Well, this is probably my longest-awaited interview ever. And the saddest part is that it’s not finished yet :) The wait for the last couple of questions may continue past 2013, therefore I figured it wouldn’t be wise to keep these few answers much longer, especially because of the fact CIRCLE TAKES THE SQUARE have just started off their European run with CODE ORANGE KIDS and FULL OF HELL and are taking the main stage of one of the best festivals out there called Fluff Fest.
I will always have a special place in my heart for CIRCLE TAKES THE SQUARE. Their 2004’s masterpiece “As the Roots Undo” brought in amazing diversity, outstanding vocal performances and passionate creativity, all packed in one phenomenal record, one of my dearest music discoveries ever. I am honored to present you my short chat with Drew Speziale, conducted earlier this year.
Welcome, guys. So nice to have you here. How have you been doing?
Doing great, thanks for sending these questions along and for being so persistent about getting some answers…
:D Be my guest! I wouldn’t stop bothering you until I managed to get these answers ;)
Tell me Drew, how do you contribute to your local scene nowadays? How’s Savannah’s music scene doing these days?
Well, none of us live in Savannah now (though that is where we started out) so I’m not really up to date on what’s going on there. The members of CTTS are currently spread out across the Atlantic seaboard, so I suppose any contributions to our respective “local” scenes would be on an individual basis as opposed to our whole band. I live in a small town where there is no noticeable presence of a music-based counterculture, so my definition of a “scene” has expanded a bit over the years, beyond the confines of the DIY music sphere. My wife and I contribute to a local community that supports creative/artistic pursuits in various forms, and a personal focus of mine lately has been learning sustainable farming techniques like permaculture and agro-forestry, with the intention of bringing those practices into the growing network of local food production in the years to come.
Sounds great! But still, do you miss those old days? Do you miss PG.99? :)
Sure, they are missed, but we’re fans of PYGMY LUSH and GHASTLY CITY SLEEP, not to mention a multitude of other projects various members of PG. 99 have participated in since they disbanded. Plus we got a healthy dose of PG.99 at their reunion show, so no one’s jonesing too hard right now.
I missed your Polish date on your 2012 January/February tour with KYLESA and KEN MODE. Judging after lots of reports, the tour must have been amazing. How do you remember it? Any cool stories from the road?
The European tour in early 2012 was amazing on several levels. Amazingly thorough (61/2 weeks of shows), amazingly cold (-30 F in Finland) and amazingly educational to see so much of Europe, play so many shows, and meet so many fantastic people. Our show in Poland was grand: strong coffee to drink, a huge crowd turned out, and I ate some chocolate called “gorzka”. As for “cool” stories from the road, the whole tour was one long, cool story, so it’s hard to isolate any single event as standing out above others. We definitely utilized the over-abundance of saunas in Scandinavia, and enjoyed some trans-fjord ferry rides in Norway. The only real disappointment: no troll sightings.
Great! Some of my readers must already know I simply love Norway. I’ve been there a few times. Their landscapes are exceptional, that’s true.
How are European shows different from the U.S. gigs?
Our shows in Europe varied from city to city and from country to country, just like they vary from state to state and town to town in the U.S. It was pretty mind-blowing to experience such drastic cultural transitions in rapid succession, especially in the context of a lengthy tour, and to absorb the different vibes from one age-old city to the next in Europe. In general though, I didn’t notice that much of a difference between the show-goers and venues at European gigs as compared to U.S. ones to be honest. Consistently, interesting and creative folks came out to immerse themselves in the dark and progressive musical offerings that KYLESA, KEN MODE, and ourselves were serving up, and we were grateful for the audiences from night to night.
What modern post hardcore and/or metal bands that you toured with do you admire the most? Did you make lots of new friends after the 2011/2012 comeback?
Over the years we’ve been lucky enough to mainly travel with bands that we are friends with first and foremost, and additionally happen to be fans of their music. JUNIUS, THURSDAY, KYLESA, PG.99 (and subsequent projects) are all bands that we’ve known members of for a long time and we have also enjoyed following their creative endeavors over the years. We definitely made some new friends on our recent tours, and in particular had a great time bonding with KEN MODE and getting familiar with their unique brand of “bum-you-out” jams on our last Euro tour. Sharing a van/gear/food/bedtime stories/wake-up-calls with those guys for a month and a half was frighteningly beautiful.
We’ve been lumped into countless sub-categories and meta-classifications (all under the general umbrella of “heavy music”) since we started playing, so I don’t pay much attention to it anymore, but “screamo” is one genre that some folks seem very insistent upon branding us. The bands you mentioned never really considered themselves “screamo” when they were active, and the idea of differentiating between “real screamo” and whatever its opposite may be (“unreal screamo” ?!) seems like a fruitless pursuit to me. I’ve always enjoyed creativity, sincerity, and some degree of emotional intensity in music, so if those elements are present in a band’s artistic output, regardless of what anyone else is classifying it as, I can usually find something in it that I respect or that inspires me. That said, I don’t know anything about whatever is considered to be “real screamo,” so I can’t comment on it’s current condition.
Ha! You got me! :D Anyway, I bet you know what I was thinking of. The original spastic and aggressive emo offshoot in the vein of SAETIA / ORCHID and bands like these got that silly name and it kind of stuck to them. Labels suck, I know, but they often help to at least define the bigger picture what we’re talking about. Then you can call it whatever you like, right?
Great bands, indeed.
Ok, so let’s discuss your new era releases. We had some delays, the long awaited new album, etc. Where are we now when it comes to your discography?
Decompositions: Volume Number One came out on December 21, 2012 as a digital release, and has since come out on Vinyl and CD on our own label, Gatepost Recordings, in 2013. The album consists of Chapters 1 and 2 of a large body of work we’ve been chipping away at since around 2008. We recorded these nine songs over the course of roughly one year, starting in 2011.
Referring a little bit to “As the Roots Undo”, I’d like to learn more about your new artwork and graphics. Who’s putting his work into it now? What’s the idea this time?
I did the artwork for both As the Roots Undo and Decompositions. The latest’s packaging consists of a gatefold jacket and a 16 page book, so I created about 20 panels worth of artwork and designs for the project, all told. It took a lot of time, and like everything CTTS has ever done, there was a lot of learning and experimenting along the way. Mandalas and geometric forms make up a big part of the imagery in the layout of the new album, which presented some new visual terrain for me to explore. There are some references to the iconography of various mystical traditions embedded into the work, and I was conscious of attempting to make the packaging serve as a “functional” object in some capacity, hoping to create something worth interacting with a bit.
How different was the recording process of the new songs? 8 years ago it involved a lot of time sharing with your non-musical activities. How was the recording experience this time?
As I mentioned earlier, we all live in different parts of the country now, so it virtually takes a planetary alignment for us to get together for any productive length of time. We recorded with Anthony Stubelek at Rockstudio again for this project, so the logistics and environment were essentially the same as our previous recording endeavors. We all convened for about two weeks in January to get as much initial tracking done as we could. Then we returned to Brunswick, Georgia whenever we could make the time to do so, throughout the remainder of 2011 to finish it up. It was a great experience (peppered with plenty of blood, sweat, and tears, of course). We spent a lot of time trying to find fresh approaches from one song to the next based on the concepts each one contained, and we allowed ourselves the time to feel things out and make adjustments as we went along.
How different is doing the whole thing under the Gatepost Recordings flags? You have been working with Hyperrealist, Perpetual Motion Machine and Robotic Empire Records. How’s the label thing going right now?
It’s going great- Kathleen’s house has been converted into the Gatepost HQ and Warehouse, and she has just finished the major task of packaging and shipping all the pre-orders of the current album. She keeps the label rolling and manages the business end of things, as well as handling the mailorder and all other things Gatepost related… Decompositions Volume Number One was our first official release, and we were heavily involved with everything from the initial process of recording and mixing our record to getting all the artwork manufactured to our meticulous specifications. It’s been really satisfying to see the finished material finally come to fruition, and I guess the main difference between working with the other labels you mentioned and doing it entirely on our own is that extreme degree of involvement we had in every step of the process, though our experience with the small handful of labels we’ve worked with in the past have been very positive overall.
What are your touring plans for the rest of the year? I was hoping to see you guys at last year’s Fluff Fest and it hurt not to see you on the bill :)
We will be back in Europe in July/August with CODE ORANGE KIDS and FULL OF HELL, and that includes a spot at Fluff Fest 2013, as well as several other Festival dates. See you there?!
We’ll see. I’m doing my best to get there. Hopefully, the fest will knock you guys out.
Is there a band you’d specifically like to tour with?
Many bands are on the bucket list. We’ve been trying to get a JUNIUS tour worked out for ages, so hopefully all parties involved will be able to manifest one before too long. We are very into the idea of diversity in package-tour lineups. It would be amazing to include a hip hop artist or some really out-there bands on the bills for future tours, but we’ll have to see what unfolds and what opportunities present themselves.
Thanks so much for the chat. Would you like to add anything else?
Thank you so much for reaching out to us…As always, DEATH TO FALSE SCREAMO!
Haha! Thanks! I cannot wait to finally see you live on stage. Kind regards, Drew! :)
As mentioned, the band haven’t managed to tell me more about the new album, finding their own way, feedback it’s received, its lyrical content, the Vol. II, the band’s inspirations, plans for the rest of the year, as well as CTTS’ 15th Anniversary in 2014. Fingers crossed they get back to me so I could update this feature :) Meanwhile, move your ass and catch up with them on tour:
24.07.13 – Netherlands – Tilburg O13
25.07.13 – Germany – Hamburg – Hafenklang
26.07.13 – Czech Republic – Rockycany – Fluff Fest
27.07.13 – Belgium – As – Vlamrock
28.07.13 – France – Paris – Glazart
29.07.13 – UK – Brighton T- he Haunt
30.07.13 – UK – London – Underworld
31.07.13 – UK – Glasgow – Classic Grand
01.08.13 – UK – Manchester – Star and Garter
02.08.13 – UK – Bristol – Fleece
03.08.13 – Germany – Karlsruhe – New Noise Festival
04.08.13 – Germany – Lichtenstein – JZ Riot
05.08.13 – Austria – Wien – Aera
06.08.13 – Germany – Berlin – Cassiopeia
07.08.13 – Germany – Bielefeld – AJZ
08.08.13 – Germany – Köln – Underground
09.08.13 – Belgium – Ieper – Ieperfest
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