Sian Plummer of Circa Waves: “We’re a bit sketchy on the details – can you fill me in?”

circa waves

THERE are bands who have had meteoric rises, and then are English indie-rock quartet Circa Waves, who are set to play Splendour In The Grass and four sideshows.

When they wrote, recorded and uploaded their single ‘Young Chasers’ to Soundcloud in a single day, they didn’t expect much to happen. That very night it was picked up and played on the biggest radio station in the UK, and the young band haven’t looked back since.

“It was definitely a freak occurrence,” says drummer Sian Plummer. “That’s not the norm for us by any means. I think it was just knowing the right person at the right time at Radio 1 that helped it get played that evening. It really helped that Radio 1 was so keen to help champion young, new music, and they were quite eager to give us a push. But [getting it played on] the first day was quite an achievement [laughs].”

Sudden national exposure led to a flurry of song-writing and touring for the band, before a deal was inked with Dew Process.

“We all met at a festival in Liverpool called Sound City,” Plummer says. “We were all there, and we were all bored with our respective bands and whatever. So we decided we’ll start a band with the aim of playing Sound City next year, and instead of doing that we ended up getting signed and touring the world. To celebrate we just went out and had massive steak dinners in this really posh restaurant. We basically gorged ourselves on quality meat.”

They’ve existed for barely a year, in which they’ve toured incessantly, so it’s understandable that not all the members of the band have had a chance to reflect and plan for the gigs ahead. When asked how much he knows about Splendour In The Grass, Plummer laughs.

“We’re a bit sketchy on the details – can you fill me in?” he says. “Australia: the idea that people are listening to our music on the other side of the world is an unreal scenario to think about. I don’t even know what’s happening over there. I can’t quite process the idea that people are hearing our music and are sort of down with it, so we’re looking forward to coming over and seeing first-hand. It’s really exciting. To be honest, we’re just pretty stoked to be going to Australia, so we haven’t thought far enough ahead to be considering festivals and club shows. I guess I’m excited to see what an Australian club show is like; how you guys react and whether it goes off. Festivals are amazing as well; there’s this whole other side of playing to a crowd in a tent that is just a unique feeling, so we’re looking forward to both.”

The band have just released their debut, self-titled EP in time for an airing at Splendour and a run of shows supporting Metronomy.

“We’re just about there right now,” Plummer says. “We’ve got enough material for at least a 45-minute set now. We’re sort of still perfecting our set and have been over the past six months, so I think we’ve got a good set-list together now and we can fill that time. Then obviously Kieran [Shudall, guitar/vocals] does loads of stand-up comedy between each song, so that takes about ten minutes between each song in the set [laughs].”

Despite being praised by British music press and hailed as a “buzz” band and ones-to-watch, Circa Waves are keen on winning fans the old-fashioned way, Plummer insists.

“We did the NME tour, and that was a strange one,” he says. “It didn’t sell as well as it could have done, but they’ve been really supportive and we really appreciate having anyone like that championing us and getting our name out there. In terms of getting us out there, it’s invaluable. Being played on Radio 1 is the best place to get heard. But from our point of view, it’s all about the live shows; going to people’s towns and playing is the important thing. That’s the way we’ve always got out there and got known. If people haven’t seen us play and don’t know what we’re about live, they’re not going to know what it is we’re about. We’re keen to spread that message.”

While their touring schedule appears unending, a band that does things as quickly as Circa Waves isn’t going to wait years to put out an album.

“We’ve just finished recording our album a couple of weeks ago,” Plummer says. “We went into a studio for about five weeks and laid down quite a lot of tracks. Bit by bit we’re going to start mixing them in and showcasing them live. We’ve amassed quite a bit of material in the last six months. Ideally we’re looking at an early next year release, and before then play live in as many places as we can. It’s a pretty raw sounding album in many ways. It’s not an overly-produced record; we’ve tried to keep post-production to a minimum, and it’s got quite a live feel to it in places as well, as some of the takes were done completely live. It’s about capturing and conveying a lot of the energy of us live. I think we’ve managed to get something that sounds pretty cool as well. We get a lot of comparisons to the Strokes and that’s a great comparison to have, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. We’re influenced by the Strokes, but I don’t think we sound like the Strokes, and what we’ve tried to do on this record is to convey who Circa Waves are and how we sound, and I think that’s massively important. We’re looking forward to getting it out there and showing everybody what we’re about.”

When & Where:

Friday 25th July Forum Theatre, Melbourne (supporting Metronomy)
Saturday 26th July Splendour In The Grass, Byron Parklands


For Forte

Dan Cavanagh of Anathema: “We’re not into lyrics about elves and we’re not into playing the fucking flute”

Anathema band

IT ONLY TAKES one four-letter word to get Anathema multi-instrumentalist and song-writer Dan Cavanagh fired up. Prog.

“I have no idea what it is, I don’t care about it and I don’t consider our band to be in it,” he says, when asked if the genre is in good shape globally. “It really is journalistic spiel to say we are a progressive band, you know what I mean? I do not consider us a progressive rock band; never have. In terms of where it is globally, I don’t care and I don’t even fucking know. If you’re talking about Pink Floyd, Kate Bush or Radiohead; that’s something I consider us to be closer to. If they’re a bit prog-rock, then I’ll take that, but we’re not into lyrics about elves and we’re not into playing the fucking flute. We’re not about time signatures and time changes and solos and what prog-rock seems to be known for; it’s got nothing to do with us. But I’m not knocking it! It’s just not for me. Pink Floyd, Radiohead and Kate Bush are for me.”

Luckily the 41 year-old Englishman is in more of a mood to talk about the (not prog) rockers’ tenth studio album Distant Satellites, and why it had the working title of Kid AC/DC.

“We’re all fans of Radiohead and AC/DC,” he says. “One thing I noticed was those bands strip back their music; it’s not over-layered, particularly on Kid A, which is a real difference from OK Computer. AC/DC do the same thing with rock and roll. Their music isn’t layered with strings and piano; it’s stripped-back, edgy rock and roll, which is great. We were tired of over-laying. Our previous albums are good, but we tended to just throw things on. This time we took a more mature and considered approach by not doing that. Both I and the producer independently came to that conclusion before we talked about it, but we were making an album that’s considerably more rock-edged than Kid A, so we called it Kid AC/DC.”

The album contains tracks called ‘The Lost Song’ in three parts; the result of a minor catastrophe that Cavanagh turned to his advantage.

“In about 2008, I recorded a riff which I considered to be a very good one for us,” he says. “I was very excited about it. A few weeks later it had actually disappeared off the recording and I couldn’t find it. I tried really hard to find other demos, and if it ever turns up I’ll be amazed and interested. Then I started trying and failing to remember that riff and these songs were written. So what I was doing was trying to write a song with a time signature and chord progression that may have been like the one that was lost. All three songs came from that. It drove me crazy, but John [Douglas, drums] said to tell myself the song was crap, and it’ll be okay.”

Along with Norwegian producer Christer-André Cederberg, the band were able to call on The Porcupine Tree’s Steven Wilson for additional duties.

“He was involved for just four days, but he made a difference,” Cavanagh says. “He mixed two songs on the album and two B-sides. All the production, writing and recording was already done before we asked him, and the reason we asked him was that Christer had taken ill and needed some time in the hospital for an operation. He couldn’t mix all the songs in time, so we asked Steven to help, and he did a great job as he always does.”

Almost unbelievably for a band that has existed since 1990, their three-date August tour will be the six-piece’s first trip to Australia. Does Cavanagh know why that’s been the case?

“Maybe because it’s so far away. It’s only just recently that we’ve got a really strong manager in place. We haven’t had a strong manager kind of ever, and it’s one of the reasons we’ve underachieved. We’re not going to underachieve any more, but maybe it’s just part of our story, I don’t know.”

Thursday, August 21 – The HiFi Bar, Brisbane
Friday, August 22 – The Metro Theatre, Sydney
Saturday, August 23 – The Corner Hotel, Melbourne


For The Brag

Tord Øverland-Knudsen of The Wombats: “At our first practice we all had massive hangovers”

The Wombats

NEW year’s eve for Wombats bassist Tord Øverland-Knudsen normally means snow and family times in his native Norway.

The band’s upcoming appearance at Falls Festival will change all that.

“On a personal level it’s going to be strange,” he said. “I’ve never been away from Norway for New Year’s Eve; I’ve always been back with my family. I’m always home for a white Christmas and a really cold winter, so it’s going to be really weird to not have snow around I think. We’re really looking forward to the shows – Australia is our favourite part of the world to play in, and playing a big gig on New Year’s Eve is going to be pretty special. We’ve done a few pretty hot shows in America and Dubai and different places, so hopefully we can cope.”

The Liverpool-based trio have kept themselves relatively out of the spotlight in recent months, with work on a new album already under way.

“We’ve been in Liverpool working on new songs,” Øverland-Knudsen said. “We’ve been making the demos and trying to finish the third album. We’ve been to LA to record one song properly, and we’ve done a few gigs here and there in between. We went to Brazil, which was a nice experience; we did some headline shows in fairly small venues in both São Paulo and Rio. It was the first time we’ve been there and it was amazing; the gigs were packed and people knew our songs, which was kind of crazy. Hopefully we’ll finish the writing this year and record half of it before Christmas, and the other half in January, with the idea of a release around March or April, but you never know with these things. It depends on when producers are available and stuff like that as well.”

It has been a long road from when the band first got together in 2003 for them to arrive at the synth-led sound they are now known for.

“We met in university,” Øverland-Knudsen said. “At our first practice we all had massive hangovers, and in the beginning we were just really crap, but I’d like to think we’re not crap any more. Murph’s song-writing is still recognisable in the early stuff, but it was more like Pixies or Weezer; except more garage-y and immature, and his voice was softer and more high-pitched in the early days. After we released our first album we didn’t stop touring for about two and a half years, and we only wrote one song in that space of time. I think we almost forgot how to write a song, and I think you have to keep doing it for a while before you can make anything good. We had to get refreshed, take a month without doing anything with The Wombats, then get down to writing again.”

We wanted to do something different, and there was only so much we could do as a three-piece, and that’s when we brought the synths in. We had a couple of synths in a practice room and brought a couple more in because we didn’t know much about them before we started experimenting with them. After we wrote more and more songs, they became an integral part of most other songs, and it’s really great that we got to learn how to handle them. We’ll still be using them on the third record. I think that as soon as you experiment with something it’s really hard to go back – especially in the studio. I really love experimenting and using technology, but maybe at some point we’ll get really bored of that and just do a guitar album again, just the three of us.”

The band’s upcoming appearances at Falls, a New Year’s Day set at Field Day, and a gig at Southbound Festival on January 4th will allow Australian fans to sample new material.

“We’re really looking forward to coming back and doing some big gigs,” Øverland-Knudsen says. “We haven’t done that many shows recently, and it’s really exciting to be able to play some of the new songs. It’s going to be nerve-wracking as well; it always is with new songs, but it will be great to play them live in a place that we know appreciates our live shows. We’re really looking forward to it.”