Circa Waves shot into the public eye after meeting at a music festival in their hometown of Liverpool in 2013. Unlike many bands who catch their break after years of playing together, the foursome got to know each other through the process of their sudden popularity as a band.
“We were so in deep with each other right away,” shared lead singer, Kieran Shudall, about the experience. “As soon as we got to know each other we were touring together.”
Their music had an instant audience and before they knew it they were playing all over. “It was a quick accent. I think it made us stronger because we were the only ones experiencing that. It was a common ground for us.” Shudall continued. He admits that he thinks it was a harder route than if they had been together for a few years prior to gaining popularity. “We just started playing together and then all of a sudden we were playing in rooms to a bunch of record labels.”
The summery, indie style that acted as their introduction to their new fans evolved between albums. Their sophomore effort Different Creatures is, as the name suggests, a markedly different style for the band when looking back at their first album. It is anthemic and grittier.
“I wrote so many songs and so many different types of songs that it was just picking what style I wanted to go with. I wrote essentially another Young Chasers, a summery indie record, and was like ‘I just don’t want to do this. I’ve got that, it’s done.’ I wanted to experiment,” he confessed. What came out of his inexhaustible writing was a style that was more reminiscent of unadulterated rock and roll. “I think the songs still sound like me. I tend to write rock music. I honestly write more rock music than I do music like Young Chasers. This was quite natural for me to do. Even if we lose a few fans, it’s worth it to gain a few others.”
We live in a world where the word “branding” means a lot more than it used to 10 years ago. Social media and a consistent aesthetic can take a band to the next level. Whether you like it or not, it has become a necessary evil. The British band has found themselves taking on the important roll of branding their image and how they present themselves to their ever-growing audience. Kieran admittedly is not that excited about the extra hat he now wears. “I’ve never been interested in that world, but I’ve had to develop it,” he explained. “The aesthetic of Circa Waves is simple. Let’s all wear dark clothes, let’s make sure the photography is in black and white. Certain bands do that. When you start off it feels like it doesn’t matter, but you realise that a lot of the successful bands are the ones who do.” He praises bands like The White Stripes for their simple, yet effective branding. “As soon as you see red and white, you know.”
When asked if he wished it was not that way he said, “It’s unnatural for me. I just like to play songs. Is that not enough?” he joked. “Sometimes bands can, if they’re just so good, it doesn’t matter as much. The songs can be so big and so good that nothing else about it matters. Like with Oasis.”
Always striving for the next way to grow and succeed as a band, Shudall postulates that it’s not healthy for an artist to be content for too long. “I think there’s a distinct and noticeable change when an artist makes a load of money, becomes happy, and has a lovely life than when they were younger and had a bit more drive and were desperate to get to the top,” he said as he explained his thought process behind his theory. “They wrote some of the greatest songs. I’m always striving to write a better song. As soon as I’ve wrote that song that I think is the best song I’ve written, I’ll move on to the next one and try and write something better than that. Maybe in 10 years time, I won’t feel like that. At that point, I think you should stop. I’m never really happy with how big we are. I don’t think I ever will be. No matter how big we get, there’s always something we could be doing.” This drive and ambition has grown Circa Waves into the band they are today and they show no signs of slowing down. As their momentum grows, they show that they are a band that is unafraid to say what they want out loud and pursue it with everything they’ve got.
“I’d like us to play bigger venues in America. I’d like us to be playing the same size venues in America that we are in the U.K. It’s [America] just so huge. If you’re on Radio 1, you’re in people’s ears everywhere. In America, there’s 300 Radio 1s. There’s so much more in America. It’s difficult, but hopefully if people put us on the radio, I think we’ll grow. That would be my aim.”
Growing as a band, especially growing a fanbase in other countries could be likened to a moving target. New music is immense and unrelenting. Every week there are countless new albums being released. “There’s constantly so much coming out now. It can be overwhelming to try and cut through the noise,” Shudall acknowledges. “I think the strength of the songs shine through. I think that’s why in the U.K. we get so much radio time. We just work on writing really good songs and finding strong hook for every song. Make sure it’s as well formed as it can possibly be. We pride ourselves in being a good live band. We put on a good show. We don’t stand around. We work hard on our live show.” The lifespan of a record is much shorter than it used to be. Only two albums in, Shudall feels more like they are on their third or fourth album. “The Beatles put out 12 records, but we don’t have that time. We need to develop quicker. People consume music more quickly… we haven’t had time to do them so we’ve had to squeeze them together. So the third record will probably be different as well.”
Words by Sarah Midkiff