The band’s third album is all change for the indie popsters, singer Kieran Shudell tells NME.
Circa Waves have announced their new album ‘What’s It Like Over There?’ with a release date set for April 5.
Two of the record’s 10 songs – ‘Movies’ and ‘Be Somebody Good’ – can be heard below.
Movies, an album by Circa Waves on Spotify
The full tracklist is: ‘What’s It Like Over There?’; ‘Sorry I’m Yours’; ‘Times Won’t Change Me’; ‘Movies’; ‘Me, Myself And Hollywood’; ‘The Way We Say Goodbye’; ‘Be Somebody Good’; ‘Passport’; ‘Motorcade’, and ‘Saviour’.
Circa Waves’ remaining tour dates will hear the band preview ‘What’s It Like Over There?’ The remaining dates are Plymouth Junction this Thursday, November 29, and St Albans Horn this Friday, November 30. Tickets are available here.
As the Liverpool four-piece wrap up a tour of intimate venues in towns away from the regular gig circuit, singer Kieran Shudell tells NME how the new album shakes up their indie sound. The band also has some unusual inspirations….
Where are you and what’s it like over there?
“I’m in my manager’s loft, and it’s pretty cold. Winter is upon us.”
Why choose ‘Movies’ and ‘Be Somebody Good’ as Circa Waves’ comeback songs? And why release two at once?
“I’d have put three or four out if we could, as we want to showcase the variety of the new album as much as we can. ‘Movies’ is a classic Circa Waves song, but it’s a bridge to the third album because it’s got the guitar hooks we’ve always had and a new twist of electronic drums. It’s upbeat, and we wanted something positive to prepare fans. ‘Be Somebody Good’ is a nod towards what the rest of the record is like: more expansive, more cinematic and muscular. It’s big, with synths and bigger drums. It’s quite bold for Circa Waves. That song is to say, ‘This album is different. Be ready.…’”
‘Movies’ has the line, “Dancing around my bedroom to ‘The Hounds Of Love’, it was so fucked up”. Were you deliberately subverting your own banger with a lyric that’ll need a radio edit?
“My prime memory of being a kid was going to Leeds Festival, watching The Futureheads – it’s their version of ‘The Hounds Of Love’ I was thinking of, though Kate Bush’s original is also a banger. My initial introduction to that song was jumping around at Leeds Festival, off my face on two litres of Strongbow, absolutely loving life. That line is what I was like when I was 17: it was fucked up. When you hear it, you can’t help but picture a young kid jumping around his bedroom.”
What movie would best describe Circa Waves?
“Reservoir Dogs. I’d be Harvey Keitel, as he lives.”
‘Be Somebody Good’ alludes to self-doubt. How have you improved as a person?
“As you grow older, you become less selfish. You’re self-obsessed in your early twenties, thinking the world revolves around you. There are 60-year-olds who still think like that, but the more we’ve travelled, the more you realise you’re just a little dot among the billions of people on the planet. It’s eye-opening, being able to travel so much. You realise you’re not so important, and that’s fine.”
The line, “Finding myself in your hotel bed” in ‘Be Somebody Good’ – is that from personal experience?
“That was purely character-based. I want the listener not to be able to tell fact from fiction in our songs. I like writing songs from a first-person perspective, as it carries the listener along and makes it more intimate.”
You’ve hinted the new album is about love, broadly speaking…
“It comes from all types of relationships. Going round the States on a tourbus, I was seeing characters who felt they belonged in songs. It became stories about movies and Hollywood, and not liking yourself very much. When I got home, I found the book which I’d scribbled these thoughts down on in the States, and it was a treasure chest. It paved the way for the record – I don’t know if the record would have been made if it wasn’t for that book of thoughts.”
You joked to NME at Isle Of Wight Festival that half your fans will be appalled at how the new album sounds. Do you still think that?
“Well, the chorus of ‘Me, Myself And Hollywood’ is like Drake. I woke up in the middle of the night with it going round my head. It’s a Circa Waves verse that goes into a hip-hop chorus, with an Arctic Monkeys guitar line to it. Then it’s got an orchestral ending; it crescendos upwards and is very different to anything we’ve done. There are a few songs on the album which are unusual like that, but really I think fans will embrace it, as it’s different but it’s still us.”
Were all four of you on the same page for mixing it up and veering away from the traditional guitar/bass/drums formula?
“It emerged from ‘Times Won’t Change Me’, which is completely piano-led, something we’d never done before but which felt super-exciting. That opened the floodgates for songs like ‘Passport’, which is also purely piano-led, and ‘Motorcade’, which is an LCD Soundsystem-style track, very synth-led. We used the studio as an instrument, really, and swapped instruments between us a lot. Our bassist Sam (Rourke) learned piano for the album and tour, our guitarist Joe (Falconer) played Sam’s bass at times, and then me and Colin (Jones, drums) were smacking drums together in a tribal manner. We were unshackled, unafraid to be as evolved as possible. You have to be on your third record.”
You’ve been inviting fans to send in videos of them dancing to Circa Waves songs via the #WILOT hashtag. What’s the quality been like?
“Pretty amazing. Some people are in their office, with colleagues looking confused, and then you’ve got everything from full-on dance routines to blokes in the kitchen jumping around with their tops off. I’m made up, I didn’t expect the response to be as good as it has been.”
Does this mean we can expect full-on dance routines from Circa Waves on your next tour?
“I’m sure our management would love us to learn a dance routine. Maybe we’ll come up with our own one.”
For the current warm-up tour, you’ve been playing towns off the usual touring circuit, such as Dunfermline, Milton Keynes and Stockton-on-Tees. What’s the thinking behind that?
“We wanted to do something we hadn’t done before. We’ve done the regular circuit, and wanted to get back to the small rooms we started out playing. Back in the day, there were only 20 people in the room, whereas now there’s 300 people going absolutely nuts. It’s awesome to be that close to the fans again. It’s less pressure on the new songs, and it gives us the freedom to try out some guitar poses we wouldn’t usually do too. We only did festivals last year, so we’re finding our feet with headline shows again.”
Three of the songs on ‘Different Creatures’ made it on to Radio 1’s A-list. Did you feel under any pressure to repeat that radio-friendly success?
“We’ve always been fans of big songs, and this album is no exception. We’ve never shied away from pop or big tunes. It’s naturally what we do, so it’s never been on my mind. We make pop music, and only at the end of the record do we go, ‘This song could work on Radio 1.’ There’s a few on this album, and we’ll pick what we feel will connect best.”
Was Alan Moulder the obvious choice to produce the album, having worked with him on ‘Different Creatures’? You were experimenting with someone you already knew?
“Alan is one of the few people who can reach inside my mind and pull out what the sound should be. I know what I want, but I can’t necessarily get it coming out of the speakers. Alan is my music translator, and the most patient person in rock’n’roll. I’d encourage any musician to work with him. He’s so experienced, and he can show you how he got the sounds from so many great records he’s worked on. He showed us the keyboards The Killers had on ‘Sam’s Town’, and how Dave Grohl gets his snare drum sound.”
Joe told NME Alan’s one problem is he won’t go out for a drink with the band. Have you got him down the pub yet?
“No! He’s driven us in his Jag a few times, but he’s never been out for a drink with us properly. Maybe we’re not cool enough for him yet, that’s something to aim for on our fourth record.”
When did you know the song ‘What’s It Like Over There?’ would be the title of the album too?
“We began thinking what the album title should be during recording, and ‘What’s It Like Over There?’ is a collection of words that has a nice fluidity to it. It can mean so many things and be interpreted in so many ways, and I like something where it brings imagination to your fanbase.”
What inspired the album sleeve?
“I designed a concept of two androgynous beings looking out at something you can’t see. It’s a nod towards the title ‘What’s It Like Over There?’ – their eyes are covered as they don’t want to see what’s over there, whatever it is. The bodies aren’t really human. I want it to be a piece of art for people to discuss.
“An awesome photographer, Hollie Fernando, realised the concept, bringing in the two people you see on the sleeve. Hollie took a lot of shots, and you’ll see others in the album campaign – she’s given it great cohesion. I was in the water too, shooting with Hollie, up to my knees freezing in salty water. I loved it. Maybe the figures are looking a post-apocalyptic world or maybe they’re looking back at themselves. Maybe towards the end of this campaign, I’ll figure out what they’re looking at and what it’s all about, but for now I like the ambiguity.”
The album isn’t out until April. Are you feeling like an expectant father right now?
“It’s horrible, waiting for this big event to happen. We’ll release a handful of songs before the album, and it’ll be exciting to see the reactions. We can see instantly if people are loving it or, like I told you in June, if they’re appalled. We’ll soon see….”