Thursday, 21 November 2013

Feature: Circa Waves (BidoLito!)

Circa Waves

“I’ve just got back actually. We’ve been on a two week mini tour of Europe, ending up in Amsterdam and Hamburg”. It’s been a busy couple of weeks for Kieran Shudall and his band CIRCA WAVES. One rainy evening last month, I was three service stations deep into a mercilessly long five-hour drive from my hometown in Kent. And after exhausting a four year old, painfully over-sentimental compilation CD that I found under my seat, I turned on the Radio and was greeted by that familiar, Kiwi yelp introducing what he referred to as the Hottest Record In The World. Despite being one of the most polarizing broadcasters of our generation and sounding like a philosophy student on his third line of beak, being brought up on Zane Lowe’s show means that sort of ludicrous hyperbole still resonates quite significantly with me. And having been a functioning (although entirely unsuccessful) music journalist in Liverpool for a couple of years now, I’d even dare to suggest that I’ve developed a not entirely misplaced local pride (although my six pint faux-scouse accent probably is). The song was Get Away, the new single by Kieran Shudall’s CIRCA WAVES. A punchy, confident number that has rightfully propelled the band to the summit of the industry’s endless guitar bands to watch lists.

Most acts don’t make it out of the city, let alone the country, so this European tour is a remarkable milestone for a band still barely getting to know each other. “We basically drove like twelve hours”, Shudall explains. “Eventually we arrived at a radio station (Holland’s renowned 3FM Radio) and played a little session. So on the following day when we played the London Calling Festival in Amsterdam, people had got onto the recording and were already into it, so it was pretty packed out for our show and everyone went a bit nuts”. You can forgive Shudall for sounding surprised, as he recalls these tales like a man who can’t quite believe his luck: “Circa Waves was just me until earlier this year. I didn’t really know what I was doing before then, just sort of wandering around Liverpool and playing a few shows. I had written some songs that I thought were quite good, and I had a few mates who had kind things to say. Then eventually people who’s opinion I respected suggested that I needed to start a band. My mate knew a bassist and drummer so I got them pretty quickly. Then I drunkenly met our guitarist at Sound City. So yeah, it all came together very easily actually”. Circa Waves’ debut release, a double A-Side consisting of the aforementioned ‘Get Away’ and new track Good For Me comes out via the excellent Transgressive on the 2nd December. Otherwise though, Shudall is keeping his cards close to his chest: “I’ve got twenty-thirty demos which I’ve played to a few industry people and close friends”, he reveals tentatively. “We’re going to lay them down soon, but I’m just trying to figure out the best way to record them at the moment, whether we do it ourselves, bring someone else in or whatever”.

Between wedging young women into their ceilings, Two Door Cinema Club recently urged their 340,000 twitter followers to check out Get Away. And reluctantly or not, with their sharply executed tunes and bouncy rhythms, Circa Waves will have listeners compulsively comparing them to the likes of TDCC, The Vaccines and the relentlessly competent series lad-rock acts heralded as the savior of the great British guitar band. “Yeah, it’s nice to a degree I suppose. I mean they’re all pretty successful artists”, Shudall explains cautiously. “I’m massively influenced by The Strokes as you can hear. I do think that the next few singles will show a lot more of a diverse sound though, which will hopefully have people drawing more varied comparisons”. He’s right to sound concerned, as time has proven that for every apparent savior there are ten VIVA Brothers. The fact is though, Circa Waves are worth paying attention to not because of what they sound like, but what they’ve done with those sounds. Those frantic, immediate opening guitar swipes, the wild and frenetic chord changes, all allow the song to burn through a range of emotions with fearless abandon. It’s a plaintive tale of anxiety and fear disguised as an anthem, which is what makes it so disarming. And unlike The Vaccines and their many contemporaries, Shudall doesn’t sing like a man who thinks that apathy and ennui is the same fucking thing. And I know its just one single, but by avoiding detachment and conceding that however imperfect, however irrational, he might actually have something personal to say, Circa Waves have already outgrown that sort of meat and potatoes rock that they are being relentlessly compared to.

The bands more starry eyed backers have them down as one of the biggest new acts in the country, with many in the industry even hailing them as the next Arctic Monkeys. Guitar music has been meandering in the UK for some time now, though. That’s not to say that there isn’t good stuff out there; it just seems to exist in this perpetual state of perceived underachieving. The fact is that it hasn’t really connected with youth culture on a mainstream level in Britain since the days you were questioning your sexuality over The Maccabees’ video for Toothpaste Kisses. “Yeah, this is definitely something I’m quite wary of”, he explains carefully. “I’ve been trying my best to keep a reign on all this sudden attention. I’ve never experienced anything quite like it, and I definitely didn’t expect any of this. We’ve had everyone and his dog interested over the last couple of months, which is good and bad really. I mean, it’s quite hard to write songs when you’re getting fifty phone calls a day like”. We all know that hype can be a double-edged sword, and Shudall certainly seems to be treading it very carefully.

It’s impossible to predict what the name Circa Waves will mean to Liverpool next year, and Shudall will know as well as any that he could just as easily be on the cover of NME as he could busking on Church Street. You do get the feeling though, that despite the accessible hooks and widescreen choruses, if he is going to find vindication for all this hard work anywhere then it won’t be among the fickle masses, but with those quiet, attentive listeners, treasuring these songs with the knowledge that they mean more to them than they do anyone else.

Mike Townsend

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