“We’ve had to really step up and take more control” - Circa Waves talk life after a major label and new LP What’s It Like Over There?
Scouse indie foursome Circa Waves are taking a different approach on their third studio album What’s It Like Over There?
Their first two records, 2015’s Young Chasers and 2017’s Different Creatures, were released with major label Virgin EMI, but for their new LP they are going with a new set-up involving indie stalwarts Play It Again Sam.
Sonically, it’s a continuation of what they’ve been doing. Alan Moulder, best known for his work with Foals and Nine Inch Nails, is back at the controls and has given the album a cinematic, widescreen treatment. The songs all sound bloody enormous.
Largely written on tour across America with Two Door Cinema Club, the songs have a trippier, more introspective feel compared to the angular bouncy indie pop of their early days.
We spoke to bassist Sam Rourke about their new life on a new label and the making of What’s It Like Over There?...
When did you start work on this album? Did you want to want to get back to work quickly after Different Creatures?
“We’ve always been a band who like taking time off. Kieran (Shudall, singer) was working a lot while we were touring the States and then we had two months of demoing at home and sending ideas back and forth. Then we went straight in the studio.”
Did you have a goal in mind for the album? Did you want to do anything differently?
“We didn’t want to have any rules in the studio. The first two albums were a guitar band in a room making music together. This time we wanted to be totally open to wherever the song would take us.”
You worked with Alan Moulder again, why did you decide to stick with him?
“We had such a good time on Different Creatures. He’s a very fun producer and he always knows how to get the sound you want. There’s no ego. He doesn’t impose on you. He doesn’t come in with a direction for you. We knew we wanted to expand our sound and he was the obvious choice. We knew we wanted to sound enormous.”
It’s a 10-track record. Did you go into the studio with a lot of material and slim it right down? Or did you just have the songs you wanted?
“We rehearsed about 14 and then one was written in the studio. A couple of them didn’t make it, but only because they didn’t fit with the overall sound.”
What kind of album is it lyrically? Is there a theme to it?
“For me, it’s an album about relationships, all the songs about different stages of a relationship. Each song feels like a soundtrack to a different moment in this relationship.”
When did you settle on the title?
“It was right at the end of recording. We went to the pub to celebrate finishing and Kieron told us about the idea for the title. I didn’t like it. I thought it sounded weird. A couple of days later, after I’d had a while to let it sit there and swim around my head, I came right around to it. It makes a lot of sense.”
Were there any other titles in contention?
Excellent. Where did you find the cover? It’s a very striking image…
“I’m not sure where it came from. We all went down to the South Coast with a photographer to do all our new press shots for the album. We had two models with us and we did a lot of improvising. That photo was one of them it really stood out. It’s so evocative.”
You’ve got a slightly different label set-up this time, you’ve left Virgin EMI and you’re now with PIAS, how’s that all going?
“It’s going really well. We’ve had to really step up and take more control in lots of ways. That’s been really good for us. Life on a major label has its benefits, but you’re a tiny part of a big system and it’s very easy to get sidelined. We’ve been really involved in everything this time.”
Was it a mutual decision to leave Virgin EMI?
“We were all ready to have a change. We’d done two albums with them and we were ready to try something different. We wanted more control of the situation. We’re really happy with it.”
How’s your live set coming together? With three records you’ve got be a bit more choosy?
“It’s been quite tricky and we’re not quite sure what to play. We’re going to try out a few different sets over the first few nights. We’ve got 20 songs ready and rehearsed. Some of them could go either way, we love some of these songs on record, but we know they might not work live. We’ll have to find out.”
How’s your summer coming? Many festivals?
“We’ve got Reading and Leeds, Tramlines, TRNSMT, we have got more to announce. It’s a very busy summer. We’re doing a month in America and then going to Japan. There’s a lot. Next year though, we’ll want even more festivals.”
Are you booked for the rest of the year?
“We’re formulating the rest of the year now. 2019 and 2020 are getting pretty packed.”
Circa Waves’ new album What’s It Like Over There? is out now in hmv stores.