Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Interview with S. Radhakrishna from Circles

Circles has one of my all-time favorite band descriptions on their Facebook: "pop music for educated, upper-middle class, pretentious white people." Naturally, I like their music, as I am somewhat educated and extremely pretentious. I got an email from Srini Radhakrishna with a link to their EP and I enjoyed it very thoroughly. I had heard of a few of the bands (Radar Eyes, Football, Ponys) that these guys had been in (or are in) before and so was psyched to have them featured on the blog. After listening to the record (which really should be released physically,) I asked Mr. Srini if he were down for an interview and he was more than quick and helpful with helping me.

Circles are a Chicago band that makes artfully pop-driven songs. It's a little bit of punk and a little bit of garage rock and a little bit of noise. Circles uses a lot of different instruments as well, giving it a dynamic scope of 20th century music from jazz and blues. It's a real treat to listen to.

They're following up their EP, which is streamable on their BANDCAMP PAGE, with something that will hopefully become a full-length. Srini discusses this in the interview below. In the time being, "like" them on FACEBOOK and check out what they had to say!

Jordan: Who all is in Circles? You guys have been in a lot of really cool projects. Did you meet through playing music? When did you guys decide to start the band?

S. Radhakrishna: Circles started out as a recording project with Melissa, Ken, and I in the spring of 2011.  We've all been friends for a long time. At one point, we all worked at Playboy together.  I had a few unrecorded songs left over from France Has the Bomb, and asked them if they would be interested in learning and recording them.  

SR: We wound up adding a lot of organ and keyboards parts on the recording, and those parts/sounds became essential. When we found out Christen was secretly a piano virtuoso, we demanded that she join the band. Then Melissa ruined her life by getting pregnant, so we decided to find someone to fill in until she was able to find time to get back into the fold.  I've known Anthony for years and love Radar Eyes.  We were all surprised he was willing to put his reputation on the line and play with with us.  When Melissa comes back, Anthony can slide over to bongos or something.

J: How did you decide on the name Circles? I think it's really elegant.

SR: Thanks.  I wish I could say a lot of thought went into it.   But the truth is, I was just listening to my iPod on random one day, and the song Circles by the Who popped up.  I really like that song, and thought the name Circles fit the aesthetic that we were looking for.  We're completely aware that there are/were a bunch of bands using the same name.  I guess if it ever becomes a problem, we'll deal with it then.

J: When you started the band, was there a certain sound or style of music you felt influenced you the most?

SR: Circles just kind of took over where France Has the Bomb left off, which was a more pop trajectory.   I'm a sucker for hooks and melody, but can easily get turned off by songs that sound too "slick".  I'm a big fan of Flying Nun records bands, like the Clean, Tall Dwarfs, Chills, Bats, etc. I love how those bands incorporated a lot of noise-y/weird parts into their songs, but managed to retain the hooks and melody of a good pop song.

J: How do you write songs? Is there a primary songwriter who composes everything or do people collaborate more?

SR: It depends.  Sometimes I have a whole song worked out in my head, and it's just a matter of everyone figuring out their own parts.  But most of time I have two or three parts, and we figure out the arrangement as a group.   

J: How big of a concern to the band is the lyrical content? What informs lyrics?

SR: I HATE writing lyrics.  I'm usually scribbling stuff down all the way to point where I'm at the microphone and the engineer is ready to hit record and visibly annoyed.  It's rare that I have a specific idea in mind as far as content. I usually just let my subconscious take over, start writing stuff down, and hope the output is not completely embarrassing.  The one exception to that was Marcus Garvey.  I was administering a test for an after school class in this elementary school on the Southside.  The class was in the school library, so while they were taking the test I read a grade school level biography on Marcus Garvey to pass the time.  I knew he was an influential civil rights leader but didn't know much about the details of his life.  He turned out to be a very interesting character, so I decided to use him as the subject of a song.  I tried to make the lyrics come off as a 5th grade report on Marcus Garvey. 

J: What is your recording process like? Is it different from previous projects that you guys have had?

SR: I think the biggest difference from all of our previous bands was that we recorded before ever playing a show. That was a first for all of us.  We just came up with overdub ideas as we went and weren't really concerned with how we would execute it live. So the songwriting process continued in the studio rather than ending at the practice space.

J: What was creating the Circles EP like? Does anything stick out in particular in terms of the trajectory of the record's genesis?

SR: I guess the thing that sticks out the most was how much fun it was to record with Mike Lust.   He did a great job of keeping things loose and making us laugh.  At one point, he grabbed a chilled bottled of Vodka out of the freezer and demanded we drink straight from the bottle while wearing a thick winter glove.  He just started screaming "THE GLOVE!!!" at us.

J: How are you guys releasing the EP? I know you have a bandcamp, but do you have any desire to eventually make a physical release?

SR: We would love for it to eventually come out on vinyl.  Do you want to start a label?!  It will be the best financial decision that you'll ever make. 

J: Do you guys play live very often? Do you think that your sound is different live than it is on a recording?

SR: I think we've played less than 10 shows in two and a half years.  At this point, we're all more interested in writing and recording songs than playing shows on a regular basis.   But when the opportunity comes along to play with a band we really like or go somewhere interesting, we try to take advantage.

J: What other bands would you recommend for people to check out? Anyone you've heard lately that has been on rotation?

SR: The new Blind Shake record is great.  They just keep getting better and better.  I can't wait to see the Oh Sees/Blind Shake/OBN IIIs show at the Bottle.  It's not really that new, but the most recent Kurt Vile record is perfect fall weather music.   I'm a little slow to the whole Rodriguez story, so I've been listening to his first two records quite a bit lately.

J: I know it's early, but what all is in your future?

SR: We've already booked time in January to record at Minbal Studio with Cooper of Cave.  We're really excited to work with him.  Hoping to record 8 to 10 new songs with everyone involved, including Melissa.

J: Anything else on your mind?

SR: Christen is getting married this weekend.  I'm sure I will hear the My Dick album over and over and over again at the reception. 

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