Circa Survive Biography
Last updated: 05/01/2012 12:00:00 PM
Whatever you think Circa Survive’s new album means, you’re right. However you understand the lyrics, in whichever way you construe the melodies, whatever emotions rise within you, whether it generates nostalgia or pain or hope or something you can’t name, Blue Sky Noise expands to encompass any possible perception of itself.
The Doylestown, PA-based band’s multi-faceted sound has always allowed infinite space for interpretation, melding intricate prog and mind-bending psychedelia with massive riffs and singer Anthony Green’s reflective, intimate lyricism. With Blue Sky Noise, Circa Survive have crystallized their complex sound and equally involved ideas about the world around them into their most confident and focused collection to date. Songs like "Imaginary Enemy" and "Get Out" are elaborately orchestrated and intensely powerful, offering the purest expression thus far of Circa Survive’s singular identity.
Hailed as a remarkably visceral live act since their 2004 foundation, Circa Survive followed 2007’s acclaimed second album, On Letting Go, with nearly two years of non-stop touring, roadwork which saw the band bridging a diverse range of audiences with its idiosyncratic sonic vision. In addition to treks alongside bands such as Coheed & Cambria, Thrice, Pelican, and My Chemical Romance, Circa Survive dropped jaws at such dissimilar music festivals as Vans Warped Tour and Coachella.
Upon returning home to the house they shared in Doylestown, the band took a brief but much-needed pause in order to readjust and revive their energies. It wasn’t long before the five musicians began allowing ideas to gestate for a new record. In October of 2008, the band acquired a cottage-like house that bordered a stream and a nature preserve. They called it "The Creek House" and in one of its rooms, with a large picture window looking out into the world, they wrote nearly every day for several months. The process had its ups and down. The band, then unsigned, struggled with a tumultuous internal pressure to create something they were proud of, something that elevated their music to a new level of skill and innovation.
Green, in particular, was consumed with uncertainty and felt unable to live up to his own expectations. Mid-way through the writing process, the singer had a breakdown, going what he calls "mentally bankrupt and ruined with self-doubt." With the band’s support, he checked himself into a mental institution, where he spent a period of time recovering his sense of balance and unearthing a new perspective.
"I just wanted to get better," Green explains. "People should know that when they get to their wit’s end they should get help. I went to the local crisis center. I had to do that in order to make this record."
When Green returned, although some of the problems remained, he found himself better able to confront the challenge of crafting this record with his bandmates. Circa Survive returned to writing every day in The Creek House. They eschewed any formula for songwriting. Every musical idea had its own method of creation, its own unique path of maturing into songs. For the first time in Circa Survive, guitarist Colin Frangicetto contributed lyrics and melodies for two songs—"I Felt Free" and "Imaginary Enemy"—and the band worked collaboratively to build a unified record piece by piece, song by song. "Frozen Creek," a haunting track written by Green and guitarist Brendan Ekstrom (the two also collaborated on "Get Out"), marked the first time the musicians felt they were on the right track during the writing process, and from there the group constructed the songs into an integrated whole, book-ended by surging opener "Strange Terrain" and shyly hopeful closer "Dyed In the Wool."
"We really wanted to make sure we were writing a cohesive full-length album," says Ekstrom. "We wanted people to listen to our record from front to back, with all the songs flowing together seamlessly. A lot of it is a reflection of our personalities and what we went through, but also a reflection of the state of music and our reaction to the disintegration of the album."
In the spring of 2009, the band, now signed with Atlantic Records, made a list of possible producers. They met with several, all dream scenarios, and immediately felt a connection with David Bottrill (Muse, Tool, King Crimson). The band sent songs to Bottrill from The Creek House throughout the spring and by the time they arrived in Toronto in July to begin preproduction, that communication had grown into a supportive discourse that helped the songs grow into the best versions of themselves. Circa Survive spent three and a half months in Toronto, recording in several different spaces, always reminding each other of the common goal they were working toward: making the best album possible.
"We wanted to make a record with an element of patience," Frangicetto explains. "One where you might not discover something until the third or even thirtieth listen. David was the perfect guy for that. He was very intent on preserving the artist’s vision. He wanted to take what we did and make it better. It was the most peaceful recording session we’ve ever had. He kept us in a team mentality. He told us on our last day, ‘I don’t think you guys could have made a better record.’"
The twelve songs on Blue Sky Noise swell and dissolve into each other. The fervor and desperate force of "Get Out" as Green howls "Locked myself up in a room without a window/ Just to see if it was any easier to breathe" find equal strength in his bandmates’ impassioned instrumentals. The urgent liberation of "I Felt Free" is reflected in its propulsive guitars, soaring melodies and the throb of an underlying beat. Layers of sound, built with revving guitars, patterned rhythms and the ardor of Green’s vocals, allow the record to intensify and suspend, sprawling into vast atmospheric spaces and surging together into dramatic climaxes. Every track stands alone, but each stands taller beside its companions. It offers a profound sense of catharsis and represents a collective healing process for the musicians who birthed it. It is a segment of a greater whole, another stride toward an ultimate realization.
"I feel like it says a million things," Green says. "It’s all in the album. And it’s all in the other albums. It’s a bunch of unsaid stuff that I haven’t recorded yet. Every album is a chapter and a step toward the truth. And you’re never going to get there, you just have to keep going and going. I want this record to be in the world. It only makes sense out there. I’m like a pregnant mother about to explode. I just want it out there. It’s weighing me down and I love it so much and I just want it to be alive so I can put it to my teat."