Circa Waves are currently on tour with their latest record «What's It Like Over There?». Last Friday they made a single stop in Switzerland to play at the Mascotte in Zurich. Before the gig singer Kieran Shudall answered some questions about songwriting and the progression of his band.
Circa Waves are:
Kieran Shudall (vocals, guitar)
Joe Falconer (guitar)
Sam Rourke (bass)
Colin Jones (drums)
Indiespect: In April, you released your third record. Did the reaction on «What’s It Like Over There?» match your expectations?
Kieran Shudall: Yeah, totally. We got a top 10 record which we weren’t sure we would get. It’s just cool to be in a band for this long and to know that people are still listening to your music. Everybody seems to love the slight change in the direction. It was good to see that everyone still likes our band. But I think if the songs are good, people are still willing to listen to your music even if there’s a genre change.
Indiespect: Did you also receive negative feedback on the changes you made? People that said «where are my indie rock guitars?»
Kieran: Some people said that. If a band wants to progress you do have to change. And I mean, if you want to listen to indie rock, you can listen to our first album. So, that’s fine (laughs). We’re still an indie band. The songs we make still have that flavor to them.
If a band wants to progress you do have to change.
And I mean, if you want to listen to indie rock, you can listen to our first album.
Colin Jones, Joe Falconer, Kieran Shudall and Sam Rourke (from left to right). ©Sarah Louise Bennett
Indiespect: In November, you are touring in the US again. The distances in that country may be really long to travel. Did you choose only cities that are close enough to each other?
Kieran: This time we’re just doing six shows. We’re doing three on the west coast, three on the east coast. That means there is only two hours travel between each show and then we’ll fly across the country to L.A. to do those three. When you have to drive across the middle, it’s crazy drives. You can drive twelve hours and don’t get anywhere. We’re not doing that this time. And to be honest, we’re not a big band in America. So, we are just trying to hit the main areas, hit L.A., hit New York and hope that it dissipates our goods and goes into the other areas. Then eventually, we’ll do a bigger tour.
Indiespect: What aspects does it need that you can go there as a British band?
Kieran: It’s difficult, man. You need radio, you need all sorts of things that happen. You have to get on different YouTube channels. It’s the same as everywhere, really. It’s the same as if you want to get big in the UK. You need to be on the radio or Spotify playlists. The way the industry works, changes so quickly. For us, trying to break America there are so many different ways. If we get in some good playlists and our music gets out there, hopefully we’ll get bigger over there.
Kieran Shudall is not only the singer but also the main songwriter of Circa Waves.
Indiespect: I read that you don’t like commercial and mainstream artists like Ed Sheeran.
Kieran: I don’t mind mainstream music. I find some pop music really sort of hollow, it doesn’t have any heart. It’s usually written in a room with eight or nine people and they’re all saying a lyric each. It’s generic and it doesn’t mean anything. Ed Sheeran is one of the okay ones – like yeah – okay. But then, there is plenty music on the radio that is just utter shit. And you think: why is this popular? But now and again there is great pop music. I think, some of Taylor Swifts music is brilliant. It needs to be genuine and come from the heart. Prince was a pop act but he had so many songs that were really real and cool.
Circa Waves on stage at the Mascotte in Zurich.
Indiespect: You are the main songwriter in Circa Waves. How did you get into writing in the first place?
Kieran: I think, I’ve always liked writing my own things. When I first learned guitar, a lot of my friends learned guitar solos from Metallica. I would always make up my own riffs, other than to learn other peoples riffs. That was the first step when I thought I would rather make my own. That always stayed with me. As soon as I heard a cool song like a Green Day song or whatever, I wanted to make something that was like that but I could call it my own.
Indiespect: So, you wanted to have the vibe but not a copy of it.
Kieran: Yes. And I found the pure creation of it so exciting. You can wake up one day with nothing and by the end of the day you’d have your song. It would just come out of nowhere. That was always very cool to me.
«Stuck In My Teeth» was one of the first songs Kieran Shudall wrote for Circa Waves.
Indiespect: When did you start doing that?
Kieran: I learned guitar when I was twelve or thirteen, so maybe with fourteen I would start trying to write songs and stuff, copying Oasis.
Indiespect: I read, that you signed a contract with Sentric Music Group, recently. May you tell me what that deal is about, exactly?
Kieran: I always liked writing pop music. The opportunity to write with different artists and help them to create something good. I’ve wrote with a few indie bands to help them finish songs.
Indiespect: Something we might know?
Kieran: There is a band called Vistas in the UK who I’ve helped with some stuff. Saint Raymond, this guy in the UK I’ve wrote stuff with. I’ve only just started doing it, really. I haven’t done loads. But I’ve got lots more planned for next year.
There are so many good songwriters but they don’t know when the idea that they got is great
Indiespect: Do you have a different approach when you write for somebody else?
Kieran: I just let them try and create their song themselves. I guess, it’s just guiding people into the right direction. There are so many good songwriters but they don’t know when the idea that they got is great. They might sing me something and they carry on and ignore it. Then I’m saying: no, that’s fucking great. Keep that. I think, that’s all a good songwriter does. You recognize when something is good.
Indiespect: Did you have this feeling for yourself as well quite early?
Kieran: It has taken a long time to get good. I think, the new stuff I’m writing now is the best I’ve ever written. It takes years and years of practice and writing more and more songs.
Indiespect: I heard, that you are already working on your next album, even if the last one was only out this April. Are you planning to release it next year?
Kieran: Maybe. I just like writing songs and we thought we want to carry on. People like to consume music a lot quicker now. It was important for us to stay up with the demand and really push forward. I think, people will be surprised at how quickly it comes out.
The third Circa-Waves-Album «What's it like over there?» was released on the 5th April 2019. The next one is already in the making and might be out quicker than everybody thinks.
Indiespect: Will it have the same vibe as «What’s It Like Over There?»
Kieran: It has got elements of the same vibe. I’d say it’s a bit more upbeat. It has got a lot more bigger drum sounds and more electronic drum sounds. Generally, it still sounds like Circa Waves.
Indiespect: When do you have time to write? You seem to be on tour quite a lot.
Kieran: During festival season we only play gigs at the weekends. So, you got five days a week to write. In the week I write all the time, sometimes two songs a day. You've got loads of time to do it.
Kieran Shudall strikes his rock pose.
Indiespect: Do you create demo versions with all the instruments already?
Kieran: I demo it up to the point where it could be on the radio or at least I think that it sounds like it could be on the radio. Then we take it to the studio and make it a bit better – and everyone plays on it.
Indiespect: Did you learn to play other instruments or do you create it all with the computer?
Kieran: I can play everything a very average level. So, I’m not very good at anything (laughs).
I can play everything a very average level. So, I’m not very good at anything.
Indiespect: Do you start writing with a guitar?
Kieran: Yeah, with a guitar or a drum loop. Or I just make the whole song musically and then put the lyrics and melody over the top of it. But generally, I make it all on the computer and see what works. That way you can go through a lot of ideas quickly. All the great ideas come quite fast. If I spend too long on something I tend to throw it away and not use it.
Sam Rourke switches from bass to piano on «Times Won't Change Me»
Indiespect: What do you think is the hardest part of writing a song? Is it the lyrics or the melody?
Kieran: Honestly, I think it’s fifty-fifty. A great lyric is nothing without a great melody and a great melody is nothing without a great lyric. The Beatles for example, used a lot of generic lyrics like: I love you, love me do, I wanna hold your hand… But the melodies were amazing. In that sense, maybe the melody is slightly more important for me. But you still need a lyric that someone can relate to and someone can remember. Great lyrics have elements of uniqueness to them. Nothing compares to you is a cool way of saying I love you.
Indiespect: That means, that you have a theme for a song and then you think about a way to say it in special words?
Kieran: I think that can work. Personally, I just sing and a little word will come out. With T-Shirt Weather it was like that. I just sung the words: I remember T-Shirt Weather and then I went: oh, that’s cool. I’ll make the song about that. So, I’d work backwards. I’ll write songs about when I was younger and every summer felt like it was a hot summer. Often, for me, a lyric will come out when I’m singing along. I think, a lot of songwriters do it that way.
Kieran Shudall helps other musicians to write good songs.
Indiespect: What do you think is the main difference in songwriting, now that you’re getting older and have more experience?
Kieran: It’s just recognizing when something is good. There’s only twelve notes in western music and all you do is arranging those twelve notes in a certain way. There’s only so many different variations. The more you write music, the more you hear a pattern. You can say: that’s really catchy, I think that’s great. When you first start you’re a bit like: uhm, I think that’s good. It’s just experience. The more you do, the more you recognize. Now, I think I’m at a really good point as soon as I come across something I know: yeah, that’s good.
Indiespect: In February, you were on tour with The Wombats. Their singer Matthew «Murph» Murphy just started a solo project called «Love Fame Tragedy». Did you already think about doing something on your own as well?
Kieran: I don’t know, really. I don’t think I want to do that at the moment. I’m not a big fan of touring a lot. And that would mean more touring. I love being in the studio, being at home and writing. I just had a child and I don’t wanna leave him too much. I would not say I wouldn’t do it but if I did, it wouldn’t be under my name. It would be a secret thing and I’d just throw it out. I don’t crave the stage, I don’t really have the feeling that I have to be on stage. I more wanna write songs. That’s how the band started. It was just me writing songs and then having to get a band together.
I’m not a big fan of touring a lot.
Indiespect: Then you had to go on tour.
Kieran: Now, I have to go on tour, which I do love. I do love elements of it. But I’m more a guy who likes being at home and in the studio.
Indiespect: It’s more the creative aspect that affects you.
Kieran: That’s part of the strange thing about being in a band. You have to tour all the time and it stops you from being creative. Because it’s hard to write on the road. You’re always in a small room with everyone and you can’t really do it then.