Singer Anthony Green discusses rebirth and new album
Pennsylvania rockers Circa Survive are about to release their new album, The Amulet. The record is something of a rebirth for a band that has experienced turmoil over the past seven years, but it finds them debating the more complex difficulties of life, while also just enjoying the process of making a new record.
As lead singer Anthony Green explains, “It’s difficult to think about why you have compulsively hurtful or suicidal thoughts, and dealing with stuff like that is a difficult thing. It’s a difficult thing to talk about. I feel like I found a place to talk about it on this record more boldly than I’ve ever been able to talk about it.”
Green says of the recording process, “We are all just going to really have fun. We’re not going to think about a single. We are not going to think about a record label. We’re just going to make some songs and whatever comes of it, we’ll see what happens,” and this record came out of it.”
ARTISTdirect’s Christopher Friedmann caught up with Anthony to discuss the difficulties the band has gone through over the years, what they are looking to do now, and the moments that mean the most to him.
Christopher Friedmann: We are talking because you are about to release your new album, The Amulet. Just to start, how is the mood in camp?
Anthony Green: Everybody is really excited. I think for us the victory comes when the record is mastered and we’re all really proud of it. You are collaborating with a bunch of different people, and when you’re doing that the outcome can vary. Everybody’s input, everybody’s communication worked so well, the dance of putting this album together was so beautiful and everybody’s feeling of relief and victory kind of came at the end of the recording process, so of course we’re excited to share it with the world, but we’re more excited I think to play the songs live than we are about anything else.
CF: Yeah, it’s such a long time between finishing mastering and release…
AG: Dude, it’s been like a year. What’s crazy is the record is gonna come out around the same time as it was conceived and written. Which is really cool to me because I think it shows patience and the time, in that in our life last year, that those songs capture, really fits the mood of the seasons, and I feel like having it come out around the death of the summer and the birth of the fall is really… it’s almost like a soundtrack.
CF: It’s been three years since you last released a record. You’re on a new label, how does it feel this time around compared to when you released Descensus?
AG: Honestly, when Descensus came out we were not really sure we were going to be a band anymore because people were going through such crazy s***. I went into the studio to record that record like a month out of rehab after being on heroin for three of the last years of the band and the band, like, not really trusting me.
Everything has been a rebirth since then. That record was like a rebirth. And this record was like an okay, so that album served as this symbol, like, “Okay, we can still be a band. We can still be in a room together and make music.” And this was the first thing we’d done outside of that with that kind of confidence, with that knowledge that, “Hey, we’re going to go in the studio. We are all just going to really have fun. We’re not going to think about a single. We are not going to think about a record label. We’re just going to make some songs and whatever comes of it, we’ll see what happens,” and this record came out of it.
Hopeless [Records] was interested, which is cool. We’ve been able to make some cool videos, and do some really cool s*** with them. Obviously it is easier when you have a bigger label helping you out with finances, when it comes to making videos and when it comes to marketing an album, but we’re sort of just centered on the aesthetic of the band and the songs. And then it’s cool if a label wants to come in and try to work with the band, that’s great, and they can offer us more than we can do on our own, but that’s not really the most important thing to us.
CF: The album’s first single, “Lustration”, deals with, life, death, and rebirth. This is your sixth studio album, and clearly you have been through a variety of changes over the years. How do you deal with the constantly changing landscape that is music?
AG: I think I’ve just been treading water the whole time. I don’t really know how to say I’ve been dealing with it. It’s like anything else where you get knocked down, you get back up again, you experience, you kind of build everything on your failures. I’ve had the experience of writing songs, like out of a place of fear, like I think this might be good but I don’t know, and I’ve had the experience of being able to write songs from that internal, almost spiritual, excessively spiritual barometer for me, where it’s just based on feeling and what you want to emote and what you want to express fully without any bias of what people are going to think or how it could work for you in any way other than therapeutically to relieve whatever tension you have. Being able to have a career where we’ve been able to try all those things is like, you know what you want, you know what works for you. It just works for us to kind of do the thing that is the best thing therapeutically and spiritually for us, making music, and then everything else kind of takes care of itself.
CF: The album takes on both universal and personal themes. There is a collision between the two. Can you talk us through a bit of your songwriting process?
AG: For this album, a lot of the songs were born from the band and Brendan bringing me an idea, or the band bringing up an old idea, and us kind of riffing on the feeling of the songs. I think there was a lot of stuff going around about suicide and there were a lot of people dying and my son Jack was born, so the idea of this infinite cycle of life and death, and also just dealing with depression in a way where it’s like you have all this awesome s*** and it’s difficult to think about why you have compulsively hurtful or suicidal thoughts, and dealing with stuff like that is a difficult thing. It’s a difficult thing to talk about. I feel like I found a place to talk about it on this record more boldly than I’ve ever been able to talk about it.
CF: Loss of innocence is a theme on The Amulet. There have been a lot of changes going on, politically speaking, around the time you wrote the album. How do you view the voice of the artist in our currently complex political climate?
AG: I think that the way that art plays its role in culture is something, from my perspective is something that touches on, it’s almost like everybody is using it as therapy and expression to emote to each other, to reach out in their medium that they’re comfortable in, that they can fully express themselves in, and in that way it’s a unifying thing. But it can also be used as propaganda, too. So there is a line that has to be drawn.
I feel like artists have to stand up, and musicians have to use their voice especially, because people look up to musicians for some reason and it’s not necessarily… I remember growing up watching baseball, and my mom loved John Kruk, who was a Philadelphia baseball player. He was overweight. He was a misogynist. He got in fights. He was arrested all the time. He was kind of an a**hole, and he wasn’t a great athlete, but they loved him for some reason, and I thought, “This guy sucks. He’s not even that great a baseball player. He’s not a great athlete. I don’t understand why they look up to him,” and a lot of the time musicians are like adored and they’re like some of the worst people, but to be a true artist that is inspiring and writing about stuff that…
I see a lot of people be silent on stuff, and that’s the only thing. In my opinion, I want to live in a world where you want to be generous and I feel like you want to take care of each other, and I feel like speaking out about that is really, really important right now. It escapes me that you see people going silent. I think our band is the type of band that has no problem being like, “F*** racism. F*** Trump. F*** this agenda. Fiscally, socially, everything he stands for is f***ed.” And I feel like it’s an important time for people to stand up and say that s*** and talk about it right now in an intellectually stimulating way, where we are not coming down on each other. Where we’re maybe being compassionate at the same time.
CF: Over this period of thirteen years has there been any advice that you’ve picked up along the way that still sticks with you?
AG: Right before I moved to California to join Saosin, this guy who was friends with my brother, and he had like Dag Nasty tattoos… He was this cool guy from our town, his name was Steve. He worked at the record store and he just was awesome. I remember going out with him and my brother a couple days before I moved to California and him being drunk and being like, “Listen man, you can do anything you want. Anything.” And this guy convinced me, “It’s actually possible if you believe in something, you can make it happen, but you’ve gotta do it your way. There are gonna be people that are gonna come out…”
This guy was wasted. He was out of his mind, but I was so receptive to the idea that the only way anything was going to work for me is if I did it in a way that I knew was best. If I wasn’t looking around the room for approval, I had to walk in knowing, ”This is good. This is good, and I like it.” So no matter what happened at least I had that, because as long as you had that, you got something. I remember him telling me that, “Just do it your way. Believe it 100 percent. If everybody laughs at you, whatever. You at least did it 100 percent your way.” He was talking about Dylan, and all these different people that I couldn’t even relate to, just being unique, and I always remember that, the just staying true to yourself type of thing.
There have been so many good pieces of advice along the way. It’s crazy to even think it’s been 13 years, but I think I might have probably contradicted myself in the things I believed 100 times over, just in the name of trying to do this the best that I can. There would be times in my career where I was so worried about my voice that I was breathing in a vaporizer before every show and doing all this crazy s*** and sucking on lozenges, and then there were times when I didn’t give a f***. Each time it was better.
CF: Over the course of your career you’ve had a fair breadth of experiences, but I was wondering if you could tell us of the most grounding moment that you’ve had so far, a moment that reminds you why you do all this?
AG: For some reason, I just thought about this time on the Letting Go Tour where I was in Seattle and I went to – for some reason this is just the first thing that came to my head – but I brought my guitar down to the market down in Seattle, Pike’s Place Market, and there was a guy playing piano on the side of the street, and I sat down with my guitar and played with him and we jammed for like 10 minutes. Guy didn’t know me, I didn’t know him, but I just tried to keep up with him, and I wasn’t very good, but I got something going and we had this moment where I wish I’d recorded what had happened or remembered it, so that I could play it over and over again, but it was just this free moment, and it was beautiful like that.
It was just an awesome thing and I remember sitting there being like, “Man, this experience right here is so huge, and I’m going to go out and play a sold out show tonight, a big place, whatever, and that’s awesome, but I went out and got that same feeling right here with this guy, people walking past us not paying any attention.”
We play these big shows, and they’re amazing, but honestly when you find something that moves you to the point where you lose that sense of self that is attached to all that negative stuff that humanity has, like insecurity, and you find something that takes you out of that, that thing for me, that moment for me, that’s everything. That’s where it lives in. Having that moment on the bus alone writing a song, or having that moment in the Shrine with 5,000 people where you’re moved genuinely, I remember just finding it on the street with no attention, no one giving a s***, not even this guy knowing anything and being reminded, “This f***ing thing. I can tap into this anywhere. I don’t need to be doing it at the Shrine. I don’t need to be on tour. I don’t need to have anyone’s attention. This thing lives and breathes in the world that I exist in, everywhere, and I can tap into it always. Every once in a while I get reminded of that and it bring me to, like, tears.