Making Music Videos, Self-Deprecation and the End of the World: An Interview with Circa Waves

Circa Waves © 2020
Circa Waves © 2020
Circa Waves break down the concept of their new two-part album ‘Sad Happy’ and the reasoning behind its split release, and frontman Kieran Shudall reveals his favourite track from the record!
Stream: ‘Happy’ – Circa Waves

English pop-rock band Circa Waves have been filling our lives with sunny, down-to-earth, festival-ready music since 2013. But as we progress further into 2020, the music marketing methods of 2013 feel like an increasingly distant memory. The digitalization of music has led to audiences becoming more enticed by single tracks than albums and many prefer to stream rather than purchase music ⁠— since 2013 this trend has only grown. In an age where the music business landscape is an ever-shifting minefield, how do you re-engage those fans who have succumbed to the ease of modern, single-track streaming? Well, Circa Waves seem to have the answer and it lies in a two-part album release. Creating smaller, bite-size musical pieces could be the perfect compromise between full-length traditional albums and single-track streaming.

Sad Happy - Circa Waves
Sad Happy – Circa Waves

In November 2019, Circa Waves announced their 2020 album Sad Happy. As of yet, we have only been privy to the “Happy” portion of the record, with Sad and the physical full edition due for release in March. Despite their respective names, Sad is not full of self-indulgent ballads and Happy is not ignorantly blissful. Whilst the record has two distinctly separate vibes, both parts of the album incorporate realism, happiness and self-deprecation and if the Happy portion of the album is anything to go by, the band’s representation of these emotions is spot on.

Circa Waves always have been and always will be a band who, in Kieran’s own words, “don’t take themselves too seriously but take music seriously.”

That sentiment is clear throughout this record. Alongside the self-deprecating and anxious themes of Sad Happy, Circa Waves have still managed to create music that offers joy, which is their full intention.

I think any sadness makes you more creative. There’s a good reason why a lot of bands come from dismal places.

Atwood Magazine chatted to Circa Waves frontman Kieran Shudall about Sad Happy, Gorillaz, and how hardship breeds creativity.

If nothing else than feelings end
It seems the world has gone to shit again
So pack your bags, we’re leaving soon
I heard they’re selling flights to the pink moon
You say your feet are cold, I guess we need to go
Somewhere warm on the West Coast
You look at me with that familiar face
You turn around, and then you say
I think that we should move to San Francisco
That’s where the happy people go
You say you wanna go to San Francisco
But I, I just don’t know


Atwood Magazine: I just wanted to start by asking about the European tour you’re on at the moment ⁠— how is it all going?

Kieran Shudall: It’s good, yeah. I’m currently eating a pain au chocolat ⁠— it’s very European. I’ve been drinking a lot of coffee. We’re out here with Two Door Cinema Club and they’re just lovely gentlemen and we’ve been playing these really beautiful massive theatres with them which is really cool! We’ve been playing Fifa every night, I’m doing a massive Fifa tournament at the moment. It’s very enjoyable ⁠— I can’t complain.

So, when you’re on the road, what do you do with your spare time, if you get much?

Kieran: Just generally going and seeing the city. Obviously, we’ve been to the same cities a few times now but we got to Luxembourg today and I’ve not really seen here before. I’ve been for walks and I’m quite into art so I’ve been to a few galleries and after that, we just do a soundcheck before the gig happens. So basically explore a little bit, get some fresh air it’s very regular ⁠— we’re just normal humans!

Well, it sounds great. When you’ve been playing these shows have you taken the opportunity to play some of the new songs from the record?

Kieran: Yeah, we are actually. We played a song called ‘Be Your Drug’ for the first time last night and that was really cool because we’d never played that and we’re playing our single that’s out at the moment called “Jacqueline” and it’s great. Obviously, the people in the crowd don’t know the songs that well so it’s cool to see the new ones getting a bigger response than all the old stuff. It’s really exciting to know that it’s translating to people even though they don’t know it.

So is it quite a liberating feeling when you get to finally play a new song and see the crowd’s reaction?

Kieran: Yeah, it’s great and we probably feed off the fact that it’s new for the fans. We’ve been playing some of the same songs for six years now and then when you play something new you probably give off a bit more energy I guess.

I can imagine that ‘Jacqueline’ and ‘Be Your Drug’ are bangers to play live. How do you think the rest of the songs from ‘Sad Happy’ are going to fit into your live set?

Kieran: I think it will be good! I think we will probably do five or six on the main UK tour. I think it will really work, the new ones feel as though they very much fit with everything else so I think they’ll slide in perfectly.

With those new additions, particularly the ones from the Sad side of the album, can we expect to see some stripped back live performances in your set?

Kieran: Potentially, I don’t know. We’re trying to figure out now what we’re going to do with the UK tour, whether we want to do an acoustic moment or whatever! It’s always hard because I’m never that keen on big acoustic moments and big emotional things but we will see. There are three stripped back tunes on this record so maybe one of them could happen, but I don’t know yet until we really get into the details.

On that note about emotional moments, how sad really is ‘Sad’? Is it more lyrically sad rather than sonically sad?

Kieran: Yeah, musically I wouldn’t say it’s that sad but it feels quite euphoric to me. The lyrical content, I suppose, is a little bit self-deprecating and just sort of mirrors the anxiety that everyone has in society at the moment. But people can still enjoy the songs as musical, happy things.

Well, sad and happy generally run somewhat concurrently with one another, most of the time you’re not sad or just happy so it makes sense to mix the feelings.

Kieran: Exactly, yeah!

So moving on from the live aspects of the record. You guys decided to shoot, direct and edit the ‘Move to San Francisco’ video yourselves. Is that something that over the years you’ve developed more of an interest in alongside music? Are you trying to take more control visually and creatively?

Kieran: I think we’re all quite creative people and we have a lot of opinions on how things should look and we’ve always been those people from the start. Now that we’re on an independent label we have kind of been left to our own devices, so if we want to make a video we can decide what it’s going to be about. You know, we’re not good videographers but we know what we like so we had a go at shooting it and then Joe edited it and I’m really happy with the way it looks. You know, it cost nothing and it’s a really cool thing to put out.

Yeah, I think it looks great as well.

Kieran: Thank you!

Since you had so much input into the video has it become your favorite video that you’ve made?

Kieran: Well, we did a similar thing with a video called ‘Me, Myself and Hollywood’ and I really like that video too. I also loved making the ‘Jacqueline’ video because that was just such a funny experience. We were in this two million pound mansion and we just got to hang out there for the day so that’s my favourite video that we’ve done for a long time.

That does sound pretty cool!

Kieran: It was pretty cool.

Circa Waves © 2020
Circa Waves © 2020

Let’s talk about your writing process; what does that look like? Do you find you write better on the road or when you’ve locked yourself away from the world completely ⁠— is there any specific process that you find works best for you?

Kieran: I don’t really write on the road, I don’t think I’ve ever really written on the road. I generally write once I get home. I have a little mini-studio in my house so I go and lock myself away in there for a bit and try and make something cool. When we’re off I do that every day, so that’s why I’ve got a big backlog of songs.

When you’re writing, do you think you come up with better music when you’re sad or happy? Sadness can often trigger the poetry of it all, do you find that?

Kieran: I think any sadness makes you more creative. There’s a good reason why a lot of bands come from dismal places. You don’t often hear of really great bands coming from Miami because it’s so nice. Do you know what I mean? It’s all Manchester, Liverpool and places where it rains and there’s poverty and hardship. I think out of those things comes great art and unfortunately in times like these where it’s currently nearly the end of the world and we’ve got fucking leaders who want to blow it up it makes everyone, probably, write better music. There’s gonna be some great, great music getting made in the coming years I guess, but obviously that means that the world is going to shit.

I agree, but every cloud! When you started this record, did you go into it knowing you were going to create two separate sides or did that transpire as you continued writing and you saw that there was a definite split down the middle?

Kieran: Yeah, it was more of an afterthought ⁠— I don’t mean that in the sense that we didn’t think too much about it ⁠— we had the batch of songs and it felt like two distinctive vibes were going on, especially lyrically. We also just wanted to find a new way of releasing music that felt exciting to us. On your fourth album, it’s kind of do you wanna just do the exact same thing that you’ve done each time? We love records and love to buy vinyl so the idea that everything is just in playlists now and no-one actually gives a shit about songs being in any order we thought maybe we could release two short albums and in that sense people with short attention spans can maybe get into it as a continual record. So it’s kind of treading the line between being an album and two short pieces of music for you to consume and hopefully not just skip every song ⁠— that’s the idea anyway!

Yeah, I completely get it and that explains the split sides but also you’ve split the timeframe. You haven’t just got two sides of an album, you’ve got quite a lot of time in between the release of Happy and Sad. Was that the reason you chose that method, to keep people’s attention?

Kieran: I didn’t think too much about it until I was in it but now that one album is out and you get people responding to it, it’s really exciting to hear when people enjoy the record, but then it dies down and you go off touring and all of that. Whereas now that we’ve had all of that, we know there’s another part of the album to come out and there’s another big piece of music for people to listen to and react to. So, it’s kind of cool that we get to enjoy it twice. In a way, it’s emotionally selfish, ‘cause I just get to be told that my music’s good twice! Or, that people don’t like my music, so I’m putting myself out there twice to either be criticized or lauded so we’ll see. But I enjoy the fact that I get two cracks of the whip.

Well, I’m sure the fans like it too because it hypes them up twice, they must enjoy the process as well! Obviously, as a band, you guys have influences and I know you’ve mentioned The Arctic Monkeys and Vampire Weekend before but these tracks seem to have pushed forward a bit and they’re offering slightly different sounds. So, are there any artists that you’ve been listening to recently that perhaps you haven’t drawn influence from before?

Kieran: I suppose I’ve been listening to a lot more Gorillaz. At the moment I love his mix of old analogue instruments and modern-day drum sounds and drum machines. I think Damon Albarn is just incredible as a producer and songwriter. I also like young bands like Wallows, I think they’re really cool. I’ve always kind of been drawn to sunny American music, which is probably quite evident if you listen to all the albums, anything like that! I do also still listen to all my old stuff. I’ve been listening to a bit more Velvet Underground, Joni Mitchell and all that kind of music that I always have ticking away in the background.

Circa Waves © 2020
Circa Waves © 2020

I guess it’s good to take inspiration from different periods in time, isn't it?

Kieran: Yeah! If you listen to us you can probably tell that I listen to loads of music because it’s all over the fucking place, to be honest. Not one album sounds the same as another and that might be to the detriment of the band eventually but for me, it’s more interesting to evolve and change with each record.

I think that’s kind of where music is going at the moment. It’s less about sticking to one specific genre and more about combining elements from each, so I think that’s probably a good thing!

Kieran: Yeah, hopefully!

Would you say you have a personal favorite song on this record that you either enjoy playing or loved writing?

Kieran: It changes quite a bit. I think, probably, there’s a song on the second side called “Birthday Cake” which, aside from being a funny title, production-wise I love what we did with the song and on a personal level I’m quite proud of some of the lyrics ⁠— so I can’t wait to hear what people think of that one! It’s really slow and quite miserable, so I think a lot of people are going to hate it ⁠— it’s a proper emo one.

That sounds great to me! To finish off, are there any messages or takeaways you want fans and listeners to draw from this record?

Kieran: Nothing particular. I’m just really happy that people are enjoying our music still and hopefully what’s becoming clear is that we’re a band that wants to entertain people, we don’t take ourselves too seriously but we take music seriously. With these records we just want people to listen to them and escape.

Well, I think that’s definitely clear and you're very much achieving that.

Nostalgia Meets Hustle Culture in Circa Waves’ “Jacqueline”


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:: stream/purchase SAD HAPPY here ::

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Sad Happy - Circa Waves

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an album by Circa Waves

:: Circa Waves 2020 UK Tour ::

March 27 – O2 Academy, Glasgow
March 28 – Keele University SU, Keele
March 30 – The Tramshed, Cardiff
March 31 – O2 Academy, Leicester
April 2 – The Waterfront, Norwich
April 3 – O2 Academy Brixton, London
April 4 – Liverpool Uni, Mountford Hall, Liverpool

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