The last time The Soundcheck caught up with the venerable guitarist Ted Furuhashi from prog rock/metal leviathans Circles, the group were dangling ready to release their sophomore album 'The Last One' and embark on a string of local and international tours. Now, less than 12 months later, the booming quartet are gearing up to continue their sonic domination with their own 'Winter' headline tour ready to roll around Australia and over to New Zealand starting in July.
Boasting one of the tightest and tumultuous live sets in town right now, there's little doubt as to why this cutting-edge Melbourne quartet demand ongoing critical acclaim wherever they tread. But before they take flight for their upcoming headline tour, Tiana grabbed some time with Ted for another to chat to delve into band bromances, tour life and evading the dreaded second album curse. Interview below.
TIANA SPETER: Hey Ted! It's awesome to chat to you again, I think you're actually the first person I've ever interviewed twice, so I'm stoked to be chatting again and that you potentially didn't get sick of me the first time round...
TED FURUHASHI: We didn't get to have that whiskey! I was actually thinking about that the other day!
TIANA: I know!! We need to make good on this, and that's kind of an awesome segue into when we can possibly do this...and that is, of course, at this upcoming Circles 'Winter' tour!
TED: Niiice! I like how you linked that up. You're good at this (laughs).
TIANA: What can I say, I'm queen of the segues!
TED: Yeah!! The 'Winter' tour, July! It's gonna be a fun one!
TIANA: Last time we chatted, Circles were literally about to release 'The Last One', hit the road with TesseracT then traipse off to Europe...firstly, how did the rest of 2018 end up for you, it seemed like it was a bit of a cracker one for you boys!
TED: Yeah, it was. Everything from that release date...before that, it was pretty much the calm before the storm, it was just all go from then on. We were exhausted by the end of it! Both physically, emotionally and our wallets were exhausted (laughs). But it was fun! TesseracT was great, always fun to see those guys again and play with them. And overseas was another great experience, obviously with C-Horse (Caligula's Horse) and I Built The Sky, our 'All Aussie Invasion' Tour was fun! I got to really know the guys in the other bands a lot better. Usually in Australia with touring you kind of see each other in the respective cities and go "hey man! How's it going"...you do a little catch up and then - they're off! Whereas with a European tour, you're basically sleeping together (laughs). So it was good to really get to know each one of those guys and the crew, and we had some great times and great chats. That's my highlight! I mean, sure, we played some shows - but I think that the connections we made, I was happier with those than I was playing the shows (laughs). But the shows were great! The shows were really good!!
TIANA: Europe. Just bringing people together! And fast-forward to 2019, you guys still seem to be one of the most insanely busy bands at the moment...kicking off the year playing at Progfest and the 'Winter' tour is obviously ever-looming with Circles heading around the country and to New Zealand to share your proggy goodness. But this is actually your headline tour for a change of late, what's the vibe like to be embarking on a Circles headline tour after all these other journeys recently?
TED: It's kind of scary! It's like having a bigger brother taking you out to all the theme parks, and then you grow up and there's no bigger brother - you've gotta ride the rides yourself (laughs). Weird analogy?!
TIANA: No, I love it! It makes perfect sense!
TED: Yeah, it's kind of scary, but it's exciting cos we get to do whatever we want now, it's our show. So we get to play longer, we get to relax a bit more, we get a proper soundcheck and get to actually see and talk to the fans a bit more, rather than "oh, nice to see you. We gotta go pack up!". (laughs) That seems to be what usually happens on the support slot, you've always gotta be on all the time. But the headline tour's a bit more relaxed, we get to do all that kind of stuff, and ride the rides and do all the fun stuff! We're excited, but at the same time it's a bit scary because it's just on us. Whatever we do is on us, so we've gotta bring the goods and perform well. And hopefully please the fans!
CIRCLES 'WINTER' TOUR PROMO VID
TIANA: There's nothing quite like that feeling when you do get to go on the rollercoaster by yourself! So I daresay it's gonna be a scary but exciting time...and exciting for all of us.
TED: Yeah, it's been a long time, I think it's been like two years since we've done a headline tour? We did a one-off headline show, but it's been a long time. And this will be the first time with this line-up and this vibe, and obviously with the new album as well. It's scary, but I think it'll be fun!
TIANA: Yes! And on the note of the album, obviously this tour is also partially in support of 'The Last One'. It's no secret I loved it, I rated it quite highly in my Top 10 of last year. But clearly I wasn't the only one who loved it, you guys scored all of these insane tours, you hit the ARIA charts...but I guess an actual question around that is what was the reception like for 'The Last One' from an insiders perspective?
TED: It's a strange one because being on the inside and in particular being the people who wrote it...it's always hard to gauge what's gonna happen, and how people will receive it. Obviously with a new singer and different sound - and that was a conscious decision on our behalf as well, we just wanted to write something honest and write something that we were proud of, not writing to what we think people would like. As long as the songs are good, good melody, all that kind of stuff - then it's up to the public to like it or not. And if they don't, then go on Spotify and listen to the million other bands, you know? So, we weren't too fussed. We were at that point of: it's gonna be what it's gonna be. We were obviously nervous, because there's always pressure on the whole sophomore album thing. But at the same time, I think to counteract our nervousness we were just kinda like "oh, whatever man! Whatever happens, happens!". And I think we had that kind of mentality to make us not sweat too much!
TIANA: Yes, I feel like you have definitely survived the dreaded second album curse! So that's a sensational effort in itself. But I think as well, I've obviously seen you guys a few times live since you've released the album, and I could probably answer the next question without you...but has the new material been well-received live from your perspective?
TED: Well, you tell me! (laughs)
TIANA: Well, I'm gonna say "yes". A very large yes, but I think what's been interesting is seeing...just how many people knew all the words from the new stuff, or just witnessing these huge crowds and these huge reactions to every moment. From what I saw it was nothing but great things, so I'm hoping it felt like that for you guys!
TED: Yeah, it definitely does, it's very powerful. Especially from having this huge build-up of nervous energy and going "oh, are people gonna like it?! I don't know!!". But at the same time also being like: "well, we like it so who cares, let's play it as it's intended, and let's play it with passion and how we feel about it". I think it's like a subconscious thing, that's the thing with music, it transcends all language barriers and all that kind of stuff. So when you perform something honestly and it comes across honestly to the people listening to it - there's a certain kind of energy that cycles through so that when they receive it, it makes them feel something and they give it back by spitting the lyrics back, or air-drumming or air-guitaring or whatever. And then we receive that energy! It's a big cycle of energy that happens at live shows, and when it works like that? That's when you know. Like "oh, yep. We're doing something right". And that's the biggest indicator, As a performer, that's the clear indicator of whether it's going down well or not.
CIRCLES ONSTAGE AFTER SLAYING PROGFEST BRISBANE 2019//pic: Circles Instagram
TIANA: That authenticity isn't something that is readily faked. You can't come out and just concoct that crediblity, a lot of bands do just seem to come out and sometimes miss that genuine connection with their fans..
TED: Yeah, it's difficult! I don't know how people could do that and be ok with themselves? Like, I do understand, I mean obviously with cover bands...you're not emotionally invested (laughs). But if you're an original band and if you're touring a lot - you're gonna play these songs night after night! And if you're not feeling it and if you're not passionate about it then you're not getting anything back, if you know what I mean. I always have this rule...or not really a rule, but kind of like my philosophy of: whether one person comes to the show or ten thousand - it doesn't really matter, as long as you've reached that one person. Or if they got something out of it, you've brightened up their day or whatever! That's the main point of it. We're not, obviously, getting millions of dollars for doing this stuff. So: why are we doing it? Cos we love it and we're passionate about it. So that's my take on it!
TIANA: 100%! Now I liked how you mentioned a bit earlier how you did bond with these other bands on some of these recent tours, I actually wanted to touch on that kind of thing a bit...you're obviously going along with City Of Souls and Ebonivory for the 'Winter' tour, both two bands doing huge things right now as well. Is that something you're potentially most excited about about these upcoming shows, kind of getting to know these guys a bit more as well?
TED: For sure! We've played with both bands at Progfest, I didn't get to see Ebonivory but I did see City Of Souls and they're just a class-act through and through, they know what they're doing, they nail it! So, I'm excited to see that set 11 times in a row. And also, I managed to check out Ebonivory the other night at Stay Gold in Melbourne and I was like: "woah!!". These dudes know how to bring it! And we've got some hardcore musicians to follow! So we'd better step up our game as well. There's so many good bands floating around that it's like...well, it's not really a competition, but when you headline - you're expected to be pretty good (laughs).
TIANA: It can maybe be a case of positive motivation, you can use them as a nice impetus!
TED: (laughs) Yeah, yeah! That's it! Having these bands is awesome because I get to see them a lot. And we've obviously met the City Of Souls dudes as well, and they're just super nice guys and easygoing as well. So it's gonna be a really relaxed and fun tour. And none of them are dicks, you know like those classic local band dicks? They get down to business, they do what they need to do, they party when they want to party. Everyone's just relaxed, it's gonna be really fun. I can't wait to see them play live. I'll enjoy the tour just because of that!
TIANA: It's a very, very solid lineup, awesome times ahead for all of us! And on the note of touring, and all the highs and lows that can come with it...it can make for, as you touched on already, very enjoyable but also very strange environments. As someone who's toured so extensively at homes and overseas, I'm interested to know how you stay sane and get through touring. Is there a secret, is it that you surround yourself with these people where possible who are a bit more relaxed?
TED: I think it depends on who you are as a person. Me personally, I can deal with the crazy parties and go along for the ride, or not. I'm very easy like that. I can understand how some people aren't and get affected by that kind of energy. The way I deal with it is just...well what I did, especially on the European tour, I had this little meditation thing, I had my sun meditation every day. And that's to go outside and stand out in the sun for 10 minutes or so and open up my hearing! Cos everything about what I do is hearing, I do production and I play in a band, it's all to do to with listening and hearing. So, I just close my eyes, open up my ears and then listen to every single sound I can pick up around me. And then that instantly puts me back into a place, it keeps me centred so that whatever happens...I'm just another organism that's going to start and end at some point. And it's really humbling because no matter what we're doing, if it's something that's crazy, like a crazy high or a crazy low - they're just moments in my life. So...sure, I appreciate the highs and I appreciate the lows, but at the same time there's always a good middle ground and there's always a place to come back to. And that's why I do that that meditation, so that no matter what; party dudes or chilled dudes, whatever! If they wanna chat, I'll always talk to them. If not, I'm very happy to be on my own and do my thing. So that's how I, kind of, survive I guess (laughs).
TIANA: Hot damn. You sound like literally the most perfect person to go on tour with, you're like Even Steven in the middle of all the madness.
TED: You've got to! And to remember where you are as well. I remember doing a meditation at a truck stop in between Croatia and Slovakia. And a lot of people I came across were like "oh, we've got like FOUR hours here, what am I gonna do?!", all that kind of stuff. And saying like "I miss this, I wanna get this food and eat this". But I'd just do my meditation and I'd be like : "dude! We're in a bus travelling across three countries to play music that's come out of our brains through our fingers on the other side of the world. And people are actually coming to see this". That is...it's pretty crazy! So in those moments - I don't really verbalise it - but that's what I think to always put me in a better mood, or put me in a positive mindset to be able to be around people who might not have that same mindset. I don't necessarily force it on them, but being that way I feel like subconsciously and throughout the energy that they can just kind of go: "oh, actually it's not that bad!". That's my whole mantra. I try not to force it, but just to show by example.
TIANA: I actually legitimately already feel a million times calmer just even hearing you talk about that. And I definitely think you're gonna have a fun time ahead! And no doubt it's gonna be another busy year for you guys as well, clearly with 'Winter' tour coming up and beyond that as well. But is there anything else you can reveal about what's next for Circles beyond this next run of shows? Any secrets on the horizon?
TED: Umm...no secrets I can reveal just yet, touring-wise. We will still spit out content, I'm planning to do some videos on how the songs came about on 'The Last One'. I'm gonna select a few songs and because I produced it all I can hone in on certain lyrics or certain sounds and explain why we did it like that. I love band docos and stuff about how the art was created, rather than just the last drop out of the funnel. That's what the public usually sees, the product on Spotify or wherever, that's the end product. But what happened in between, man! What happened in between the songs coming from your brain to what I'm listening to? And that's what intrigues me. The thing about doing videos of some of the songs on 'The Last One' is to explain how we came up with it and why we mixed it this way or why we wrote it this way, or used this lyric or this amp or whatever. And hopefully people enjoy it! So there will be a couple of those videos, we'll probably do a clip, and we might even....release a song...sometime mid-year as well....possibly....!
TIANA: This is all very exciting! I will take all, some or part of whatever you guys are willing to dish out with that. And more importantly too, we also need to have that whiskey. So, that's also another exciting thing on the horizon.
TED: That is very exciting. I'm excited about that.
TIANA: Well, thank you for chatting to me once again! Have an awesome rest of your night, and can't wait to see you guys when you hit Sydney in July!
TED: You too! Nice to hear from you! Bye.
YOU CAN CATCH TED IN ACTION WHEN CIRCLES STORM A CITY NEAR YOU THIS JULY AND EARLY AUGUST FOR THEIR 'WINTER' TOUR.
BY TIANA SPETER