CIRCA WAVES are perhaps one of the biggest groups to emerge from Liverpool over recent years, having signed to Virgin EMI a year after forming and releasing debut album Young Chasers the following year. Young Chasers proved a summer hit via its soaring guitars and upbeat choruses seemingly purpose-built to be bellowed back at them on festival main stages, whilst recalling the youthful nostalgia of the likes of The Strokes and The Libertines. Its sky-scraping anthems – like the sweltering T-Shirt Weather – were surely the soundtrack to plenty of day trips to beach sides around the UK on summer days that blind the sunglass-less and crimson the skin of many a pale Brit. The surf-rocking Scousers seem almost miraculously conceived, having popped out of nowhere to be crowned as the new saviours of indie; so who better to play this year’s main stage than a group who can fully captivate an audience as they bask in the hopefully radiant sunlight and the twinkling reflection of the Mersey? Ahead of their Sound City appearance we caught up with head of the troupe, lead singer and chief songwriter Kieran Shudall, who told us about success, the impact of touring and the prospect of a new album.
Having all played in bands before forming the group, each had had some individual success, but the attention they received as Circa Waves was completely different to the attention they’d experienced before. Barely two months after forming, one of the group’s tracks was revealed by Radio 1’s Zane Lowe as his Hottest Record in the World. “I was working on the stage next to The Kazimier at Sound City back in 2013,” Shudall tells us, “and it was around this time that Zane Lowe played the track, so it was a mad few days! It was pretty bonkers. I was up all day and night working Sound City whilst I was getting calls from loads of industry people…”
Within weeks the band were in the studio chatting with Lowe. “You learn so quickly when you’re dropped in the deep end. I’d never really done any interviews, so when I did that everything after just seemed to be a bit easier. I mean we’d done the biggest interview we could!” From this point on, the band had a relentless following of A&Rs hounding them at every gig. “It got so bad that we had to start playing gigs under pseudonyms including Malkovich Malkovich and Wet Wet Wet Wet. We thought, ‘Who the fuck is going to go see a band called Wet Wet Wet Wet?’ And we were right!” After eventually signing to Virgin EMI, the group set off with a plan for world domination. “Our ambition was to be a big band around the world… and signing up to a major label [made us part of] a bigger machine. More funding meant that we could play gigs all over the world. Y’know, even though we’d not sold that many records, they said, ‘You go fuckin’ sell yourself!’ On an indie [label] that’d have been much tougher.”
However, the ability to tour relentlessly to packed rooms globally was not quite the blessing that it initially seemed. The almost non-stop tour schedule, which has seen them play shows in Europe, Japan and the States, has had a huge impact on the mentality of Shudall and the rest of the band: Joe Falconer (guitar), Colin Jones (drums) and Sam Rourke (bass). Homesickness and isolation set in for the young songwriter, which became a yearning to get back to the city where he was born. “With travelling, you do see things in a different way. For 25 years I saw me mates, family and girlfriend every week. Being away from all that really fucks you up. It makes you think.”
Touring is a process that seems to hit a lot of bands hard but few have to deal with the sudden dramatic rise to fame with which Circa Waves have been confronted, and the popularity of the group seemed to become as much of a curse as a blessing. “It’s very strange. I think a lot of people really struggle with touring. The highs and lows are so extreme. I mean, you can’t get high without a come down. It’s so easy to come off stage and just drink to try and bring yourself down. [But] you can’t just destroy your body every night. You have to look after your brain because it can become your biggest enemy when you’re on a tour bus for eight hours a day.”
Although a cliché, the introspection that comes with discomfort and isolation can lead to the greatest art. Having travelled the world and removed themselves physically from friends, family and lovers, on returning to their hometown they started to write new tracks with a darker edge to those found on the first album. “Young Chasers was a record about the past. There was a lot I had to get off my chest. It was an album I always wanted to write and release, but I don’t write songs like that anymore. I’m not bothered about bringing anything back. I need to show people I’ve got more than one trick up my sleeve. The new album is very present and everything that is going on in my weird head currently. With travelling, you do see things in a different way. I feel a lot more attached to Liverpool. The things I’m writing about now are about being in your late twenties. It’s not just fucking happy times anymore. People are suffering from mental health issues, people are losing people. I’m not saying the whole album will be about depression, but it’s certainly not just about T-shirt weather. I think it’s fuckin’ well better than the first record!”
The prospect of such a record seems an exciting one in the career of a band who some sterner critics have dismissed as lightweight. The deeper and more introspective mindset which Shudall promises suggests that it will be their ‘difficult second album’ only in terms of the issues that it confronts; Sound City offers us a fascinating first glimpse of what lies ahead.
Circa Waves play the Main Stage on Sunday 29th May / Onstage at 21:00.