PART I – YOUNG CHASERS US ALBUM RELEASE
It has been a fertile period for British Invasions of Los Angeles lately. In the past year, we’ve seen Jamie T, Catfish and the Bottlemen, Royal Blood, James Bay, and Wolf Alice–among others–grace our shores with their immense talent, performing in rooms a fraction of the size of the venues they fill in their native land.
This week in Los Angeles brought with it another set of fresh faces, voices and accents, along with seemingly limitless drive and talent. The latest UK visitors wear the moniker Circa Waves and form a quartet that hails from Liverpool. They are Kieran Shudall (lead vocals, guitar), Joe Falconer (lead guitar, vocals), Sam Rourke (bass, vocals), and Colin Jones (drums). XSNoize.com was fortunate to spend time with these fine young men as they experienced a number of monumental firsts in their quest to win over new fans in America:
– the release of their debut album in the United States;
– their first show at the legendary Troubadour;
– and the band’s first US television appearance on Conan.
Our encounter began on September 18, 2015, the day of the US release of Circa Waves’ first full-length record, Young Chasers, which released in the UK last March and secured a top 10 spot in the charts there. Joe Falconer and Colin Jones kindly filled us in on a number of topics related to the band’s music and achievements thus far.
Welcome to America and to Los Angeles on the day your debut album drops in the US. How does it feel?
Thank you for having us! It feels really good. It’s been a long time coming. We’ve been sitting on the album for quite a while. We released it in the UK in March so it feels good for it to finally come out and we couldn’t think of a better place to spend it than in California, very hot and very sunny. I just wish I wasn’t this tired! We’ve got a short drive this weekend so at least we can relax and celebrate a little bit.
Watch Kieran Shudall’s Track by Track video for Young Chasers:
Monday is a big day for you – you play The Troubadour.
We just heard it was sold out! It went today so it’s good because it ties into the album release. There’s venues that even growing up on the other side of the world you hear lots of stories about it and it’s got a lot of history – for Kieran as well because he’s very influenced by all the Laurel Canyon songwriters of the 70s. He loves Carole King and James Taylor. So for him this is a massive deal. We’re all looking forward to playing it. We did play here about a year ago [On October 28. 2014 at The Echo, Los Angeles with BØRNS], but with the album out this feels a bit more official. We’re coming straight from Conan so maybe we’ll keep all the makeup on!
Any personal favorites on the album?
Joe: Mine constantly changes depending on what we play live. ‘Lost It’ is a track that we haven’t played in a while and then we played it in Madrid just before we came out here. I didn’t realize it, but I really love that song. It’s an album track; it’s never going to be a single, but I feel like it’s good.
Colin: I think it’s the same for me with ‘Best Years’ it’s on the deluxe version, we haven’t played that for ages.
Joe: It’s quite nice to have a break from the short sets that you play at festivals and then go back to playing slightly longer sets and songs you haven’t played in a while. It comes back out and you realize why you fell in love with it in the first place.
Do you have your favorites to listen to and your favorites to play, and are they different?
Colin: I like playing ‘Get Away’ and listening to ‘Deserve This’.
Joe: I like listening to ‘Deserve This’ because it’s so different from everything else. It doesn’t even really feel like us. We never even play it live. But I would never listen to my own music, ever! At least not out of choice, there’s always been a purpose, like we need to listen to the record to make sure it’s okay. I’ve never gone, “You know, I’ll listen to my own band!”
Colin: It will change your world! (laughs)
Joe: I’d love it if my new favorite band was our band. Listen to this band. It’s MY band. I didn’t realize we were really good! (laughs)
Colin: But imagine if someone said that to you! (laughs)
Joe: I don’t know. Maybe in 15 years I’ll listen to this record, maybe 20… just to make sure it really happened.
Los Angeles has a large and rather tightly knit music community. How about Liverpool? What’s the music scene like there?
The Liverpool scene is pretty similar in the fact that everyone knows everyone. I think that’s the thing, that it’s a community, definitely. It’s obviously on a lot smaller scale. But I think what’s really great about Liverpool is that, one, it’s got that heritage. The people are sort of inclined to have venues that you can try new things in, and because everyone sort of knows each other, everyone helps each other out quite a lot. A lot of foreign students are around as well. Some of our favorite bands have Norwegian people in them, or Brazilians. It’s really good. That’s how we all met, doing different things, being in various Liverpool bands before until we finally stumbled upon each other. I’d guess LA’s the same. If a band makes it, it’s probably been six bands before and you know that everyone’s doing different things. It’s really funny, we get asked all of the time about The Beatles thing. It’s really cool and it’s obviously a hallmark of the city. I think if you visit there now, there’s even like a young edition. You just want to shake people and say. “Cool. But that happened like sixty years ago.”
When people talk about you though, they’ll always say you’re from Liverpool because it has that magical ring to it; the same can’t really be said of other UK cities, can it?
Every city in the UK has a massive music scene. Every major city has a thing it’s given the entire world. If you’re from London they just say you’re from the UK because London is just London. But you know, you’ve got Manchester and bands like Oasis; you’ve got Sheffield and you’ve got Pulp and Arctic Monkeys; you’ve got Birmingham and the entirety of heavy metal with Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin… but I think Liverpool is the most famous.
As a band you excel in the area of live performance. One of the interesting things about you on stage is that you’re not a band made up of a frontman plus “the others,” or frontman and lead guitar plus “the others.” All four of you are giving it your all as a band of equals. Is that how you approach it or conceive of it? How did that come to be?
Colin: I don’t think it’s ever been planned that way.
Joe: Not once has that been discussed. If you look at the songwriting, it’s obviously Kieran. Kieran wrote everything but at no point did we ever say, “You do this, and you do this.” I think we all love live music. For too long I saw a lot of acts that were quite moody, in the UK in particular, where there was electronic music and a lot of people with drum machines just sitting there, sort of dull. And I would think, “You know I paid £15 to see this and it sounds like the fucking record!” because you’ve got a laptop playing most of the stuff. I think you should separate the things, if someone paid to see you, I feel like you’re working for it. I think all four of us individually, I need to…no I don’t need to, I want to feel like I’m doing something for people. It’s the best fucking feeling in the world when you turn around and you see your three mates. You’re all having a good time and you see your three friends just giving it everything that they have. I don’t know many–or any–people who come to one of our shows and sort of go, “Well, they didn’t really put the effort in,” or “Nah. I didn’t really enjoy it.”
Watching a set, it seems like any one of you at any time is a potential focal point.
Colin: Whenever I see videos, I’ve always enjoyed people going mad. It’s not entirely my music, but seeing a live show where someone’s on the sound desk just going crazy. It always gets me excited. As soon as I look at someone having a good time, it makes me even go more mad that I didn’t think I could. To know that I watch someone and that excites me, and if I could put that into someone else who goes like “Oh my god! That’s awesome!” I’d love to do that and it would make me feel happy if I can do that.
Speaking of live moments, you’ve had some great ones recently: two sets at Glastonbury, then Reading & Leeds. At Reading in particular, there’s an extraordinary finale with ‘T-Shirt Weather,’ when the crowd is totally into it and Kieran, in an almost nonchalant way, tells the crowd to jump and then clap and everyone does it instantly. At the end you can see a mischievous smile curl up on his face and then confetti is launched into the crowd on the final chorus as everyone screams. What did THAT moment feel like from up on stage?
(laughter) I think like how excited you sound! I think it’s really good because Glastonbury’s at the start of the festival season. It was the first UK thing we’d done with the album out. John Peel Stage is like fucking legendary! And to play that was a little bit nerve-wracking, I felt like it was the start of the festival season. You talked about Kieran and the way he talks to a crowd. We played like 25 festivals this summer, so that by the time we got to Reading, we were a well-oiled machine. I think Kieran has really got a way of sort of teasing the audience to places he wants them to go. Like you said, Reading is probably a culmination of our entire festival summer into that last moment. And when the confetti goes I always go “Fucking aaahhhhh!” It’s expensive, but it’s like “Aaaaahhhhh!” We did it on our UK tour and we just thought that for such a big festival like Reading…
How does that come about? Do you talk to the festival organizers and say, “We want confetti!”?
Joe: Well, no. We weren’t anywhere near playing last so I think the band that was headlining was like, “You can’t get confetti,” so we had to fight for it. We brought it ourselves. It’s funny, we had it at Reading and I knew it was coming but then we couldn’t get it for Leeds the next day. Our tour manager was saying, “We’ll get it for Reading because they’re filming it. We’ll have confetti.” And we were like, “OK, that’s fine.” We went to Leeds the next day but what he didn’t tell us is that he’d managed to get the confetti up to Leeds for free.
Colin: Like a 2-for-1. I wish that was filmed!
Joe: So without expecting it, we went into that bit and the confetti started going and I was like, “Yes! I didn’t know that was going to happen!” It was such a good feeling. But in my head the whole time I was thinking the fucking tour manager’s just got me!
Colin: (laughs) He lied to me! Ha! Confetti always gets an extra cheer. You always get lucky. Fucking confetti! What’s going on?
Joe: It’s amazing how little bits of paper can make an adult that excited. (laughter)
You’ve played in all kinds of venues: big stages this summer, huge stages of up to 10,000 when you supported The Libertines. The Constellation Room in Santa Ana, CA tonight is about 250. The Troubadour is 400. How does the size of the venue influence what it’s like for you on stage?
In a smaller venue, people can watch you more. It’s a lot more personal. If you say to someone, “We played to 10,000 people,” they might be like “Whoa, how does that feel?” but then it gets to a certain size where the audience becomes like a block and it doesn’t really feel like it’s any bigger. With smaller venues like this, every single person is very noticeable, especially in a place where we haven’t been a lot and they don’t necessarily know who we are. Again, we have to work even harder and it’s about winning people over. I want that person who’s like “maybe” before they come and see us, or a friend’s dragged them along and they’ve heard just one or two songs, I want them to go home and tell everyone they know that they’ve had a really good time.
Is there a venue size that feels ‘just the right size’ to you or does it not matter?
It’s not the size; it’s more the circumstance. It’s really impossible to put your finger on what exactly makes you come off of stage and go, “THAT one was special.” For instance, Glastonbury was fucking incredible, but we played a show in Oxford in November of last year (2014), which I have no idea why Oxford produced such an incredible gig. I had no expectations of it, it was mid-size, about 500, but it was incredible and I had no idea why. You can’t really put your finger on it, but when it happens, we all come off of stage and we’re very grateful for it. We all go, “That was a great show!”
You’ve been to a lot of countries and festivals all over the world—Europe, Japan, Australia, N. America…yet there are still places you haven’t been and where fans have discovered your music and are eager to have you come and tour. Hence out of empathy for those fans in places not yet visited, I’ve crowd-sourced the next three questions internationally via social media to give them a voice.
Oh, really? Wow! That’s research!
First question, randomly drawn from a pile and read by Colin:
Joe: I feel those similarities are maybe not as apparent as The NME would say. Journalists often use other bands as starting points to get their point across to readers, which is fine, it’s very useful. But when you’re writing music in a band you don’t really go, “Let’s be like The Strokes!” our influences are so much broader and I feel like it was shorthand very early on for what we might sound like. But as we put out more and more material, then I felt like that comparison got weaker and weaker. The NME decided to use that on the album review, put that in, you know, one needs a headline of which to write stuff underneath.
Colin: Very true. And Kate, we’ll see you soon! Joe, you can ask me one. Oh no, I’m all scared now.
Joe: You got a place I wanted to go! This is from Beatriz from Sao Paolo, in Brazil.
Colin: It’s amazing! I think there are worse things you could be addicted to. I think bands is a pretty good one! Getting into music, since I was a kid I have always been into bands and going to see bands – as many as I could. I probably haven’t gone as far as creating a fan page or anything like that, but that just shows how much fans like you as a band and as people. We’ve come across a few of them.
Joe: I love the fan art.
Colin: Yes. We got two from Japan, which was insane. Someone held a sign up in Summer Sonic in Japan, which said, “Take this, please!” and I was looking at it through the show going, “What is that? I don’t have a clue.” So our sound guy got it and came back and it was just this amazing drawing of all four of us.
Joe: Was that the girl in Japan who does all of the watercolors? She’s dead good! I don’t know, it’s really good. My favorite is that sometimes they’re not that great and they draw Kieran and he looks kind of mental. (laughter) We even enjoy the bad fan art. It’s lots of good fun.
Colin: Emmy from Mexico!
Colin (as if answering for Joe): Being with your best friend Colin every day! Done! (laughter)
Joe: That is good. It’s easy. It’s just basically doing the thing that you love, every single day, not having to have a proper job, and just traveling round the world. It’s very simple. It’s like life should really be that simple, in all honesty for everyone, but it’s not. We’re very fortunate that we’re in a position to do all those things. It’s just a shame that everyone else can’t do it. We’re very lucky.
XS: Your schedule’s brutal, though! You’ll be doing three cities in three Asian countries in three days in October: Jakarta, Singapore & Manila. That’s insanity.
Joe: But you know, I could be sitting in an office behind a desk in Milton Keynes, you know, stamping paper for a living and barely being able to afford to rent somewhere, and being stressed about that. And I feel like – what’s a little jetlag?
Colin: Any problems you do come and face that have to do with this job, the kind of plus you get from it outweighs any kind of thing you get that’s bad from it, ever.
Joe: The sort of complaints you have are not real: Where’s my ice? I’ve run out of wine. I’m a little bit tired today. This hotel isn’t as nice as the other hotels we’ve stayed in…
Colin (feigning anger): WHERE’S MY COFFEE!?!
Joe: You know what I mean? It’s like fuck it. It’s not hard. I mean it’s tiring, but it’s like a badge of honor, like the more tired you are, the busier you are which means that you’re doing well. If I was awake, then I’d probably be not very successful so it’d be shit. (laughter)
Colin: That’s a good one!
Back to the US and the UK now. You’re just starting your US Tour. You have a major UK Tour coming up as well that is on the verge of selling out Brixton Academy. What are your hopes with respect to both of these tours?
It’s funny because we’re doing them right next to each other. They both have sort of different purposes. I feel like in the UK, it’s about this is what we’ve achieved. This is our album. We’ve done this. Brixton is a ridiculous achievement for a band that’s been together for as little time as we have. I think it’s going to be like a kind of victory lap, without sounding a bit arrogant about it. This is for us and everyone who’s supported us in the UK to come out in ridiculous venues; playing venues that growing up and being fans of music and loving going to concerts, you know, we’ve always dreamed about playing.
So that’s incredible, but then on the flip-side, coming to the States, it’s like the idea of breaking America is this mythical thing for British bands. It takes hard work. It’s so big and everything’s so diverse. Every state has like a completely different personality. So I feel like we’re trying to become successful in America, and it’s grueling, and it’s not playing to big crowds who know all your music. It’s hard work and I feel in a way that’s kind of cooler, because it’s grass roots. I think it reminds us we still have to work. We still have ambition. There’s still stuff that we can achieve. The great thing is that we’re doing this and our album just came out today. I feel like we’ve got a lot to give in America; and I feel like America’s going to be quite responsive if we just keep coming back and are happy to go and work hard because, you know, that’s what it takes.
Excellent. Thank you very much.
Photos courtesy of Chad Elder (@lamusicphoto) www.chadelder.com
Special thanks to Kate in the Philippines @PARAFFIN, Beatriz in Brazil @imhispacifier, and Emmy in Mexico @naivemily for contributing excellent questions from afar.