Blue Sky Noise that we wanted to do this. Have the record cycle be half-way through and be like “Hey, here’s some new music.”
Specifically we were looking for songs that would be strong on their own. That’s hard to understand. It took me a while to understand it. That a song can exist inbetween other songs on a record and feel differently then if you just listen to it by itself, or listen to it on a EP. We wanted to pick the strongest songs to put them on the EP so that it had that feeling and people got that when they listened to it. Like “Oh Wow, this isn’t just a bunch of B-Sides. This is a mini album.”
It definitely still represents a time in our existence as Circa Survive. We don’t ever just want to release stuff; we want it to represent a time in our career. Our lives together making music. Have it almost look like a ladder. It might have seemed a lot harder then it was, but it was just difficult finding out what Blue Sky Noise is going to be. When we figured that out, the EP came easy.
You also threw a Nirvana Cover on the EP. You guys did the cover set at Hoodwink so it really came as no surprise to me. It would just be the process of picking ONE song. How were able to do it?
It was a nightmare doing that. When we did it at Hoodwink at Bamboozle in 2010 it was hard to even choose 12 songs. Then once we did it, we were asked to do the Myspace tranmissions. They asked us to cover one song. We thought we already know this song and it is one of our favorites to play, and one of our favorite Nirvana songs in general. I just feel it translates really well. You hear some covers and you think “Ah…they shouldn’t have done that. They should’ve just left it.” I felt like we really did that song justice. It is a little heavier and that’s it.
Brian McTernan produced On Letting Go and Juturna. You guys are still a while away from a new record but would you be up for working with him again?
We haven’t really talked about what we are going to do next record. We saw Brian yesterday in Balitmore and I love that guy so much. I always think about going up to Baltimore and recording songs with him so you never know!
By many in the alternative music scene you are regarded as one of the most talented frontmen. From a lyrical standpoint, where does a Circa/Anthony Green song draw influences from in the writing process?
First off, I wanna say that is awesome to hear. It makes me feel incredibly lucky. Everything we write about is about what is going on in our lives. What’s happening to us during those times. I hardly sit down and think “let’s writing a song like this other song.” But sometimes that will happen. I’ll be listening to Tool, and I’ll think “I wanna write something that makes me feel like that.” Sometimes it will come out of a meditation on it.
Mostly, I don’t know where the stuff comes from. There isn’t a direct influence. I’ll sit down with a charge in me. Maybe missing somebody, or something that happened… My wife and I had two miscarriages in the writing of this record. That ended up being on Blue Sky Noise so much. Every time I sat down to write, that would be on my mind. That experience translates into so many different things. It reflects everything that is going on in your life unless you are deliberitly trying to not do that.
I think when I started to write Blue Sky Noise, I tried not to write about personal stuff. Then It started to eat away at me. Then I started to lose my mind and I realized, I gotta do this about my life and our lives together and not worrying about people knowing that.
I think upon hearing the first two records to Blue Sky Noise, it’s as if you guys just brought things to another level. The lyrics, the music, everything. But at the same time, It is a lot different then the first two albums.
Think about seeing a picture of yourself from five years ago. You look different, you sound different, you dress different, you eat different, everything about you is different. People are always like “You guys have changed so much!” Well yeah…we aren’t always going to be the same all the time. You gotta grow. Thankfully it seems like we have done it in a way that it’s true to who we are. It isn’t like we “took the band in some weird direction.” I would hope to God that if you are passionate about what you do, you wouldn’t be doing the same thing for 5 or 6 years.
Circa Survive is set to go on tour with My Chemical Romance in April, something that is pretty different for the band. It surprised a lot of fans as well. What was really the tipping point to make you guys want to do this tour?
The major reason why we decided to do it was playing to a whole new group of fans. We are friends with My Chem and have known them for years. I love the decisions they’ve made with their career. I’m a fan of their music. I think they are really good. We got offered the tour, and shows were already sold out when we were given the tour offer. We decided to do it because of that reason.
Playing infront of people who have never heard of you is a big deal. Circa could do US Tours and play to the same people all the time and it would be super fun and awesome. But the whole point of this is we don’t want to be comfortable. We wanna go out and play infront of people who will think “Who the fuck is this? I just wanna see My Chem.”
Out of 1000 of those people, 100 are going to think “This is some new shit I can dig.” That’s what you do when you are trying to build your fanbase. You are trying to work. You can’t always do what’s easy. Preaching to the converted. That’s not what I’m interested in doing. I loved in the beginning of this band when we would do tours and half the crowd would look at us funny and boo us.
That’s an awesome feeling because it makes you stand behind what you are doing, or you run away. I really believe in this record and I really believe in this band. I wanna play for everybody. I wanna play for the people who don’t give two shits about seeing us and try to win them over. It’s fun.
The My Chemical Romance fanbase would surprise you. There are tons of people who aren’t music geeks like us. They are in college, listen to the radio and they’ll go to the show. I want to open those peoples minds. Show them how you can lose yourself to music. If it means going out into the frontlines where people are going to throw beer at you and boo you. You do it.
Music is such a sacred part of existence. It can help you through so much. I don’t want to be afraid to go on tour with a band like that or playing to a crowd of people like that. I wanna celebrate that. Take those chances. You can’t do that when you are just playing your shows all the time. People give us shit for doing things like that sometimes, but if it means getting out there and speaking to more people, that’s what i want.
Talking about losing yourself in music, who are some bands that made you really want to pursue music from a young age?
Stone Temple Pilots‘ Core. I used to listen to that over and over. Jane’s Addiction‘s Nothings Shocking, The first Porno for Pyros‘ record, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, so much of that shit. I loved Green Day. Not so much anymore, but when I was a little kid and I heard Dookie, I lost my shit. It was my favorite record. I went nuts over it.
My brothers all listened to The Smiths, New Order, and got me into music at a young age. My brother Mike used to listen to Dischord Punk Rock and got me into bands like Minor Threat. All this cool shit. I used to just listen to Minor Threat and just picture myself singing.
I feel like there is a certain point in time, a certain band,a certain album, a certain song where everyone who has music as such a huge point of their life can pinpoint to them falling in love. For me it was seeing Motion City Soundtrack for the first time when I was 17. Was hearing a band like Minor Threat for the first time and picturing yourself singing that point for you?
I would hear stuff like that and I got this feeling from it that I could do it. It isn’t this thing you feel when you listen to fucking Lady Gaga. When you listen to certain types of music, it’s for you and you can do it. I think that feeling of you being able to do it, being able to be a part of it is what attracted me to Punk Rock and Hardcore. That’s what still attracts people to it. You can get up there and see about some fucking shit going on in your life and connect with people. Make friends and be apart of something awesome.
I never really lost that. Even when I was watching Green Day videos. I thought, “I wanna be apart of something or anything that makes me feel like this.” I still get that. I still get that whenever I play.
The fact you are doing that for a whole new generation of kids must be crazy. Having people come up to you and say stuff like “You changed my life” has to be pretty surreal.
I can’t believe it’s happening sometimes. I can’t believe it at all. Usually when someone says that shit to me, I say they changed their lives. That all we did was sing some songs. That they should take more credit for it. There are two chicks here tonight with Circa tattoos. Lyrics. I can’t fucking believe that ever happened. That people like us enough to get our lyrics tattooed on their bodies. It’s unreal.
I think that you can’t think about it so much. You can’t think accept it. When you start to accept it, you start taking credit for it. We can’t. It’s all music. It’s all the love of music. None of this has to do with me individually or anybody in Circa. It’s all about a theorial force that pulls us in and draws to the idea of losing yourself to the music.
I can’t even take credit for the stuff I’ve written. A lot of just comes out of nowhere. A lot of it just comes out of my mouth because of the freeing aspect of music. You aren’t worrying about things. It draws me in so much. When people come up and tell us that shit I can’t believe it. It’s such a trip.
It’s such a trip to be in a band that we’re able to put out a third record and have people back it. Have them say “You guys made a big change but we love it still.” I know there is people who don’t, but i barely ever hear about them. A lot of the times if fans don’t like your music, they’ll tell you. You find out. We’ve sold more tickets on this fucking record then ever. It just says something to me.
It’s amazing to see. It’s a testament to bands like you and Anberlin who have worked hard to do what you do full time. Then there are other bands who will get big real fast, sell out 3-4,000 cap venues and then nobody knows what happens to them a year later.
I’ve seen it happen classically so many times. Thrice. A band who had platinum albums. Now they’ve scaled it back. A band like Thrice is so fucking good at what they do. They are so grounded and down to earth. I love every record they have put out since then. I know that now since they are not trying to write a radio hit, that it may be hurting their career but it helps in creativity. Their creative spirit is so much more important then making a ton of money off of a song and they realize that. I have nothing but respect for them.
Upon starting to singing in Saosin to Circa Survive, how did you find your voice and the way you sing? Was it something you worked on a lot or did it come naturally?
I used to think about Bjork whenever I sang. It was because of how weird she pronounced things and it made me feel fearless. When I was a little kid and I was in hardcore bands no one else would sing so I would. I thought it was fun. I wasn’t scared of my voice. I think that’s where it started. I wasn’t scared with my voice and someone to say “You sound weird.” I know. (laughs).
I come from a place with bands like The Promise Ring and The Get Up Kids. They weren’t worried about being perfect, they were just trying to rock out. It made me feel so good to open my mouth and sing.
Circa Survive is now three albums and a couple EPs into their career. Where does the band go from here on the fourth record or is it too soon to tell?
It is a little hard to say. But I just see this next record we write being really weird. I think all of us are interested in doing something that is jarringly different then Blue Sky Noise. We have gone into records writing them and thinking there was one thing we wanted to do and then it turns out different. We have so much further to go and so much to learn what we are capable of. I feel like we’ve barely touched the surface as a band on what we are capable of as far as making psychadelic rock music. I just wanna go further into that.
To end things off, you are wrapping up a tour with a band you had been wanting to tour with for a while. Who are 3 bands you would love to tour with that Circa Survive haven’t had the chance to yet?
Rx Bandits, Biffy Clyro, Kay Kay And The Weathered Underground.
Thanks for the Interview Anthony. Something I do with bands I interview is I get them to pick a song from their catalog, then a song they wanna hear by any band.
Anthony: Thank you. It was a ton of fun. For us, let’s do “Imaginary Enemy”. For the other one, “Anything” by Saves the Day off of Through Being Cool.