“Likely to be massive” runs the latest prophetic statement issued by the prolific Nostradamuses at the NME. The subject of their most recent swell of enthusiasm is Circa Waves, a band nurtured in Liverpool but with a fanbase that is truly global. Having engaged with arguably the most meteoric rise from one-man-band to fully-fledged international rock stars in just under two years, the four-piece have well and truly flown out of the blocks. From Japan to Australia, supporting The Libertines, to being named one of iTunes’ New Artists 2015, there is little the lads haven’t done or played. And what is perhaps the most impressive part of it all? They did it all without releasing an album.
Though it might suggest otherwise, the lack of a full-length release doesn’t reflect a poor work ethic on the part of CIRCA WAVES; on the contrary, the band have hardly stopped since they settled as a quartet, and they haven’t been together as long as their current popularity might suggest. What’s more, they seem to be intent on doing things the good old-fashioned way. “A lot of the bands we listen to didn’t have as quick a response as us, so we wanted to really get good live and get a good fanbase before we released an album,” explains Kieran Shuddall, Circa Waves’ vocalist, guitarist, songwriter and founder. “Live was sort of the proven ground for what would make it on to the album,” concurs Sam Rourke (Bass), reiterating the sentiment that the priorities prior to the release of Young Chasers (their debut record) were very much rooted in establishing themselves as a solid live act. And the hard work certainly shows. It only takes a quick look at the fact that Circa Waves have already played to a sold-out Alexandra Palace, and wowed the NME Awards Tour 2014 alongside Interpol, Royal Blood and Temples, to see that all that effort has rewarded them handsomely.
The benefits from all that grafting spread further than just their live shows, however. The compelling, anthemic qualities which have been cultivated on tour seep through into the spine of Young Chasers, giving it a sense of life which so many other contemporary releases find themselves lacking. Kieran describes how the band “just wanted to sound as rock and roll as possible, and raw and energetic, and not [with] too many like, you know, bells and whistles. Just pretty simple and straight to the point.” Now, “straight to the point” and “simple” are descriptions which do indeed resonate, though it’s the first half of the description which really typifies what makes Young Chasers such an enthralling album. From the frenetic brilliance of Get Away to the warming vibes of T-Shirt Weather, it’s a masterclass in how to hone a sound and relay it with the same vigour and passion on record. “We wanted our debut record to be much like other debut records that we love, our statement of intent kind of thing,” explains Kieran, while guitarist Joe Falconer expresses a similar notion: “We didn’t want to come in with the first album like a lot of bands… it’s quite easy to overplay your hand, I think.”
The ‘play the world and then release a record’ method is an unorthodox way of going about things, however, with not many artists either choosing to or able to do it. Arctic Monkeys could probably have done it in 2005, such was the interest in their pre-album activity, and perhaps that is the model being mirrored in Circa Waves’ case. The Motor Museum, the recording studio just off Lark Lane, was Arctic Monkeys’ home for their first two albums, and when I meet Circa Waves they have just stepped out of the hallowed building’s lush rooms after recording an exclusive session for Bido Lito! “It’s funny to know that we’ve sold-out big venues and we haven’t even played a track that people are waiting to hear,” muses Kieran, as the band relax in a pub round the corner from the studio, savouring one of their few moments of respite in a hectic schedule. The demand from their fans for more of them is reflected in a packed run of UK and European tour dates that has the band’s time tied up for the rest of 2015. Although it is testament to their prodigious ability in a live capacity, it is an irregular phenomenon.
One such consequence, you’d assume, would be the growing expectation for an album release, particularly in our current environment where, as the band so adequately describe it, people “consume” music far more than they ever did before. “They don’t just want T-Shirt Weather,” Kieran notes, “they want the acoustic version, they want the live version, they want the fucking a cappella version.” Despite the jovial tone to his voice, his words are undoubtedly true. With SoundCloud, YouTube and Spotify making music available at the touch of a button, bands are far more exposed and, as a result, expected to produce more, and quicker. “I feel like people have been demanding an album from us for quite a while,” says Joe, a notion which is surely somewhat deceptive due to their relatively short life-span, yet reflective of the following the band have amassed over the past couple of years.
Whatever pressures may have arisen, however, the lads seem to have weathered them admirably, and there is a palpable sense of excitement concerning the release of Young Chasers and the next stage that it represents. Joe: “I think it’s definitely the end of the first chapter in what we’ve been doing because it feels that when we were just touring constantly it was all about building that fanbase and, you know, really working hard without having the thing to back it up that people can go and listen to. People’s perceptions were 80 or 90% based on our live shows, and once the album comes out I think all of those strands are going to come together and people will have a really clear idea of what we’re about. Then we can move on to the next stage and be a proper band with an album out that people will have heard.”
What that next stage will hold, only time will tell. The here and now, however, could not be more promising. Young Chasers is the sound of a band who have been willing to get their hands dirty and are subsequently reaping the benefits. When asked for any last comments on the album, Kieran jokingly responds, “It’s the best guitar album of 2015”. And you know what? He may bloody well prove to be right.
Words: Ben Lynch / @benlynch07
Photography: Keith Ainsworth / arkimages.co.uk
Young Chasers is available on Transgressive Records.
Head to bidolito.co.uk now to stream three live tracks Circa Waves recorded exclusively for us with Al Groves at The Motor Museum. You can also see a video of Circa Waves performing T-Shirt Weather in the studio, and see a full gallery of photos from the session by Keith Ainsworth.