There's no denying it - we Aussies are extremely spoiled for choice when it comes to exceptional heavy music. But one band on the brink of becoming a true pillar in an already burgeoning industry are none other than Melbourne prog beasts Circles. And 2018 appears to be the year of over-achieving for many bands, but Circles have taken the notion and blasted it into a new stratosphere, with a brand new album 'The Last One' due out next week (a seriously stellar outing we've already called as one of our best releases for 2018), plus some huge upcoming shows alongside fellow prog lords TesseracT nationally, and in Europe alongside fellow Aussies Caligula's Horse and I Built The Sky.
It's fair to say the next few months are set to be monumental for the Circles gents, but before the madness descends The Soundcheck grabbed axe-king and founding member Ted Furuhashi to talk creative inclusion, tour shenanigans and one of their biggest financial expenses as a band so far (hint: it's milk). Interview below.
TIANA SPETER: Hi Ted! I'm extremely stoked to chat to you today, to risk sounding like a total fan-girl I'm absolutely in love with the new music you guys have been busting out of late. And it's getting to the pointy end now, the brand new album 'The Last One' is dropping next week, you've unleashed a stunning new music video for 'Dream Sequence', you've got a national tour with TesseracT in September and then you're going to take over Europe...it's exhausting just thinking about the logistics of all of that, what's the vibe right now for Circles?
TED FURUHASHI: Yeah! It's all exciting, it's very, very exciting. Obviously with all of these dates we're scrambling to get everything together logistics-wise as you just mentioned, but overall it's just excitement because it's all happening again! We've been away for a few years, we've been a bit quiet. But we've obviously had line-up changes and kind of re-evaluating where we're at as a band as well, so it's been really cool. And with the new album especially, we've taken it upon ourselves to really write something that we're completely happy with. Not to say that with the first two releases we weren't, it's just that this time round we were more mature as well in terms of who we are as people and a band as well. It's all exciting, we're super stoked. Can't wait!
TIANA: And as you mentioned, obviously there has been a bit of a change in the ranks since last time, and there has been some time between new material...were you guys sitting on any of these tunes from all those years ago when you unveiled 'Infinatas' in 2013? Were any of the tracks pre-existing before the changes?
TED: Not really, the music for the whole album basically was written maybe two and a bit years ago? It was complete. It was just the vocals that took the time. So obviously when we did do the vocals, some little things here and there did kind of change just to match what we were doing. But the bulk of it, like the songs and the structures, even the production notes I made for myself for later on...because producing the band, I always have these thoughts of "oh, I'm gonna write it this way because I know when I go to mix it it's gonna sound like this, so I'm not gonna spend too much time on this little bit", already half kind of produce it so it makes my job easier later on. So little things like that were all done before the vocals were done. It's weird, some of these songs we kind of revamped a little bit later on, cos it had that whole "demo artist" thing going on where it's like (laughs) "this song's been done for almost three years, we're already sick of it" kind of thing, so we kind of wanted to do it a bit differently. But, yeah, then obviously Ben (Ben Rechter - Lead Vocals/Guitar) came in and did his thing and we all worked on the vocals together. Ben wrote the majority of the lyrics, like 90% of them. One of the songs 'Blueprints for a Great Escape', Drew our bass player actually wrote. He contributed most of the melodies and the lyrics for that one. And that was a bit of a thing for me personally, having the band members be a lot more involved in the creative side of things of the music as well. Previously it was...I still write all of the music and everything, but being open to more suggestions and actually giving them a chance to inject their own character into the music as well, I think that's really important. And I think that shines through in our live performance as well, when they're playing the parts that they've written. I think that is so cool! You just feel a lot better about it and you're able to get more out of it as well, because at the end of the day we're just four dudes playing music together...I didn't want it to be that it's just me writing music and these guys are playing what I've told them to play. I want them to enjoy it just as much as I enjoy it. So that was a big mindset for me, it was "let's involve the guys and get them to have the same feeling I get". And that also helps the energy of the band as well, to feel a lot more included.
'BLUEPRINTS FOR A GREAT ESCAPE' (CIRCLES)
TIANA: It's interesting that you say that because I feel like with 'The Last One' overall there is so much rotating personality and character coming through it, and it's not just the same overall voice coming through it, there's the brutal moments, and then the more vulnerable moments, and it's ever-evolving but it's still really cohesive...so what you're saying does really come through, at least from a listener's perspective...
TED: That's awesome! And that's the running kind of quote that we've all been mentioning is just that it's an honest album. That's probably going to be said a lot in the next few interviews (laughs). But it is! And I think that's the key, we're honest in every way. We're honest in the way we wrote the music, we're honest to each other. There's no egos, there's no boundaries. If we think it's shit, we just tell each other (laughs). If we think it's awesome, we say "yeah, that's really awesome dude, I'm really digging the vibe you're putting on this track", and that it suits what we've written in the music. And I think that was one of the big important parts of the album, and I'm glad to hear that you've actually got that interpretation as well, we wanted that to come across! Ultimately, it is a band, it's not just one dude writing stuff on his computer and a couple of other dudes learning it and executing it. We want it to be organic.
TIANA: It's organic, but devoid of the pretension which can come with the territory. And in terms of live stuff on the horizon, as we touched on earlier Circles have a heap of tours coming up - is there a particular song from 'The Last One' that you're really keen to bust out live?
TED: Oooo! We've been playing a couple live already, we toured with Ne Obliviscaris earlier on this year and we played...what did we play?! We played three or four songs off the album, so (laughs) there were a few confused faces. But they seemed to go down pretty well! And people in our close circle that know us and we've shown the new album to, they saw it too and said "yeah, it's actually pretty cool! It wasn't a trainwreck!" (laughs). So we were stoked with those, those ones are pretty solid. But there's a couple of tracks that we haven't played live that we have been rehearsing, there's a song called 'Arrival' and it's one of those songs that I've personally always wanted to write but never could, or never had the right time for it. And we've been playing that live in rehearsal and that was a scary one because on the record or playback, it sounds great and we all dig it! But we were all a bit scared that it might not come off like it does on the record! But we've been playing it and it sounds pretty good, so we're really excited to play that one, which we will be playing in the next run of shows. But basically anything off the new album, we're just excited to play (laughs). One, because we've obviously played all the other stuff heaps, and they've got that whole new vibe. But I think especially the other dudes are really excited to play it because, like I said before, it's more of them on the album and they're excited to do that - which really excites me too!
TIANA: Exciting times across the board by the sound of it! And in terms of new things, it's not just the new music obviously, you guys also recently dropped the clip for 'Dream Sequence' recently, which was just a simply stunning, and I believe it was shot and produced in your rehearsal space, a total DIY event!
TED: Yeah! All credit goes to Dave (David Hunter - Drums) our drummer on that one. He's our visual guy and the video guy, he did the artwork and all the art direction comes from Dave. Obviously being an Australian band, we're not swimming in money. And being an Australian prog metal band, it's even worse (laughs). It's difficult. But you do what you can, and him being pretty savvy with all that kinda stuff and doing DIY things...he's actually shot a whole bunch of local band videos as well so he's pretty used to doing that. He actually bought green screen fabric and we kind of rigged up this little stand thing and a clamp to hold that in, then draped that across the wall (laughs). And we did our performance in that! And then Dave did all the post stuff, so he keyed out all the green screen and did all the graphics. The only thing that we did spend money on was a whole bunch of milk, actually (laughs). So there's a couple of shots of Ben coming through this infinite white...it looks like he's coming out of this white sheet, but we actually shot him in a bath and we bought about 10 cartons of milk and poured in the water and mixed it in with the water so it looked white. And Dave manipulated that so it looks like infinite white instead of just some dude in a bathtub with milk!
'DREAM SEQUENCE' (CIRCLES)
TIANA: You guys need to get some milk sponsorship or something from this I feel?!
TED: (laughs) Yeah, I know! I know! Our whole budget was blown on milk. But you know - help the farmers out!
TIANA: Oh, you're such good guys!
TED: It's beautiful! And Ben's glowing now, his skin's amazing!
TIANA: Aha! Excellent, the beauty secrets of Circles revealed! What a scoop! And also as we touched on earlier, your next run of shows is going to be kicking off alongside TesseracT who are hitting our shores starting in September...what are you most looking forward to about hitting the road with them?
TED: Well, number one - awesome band! We've always loved TesseracT and what they do. We really, really respect the guys, they're good dudes as well. We had the pleasure of meeting those guys a couple of times, and funnily enough their guitarist James Monteith, he used to be our PR guy when we were with Basick Records. So we've got a bit of a connection there as well! But we're really just looking forward to seeing them live and just hanging out with them and playing shows! Their new album is just next level.
TIANA: It's going to be an epic run of shows with both of you having new albums out this year! I actually chatted with Dan (Dan Tompkins - frontman - TesseracT) a few months back and he had nothing but nice things to say about you guys, so no doubt there's a heap of bromance moments ahead for you all.
TED: Oh, that's cool! We've crossed paths a couple of times...I think last time I remember being in Paris and our tours crossed over. We we touring with After The Burial and Monuments there, and I think TesseracT were with Animals as Leaders? And both tours kind of crossed over at a French festival, I think it was Damage Fest in Paris. And it was headlined by Textures, so it was the best day ever for me (laughs). It was the best bill and I got to get drunk and have fun with these guys! And the last thing I remember was James from TesseracT coming up to me with a bottle of scotch and just pouring it down my throat (laughs). I mean, I can take a drink and all, but that man loves his scotch.
TIANA: This is quickly becoming my favourite story ever. I need to live vicariously through you I think!
TED: (laughs) Yeah, it was good fun, maybe you need to do an interview when we're both in town. Where are you based?
TIANA: I'm from Queensland and based at the moment in Sydney, but I'm more than willing to travel for scotch and prog!
TED: (laughs) Well, the Sydney show then! We'll get you some scotch.
TIANA: Now you are quite heavily linked to these heavier genres, call it prog or djent or other. And you've been in Circles for creeping up on a decade now, but what bands did you grow up listening to? Was it always more of this niche kind of stuff, or something a bit more surprising?
TED: It's strange...I listen to weird stuff (laughs). Heavy music was a big part of my upbringing, I can't speak for the other guys, but for me personally as soon as I listened to my first heavy band, like Metallica or something, it opened the doors to all the other stuff...and then eventually I found Meshuggah. I used to be a drummer, and I listened to Meshuggah and my mind melted and that's the day I gave up playing drums. Which was probably a good move (laughs). But apart from that, I'm a huge, huge pop fan. I listened to heaps of pop, obviously Michael Jackson, Prince and all that stuff when I was younger. And I still do! I'm a huge George Benson fan and I love 90s R&B, that's my jam! I love dancing (laughs).
TIANA: Oh man, with 90s hip hop or R&B you can't NOT dance!
TED: Yeah, I'm all about that. I love 90s R&B, I love Boyz II Men, all that cheesy stuff. I love a lot of soul, I've been listening to this guy Jordan Rakei, he's a New Zealand-born dude and he's super, super cool. Amazing voice! Kind of like neo-soul, jazz stuff and I'm heavily into that at the moment. And I listen to a heap of sountrack-y stuff as well, I love Nobuo Uematsu the Final Fantasy soundtrack guy...and classical music. It depends on what I'm feeling at the time really! I actually just listened to a podcast with Greg Puciato of The Black Queen and obviously The Dillinger Escape Plan as well, but The Black Queen, I love that album.
TIANA: A very decent mix!! All amazing, and I'll have to steal a few new ones on that list by the sound of it!
TED: Yeah if you're into TesseracT and all that kind of stuff, a lot of those influences are there! And I think that's a really important thing, though, to have a wide range of influences and then that way you can create something new rather than just listening to heavy music and metal and djenty stuff - that's what you're just gonna regurgitate and it'll just sound like 100 other bands. Which is fine! But for me personally, as an art-form I would like to just create music that I like to hear, and I like to hear everything that I just mentioned in one (laughs). That's what I try to do!
TIANA: Well the evolution is very clear and cannot wait to hear some of these new tunes live, and beyond that you guys are heading off to Europe to dominate some more! All the best for the rest of the year, all the shows, and thank you for such an incredible album with 'The Last One'!
TED: Thank you! Thanks for listening to it and actually enjoying it!
TIANA: And will hopfully see you guys in Sydney. I'll be the weirdo running around clasping a bottle of scotch, apparently!
TED: Yeah! Find James Monteith and you'll find scotch. Thanks Tiana!
CIRCLES BRAND NEW ALBUM 'THE LAST ONE' IS OUT AUGUST 31ST VIA WILD THING RECORDS.
FOR PRE-ORDER INFO HEAD HERE.
FOR ALL OTHER CIRCLES INFO, HEAD TO:
BY TIANA SPETER