Circa Waves: "We're going to war"
Who doesn't want to be the biggest band in the world? Circa Waves are stepping up.
Published: 10:38 am, March 23, 2017
It’s early 2015. Circa Waves are about to release their debut album ‘Young Chasers’ and anticipation is rife - not just from a sea of devoted fans who have slowly but surely seen their Liverpudlian dreams reached and played out, but from themselves. To mark the occasion, the chaps have decided to record one of those ‘Track By Track’ guides to the record, diving into each song and giving details of the sun-laden indie singalongs that will be belted back to them on the biggest stages less than nine months later. As the camera pans to frontman Kieran Shudall, sat in front of his computer desk with his guitar in hard - he notes something. “I like looking in, y’know, not being the point of ridicule.”
If there ever was a version of Kieran’s younger self to hold up, then it’s this one. It’s the words of a man sitting at the starting blocks after years of working to get there, and one who can only dream of what’s ahead. For Circa Waves, the past two years have been a culmination of something that started from the nuts and bolts of what music is and what it can be. That feeling of getting swept up in a head-fast rush of unexplainable highs and being drawn into belting out the words as loud as your lungs can withstand. Standing above any trends and intricacies, that feeling of music grabbing you by the shoulders and not letting go grabbed Kieran, and it’s now part of everything he is.
“It was always something that was there,” contemplates Kieran, gazing across the lavish dressing rooms of Alexandra Palace as he dives down memory lane. “I went to see Arctic Monkeys on the old NME tour, and I remember watching Alex Turner come on stage with We Are Scientists when they were doing that ‘Cash Cow’ tune - which is a fucking banging tune. He strolled on and was wearing double denim, and I just went ‘Fuck, I need to be that guy’ - I was hooked. So hooked, and straight away, with a can of Red Stripe in one hand and an indie t-shirt in the other. I’ve been like that ever since.”
From the glistening musical streets of Liverpool, Circa Waves morphed into a band primed for those sort of evenings. The double denim may be knocking about, but there’s a distinctive style to everything they do - laced in classic songwriting but boiling with vitality and palpable energy. The dizzying heights of being in a band also shone bright, but in Kieran’s mind - it had to be original, remembering how “a lot of my friends would be learning solos - and I was always making up things, I always preferred making my own things up and learning that.
“That lead to me thinking ‘Oh, I’m not going to learn that Libertines tune - I’ll write my own version of it’, which became addictive as soon as I started doing it. For me it’s like, 10 minutes ago this song didn’t exist, and now there’s a song that’ll be forever there even if it’s just me that hears it. I’ve created something out of nothing, and it hasn’t cost me anything. Doing that is one of the most mind-blowing things for me as a songwriter, that’s why I’m so addicted to it.
“The fact that any moment, I could write a classic tune is fucking incredible.”
It may seem silly to say, but tunes in their purest sense are what Circa Waves are all about. They live and embody that idea of a band plugging in and blasting through skyscraper-sized choruses that trigger drowned-out responses and feverish reactions. One that looked at those iconic figures and went ‘yeah, that’s us’ and aren’t afraid to admit it. Taking the swagger of The Strokes, dipping it through The Libertines’ box of pogoing spontaneity and blasting it through the loudest speakers they can find - it’s a seducing combination that found its home on debut album ‘Young Chasers’.
In the space of twelve months, it’s a record that took Circa Waves around the globe - claiming that summer crown with catchy hooks and sun-kissed melodies that saw them selling out Brixton Academy with aplomb. After years of slogging away, cramping themselves into tiny vans and living off service station bites, it was a step that shook all of their worlds around - a feeling that took a while to sink in and embrace.
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Looking back on it all, ‘Young Chasers’ was nothing short of a whirlwind that flipped everything on its head. “It’s still strange to me,” ponders Kieran. “I mean, we all did the hard graft from the age of 14 - when I first picked up a guitar - and it took a good 12 years of driving around in the back of transit vans and going to cold practice rooms twice a week for years on end.
“As soon as ‘Young Chasers’ blew up, it was such a whirlwind that I don’t remember most of it. It takes a long time for you, after being through all those years of not making it and nobody giving a shit, to thousands of people giving a shit - that takes time for your body to accept that and say, you deserve it.
“Instead of feeling like, ‘Oh, what am I doing here? This feels a bit weird’, you start to feel like actually we should be here and we’ve earned where we are today.”
When you have arguably the song of an entire summer in ‘T-Shirt Weather’ and a live show packed specifically for an emphatic 75 minutes of joyful abandon, it’s understandable how things became frantic quickly. That time away fully engrossed in ‘Young Chasers’ meant that, by the time over 125 shows were done with, that itch to get back to his songwriting buzz was at a new level for Kieran. For someone addicted to writing track after track, the resultant kick-back after returning from the road was a heavy one - brimming with the confidence and eye of a band now voicing a generation into an invigorating new chapter.
“I was just desperate to get back to writing,” Kieran remembers, finally getting back to creating once a final support run with Foals in the US rounded out. “I kinda need to be alone to write songs, on the road you’re either on the tour bus or at hotels where you’re always with someone, so it’s hard to find the time.
“But when I got home I literally, for like three or four months, just wrote and wrote every day, which meant I ended up with like 150-200 tunes, ideas and sketches of songs. I lost my mind writing songs a bit; I was literally at my little shitty flat just every day just hammering away - demoing it for eight hours, having some dinner, going to bed, waking up, turning my computer on and going again.”
It was during those intensive months, locked away from the world and cramming away at carving the vital next step for the band, that Kieran began to notice a shift in the size and sound of what he was pulling together. The shimmering summer gazes seemed to evaporate, and in its place came a much tougher and meaner beast, shaped by the chills and shadows glimpsed from outside his window.
“I think ‘Wake Up’ was the initial riff that kicked it off,” notes Kieran. “I was really just testing the waters, and I sent it to my brother, as he’s always my initial test on a song as he’ll just be straight and say either way if it’s good or not. When I sent him ‘Wake Up’, he just replied ‘Fuck, that’s awesome’, so I sent it to a few others just asking ‘Surely, this is too heavy? How can we go from that into ‘T-Shirt Weather’?’
“Everything started to change from that first record, my mindset just changed and the guys were digging it too, so we just went for it. We just thought, let’s be heavy and not think too much about it - and we let everything just come naturally.
“Like, the track ‘Goodbye’ on the record came together after I was just demoing every day and one night I got drunk with my girlfriend, and when she went to bed, I just stuck around messing about with this riff and kept getting absolutely hammered. When I woke up the next morning, I went over to my computer and found this recording on there, and it was just this death riff that jumped out right away. I’d obviously recorded it when completely drunk, so I sent it ‘round and wrote a song around it there and then!”
‘Different Creatures’ finds Circa Waves on the cusp of something great. It fizzles with the excitement of a band bouncing off of each other, driven with that confident nod of knowing exactly where to aim their nozzles and the space to deliver an emphatic statement. More than anything, they’re sure of themselves - and by doing that they’re ensuring that there’ll be thousands upon thousands ready to flock to the Circa Waves’ coronation.
“There’s so much determination,” points out Kieran, leaning forward with a gleam in his eye - already daydreaming of those landmark moments ahead. “We used to keep saying ‘Oh we’re happy to be here’, but now we’re a bit more like ‘We wanna fucking take over the rock world.’ We want to be the biggest rock band, we want to play higher on those festival bills, we want to headline those festivals, and we want to take over and surpass all of our peers. There’s that, I suppose, battle mentality now - like we’re going to war.
“I feel like we’ve been reborn as a band, to me this is just the start - a fresh start. Not necessarily because the music has changed, but more because of the outlook we now have on everything. We’ve all changed so much. We were all happy to be a little garage band who played to 200 people - but now we’re not content with anything. We want to be headlining those huge venues and want festivals to be looking at us and saying, ‘Right, in a few years we’ll be asking them to headline’.
“That’s the aim, and we don’t shy away from it anymore, we don’t shy away from saying we want to be bigger than any other band and we’re ready to take them on.”
It took 12 years of feverish determination and refusing to give up on the dream they all longed to see, for Circa Waves to get here. At times it seemed to be dimming, but with ‘Different Creatures’ they have the burning flare that’ll attract all of it right to their front door. Uncompromising and surging with importance, it’s an explosive era that stares right into the faces of those who told them it wasn’t possible - and pulls them along for the runaway ride ahead.
“It’s weird,” notes Kieran, packing away his guitar and heading out into the chilly North London breeze. “I didn’t have that belief earlier on, from all those years of being knocked back - but now I just know we can be bigger. I can see it in my head; I can visualise walking out on stage and seeing 50,000 people there. That’s the first step, isn’t it? I’m visualising it, so that’s where I’m going - straight to the top.”
Kieran Shudall is looking in no longer, not with a view like this.
Circa Waves’ new album ‘Different Creatures’ is out now.