Circa Survive entered Salad Days studio a band of fantastical origins and boundless ambitions; one that was still developing its chemistry and creative cohesion. Perhaps they were too new to each other; perhaps too unaccustomed to the wholly collaborative creative process they demanded of themselves; perhaps too prepared.
Today, it’s hard to remember that Circa Survive — vocalist Anthony Green, guitarists Colin Frangicetto and Brendan Ekstrom, bassist Nick Beard and drummer Steve Clifford – began their journey together so eagerly. After several years, two successful album and limitless amounts of love and respect earned and shared between one another, Circa Survive has become one of the most impactful, ethereal bands on the planet. Perhaps even more significantly, they’ve also become a family – which explains why the suburban, Pennsylvania house that serves as the band’s writing and rehearsal space is also their shared home. “I’m pretty sure that each member knows everything there is to know about everyone in this band, being together as much as we are,” laughs Beard.
It’s precisely that level of intimacy that’s fuelled Circa Survive’s every action – including tours with bands like My Chemical Romance, Coheed and Cambria and Cute Is What We Aim For – and infused their critical accomplishments – they graced the cover of Alternative Press’ coveted 100 Bands You Need To Know issue (April 2007) – with a sense of pride. So by the time Circa Survive was ready to begin crafting the follow-up to 2005’s breakthrough Juturna, the chemistry and togetherness combined with their shared experiences was ready to extend to their music as well.
“Everyone was just doing what they wanted, how they wanted and somewhere in the middle we made songs out of it,” remembers Frangicetto. “My body and mind just went into total creation mode. I was lost in the moment. That kind of intimacy is somewhat rare, especially for five males, but that’s what we set up from the beginning. It’s very much surrendering. And, whatever we’re doing, just being as real as possible.”
“Last record, we didn’t really all know each other that well” says Clifford. “This time, we all know each other extremely well. You can still tell it’s the same band, but these songs move and go different places. I think that the record as a whole flows a lot better because of its differences. Seeing the bigger picture and seeing things from everyone else’s personal and musical sides, that’s what it’s about for me.”
After making their name with Juturna’s lush tones and shape-shifting arrangements, On Letting Go takes Circa Survive another step closer to achieving their ultimate creative destiny. It’s an intensely-personal look inward for the band, confronting both themselves and their place in the world over its 12-song odyssey. As Green explains, its direction wasn’t so much a choice as it was a compulsion; a necessity.
“We decided to call it On Letting Go because that’s what the record’s all about,” the singer says. “Detaching yourself from your ego, detaching yourself from your things, the identity you give yourself, everything. That’s what this album is. All of the stuff I wouldn’t want anybody to know about myself, all the stuff I’d be embarrassed about putting out there, I’m going to put out there as a note to myself. So I don’t forget that nothing matters but love.” “On Letting Go is a summary of what life’s all about for us right now,” says Ekstrom. “The past couple of years, we’ve been trying to let go of our own demons and addictions. Everybody’s just trying to be OK. If anything’s going to change the world, it’s going to start from inside, from people changing themselves first. I remember the bands that did that for me when I was young and if we can be that to anybody, I think that’s a very profound and beautiful thing.”
Captured by returning producer Brian McTernan (Thrice, Hot Water Music, Cave In), On Letting Go is a swirling collection of the band’s boldest virtues (alternately evocative and crashing guitars, dexterous bass and uncannily inventive kitwork among them) buoyed to blissful heights by Green’s soaring vocal gymnastics. It’s both Circa Survive’s most imaginative, challenging and reflective statement to date. Not surprisingly then, it’s also their most powerful.
“Sonically it just feels massive and that’s awesome,” says Frangicetto. “But the thing that I really want people to take from our band, from our record, from our live show is: be naked and be vulnerable and don’t be afraid to just be yourself. Convention will tell you you have to follow trends but, when it comes down to it, following natural intuition is always going to win out. The stuff that matters is our connection. The thing that sums that up is love. That’s what we’re trying to tell people: Love yourself and love everyone around you.”
But it’s Green who seems most affected by the life changes his membership in Circa Survive has brought. So unlike so many modern frontmen, his aspirations don’t depend on revolutionizing the world, or even the contemporary rock landscape, nearly so much as the opportunity to use Circa Survive’s music as a catalyst for personal change. And that applies to himself, his bandmates and, hopefully, to anyone who’ll listen.
“We’re trying to be really good musicians but, more importantly, we’re trying to figure out how we can be the best people we can be,” intimates Green. “How we can be 100% true to ourselves and to each other. This is a real band record for us and the songs have something in them that makes me feel like a better person. So if anybody could take something from this record, I hope it helps them realize that they can do anything. If you don’t like something about yourself, you can change it. If there’s anything in your life that’s really bumming you out, all you have to do is really look in yourself 100% and you can make it better.”
Now Circa Survive has emerged from the studio anew, stronger and more focused on continuing to further their artistic evolution together. Because today, they’re not only a band of unified artistic vision, but a band of true brothers.
“I cannot even describe how lucky I feel to be in this band,” exclaims Green. “To be on this planet. To be alive. We are the only things that hold ourselves back. And I want people to realize that anything they want to do, they can. I want people to not feel so alone.”