Substream Music Press: It’s been said that Blue Sky Noise was perhaps too commercial and too “normal” for Circa Survive. Let’s start with, do you agree with this?
Anthony Green: Not really. I can’t say there’s a Circa Survive sound or record that we have to stay true to or not. It’s a constantly evolving thing and that’s the record we would have made regardless of where we could have made it. Those songs were written the same way we wrote Juturna, the same way we wrote Violent Waves. It took a lot longer because of stuff in our personal lives but it wasn’t some big corporate thing. I think being on Atlantic gave people this bias, this idea and reason to judge it that way but it was never like that for us.
SMP: So after leaving Atlantic, were there offers or did you want to go it alone from the get to?
AG: We took a couple meetings and some we didn’t take but after a few and a few big conversations, it was just like wanting to try this now. We got on it really fast.
SMP: What benefits have you seen? What setbacks? Do you think you’ll do it this way from now on?
AG: There is a reason labels exist, they do a lot of work but if you’re willing to do that work and hire a publicist and hire people to work the songs then there’s no reason you can’t do it yourself. If you have someone fronting you the money and then taking a giant percentage from everything you do, it’s all a gamble. You could sell 8,000 records yourself and make back all the money you used to hire a crew.
SMP: Violent Waves feels very defiant, very much so like you’re standing up for yourself or for something. What was the lyrical mindset going into this record?
AG: struggling with finances, the differences between making art and selling art and keeping it pure at the same time
SMP: You’re married, you’ve got a small family. Do you feel like enjoying these milestones in life has calmed your mind at all? Or can you still feel a bit crazy at times?
AG: I don’t know if it’s crazy anymore. I don’t think anything has changed about me but my priorities have changed. At one point I was living my life and I didn’t see a direct correlation between who I was affecting with my actions. I’m not as reckless, I’m probably not as fun or funny. I’ve turned to my dad’s sense of humor. I think that having a family has put a lot more focus on what I do.
SMP: “Birth of an Economic Hit Man” has a line saying “our life is more than a side effect, we must learn to be lost graciously”. Can you expand on that idea?
AG: I feel like if I expand on it, I’m just going to ruin it. It means a lot of different things. If I try to hone it into one thing, I’ll just ruin it. I was musing on this idea of growing up and what I thought I was and what I wanted from life and what I wanted to be and it just came to me. I’m still figuring out what it means and I feel like it’s a gift from some creative spirit so to apply meaning to it like I own it, would be false because it’s still revealing itself to me to be so many different things. Whatever you feel about those lyrics regardless of what the artist says, its true, its yours, it’s the only place it exists is in your mind, its how you perceive it, it has nothing to do with what they say or what is say, the only truth is your perception.
SMP: Ideally, who would you want to be touring with?
AG: A band like Incubus would be awesome to go on tour with. Anberlin got that Smashing Pumpkins tour and I wanted that tour really bad. The Deftones are a band I think we could team up with. Obviously there are things like Muse or The Foo Fighters which I think we could modify our set to fit with anybody. I’d open for Rush if we could. We’ll modify our set slightly and we can do that, I’m up for the challenge. You want to always make new fans and that’s why it’s tough when you’re in a position like ours because you don’t want to go around preaching to the converted. A tour like this is so easy, you just go out and play. When Blue Sky Noise came out, we did this Coheed headliner and every night there would be a crew of people I knew were here for us. We were playing to a vastly different crowd and we were winning people over. Their audiences were really cool. They weren’t a bunch of fuckin’ jocks, they were music geeks like us who wanted to have their mind blown so it made it a challenge. You wanna go out there and get under their skin a little bit. It’s a challenge to keep doing that. I think it pays off when you go out on your own tour and those people show up and you’re at meet and greets and you see people covered in Coheed tattoos and you think “That was good that we did that” (laughs). Speaking of Coheed, I just heard a bunch of new songs that are incredible. I love that band so much, I have since I was a little kid. I remember going to see This Day Forward in Philly and seeing them open.
SMP: It’s strange to have these memories of “I was 15 when I saw this band open for this band”. It was such a big deal.
AG: That was 15 years ago for me. I’m 30 so just saying “Yeah, I saw At the Drive-In when I was 15”, that’s fucked up. That’s a fucked up thing to say (laughs). I hated old people as a young kid who thought he knew anything about punk rock. I just thought old people sucked and I thought their opinions sucked. I didn’t want anything to do with it. When I started making music, the whole idea of putting a song in a commercial was so disgusting. For one reason or another, it was like “fuck that, who would do that? Make money? Whatever.” Now, I have emails every day about trying to get songs in commercials. I had a few opportunities with a publishing company to go write songs for commercials, movies, TV shows, like “This TV show needs a song about super heroes. Do you have anything that can work with that?” No, but maybe I can go write something. You’re hungry, you want to keep making money making music. You have to kind of play a game to do that. I’m super lucky that with my solo stuff and with some Circa stuff, that I don’t have to do anything I don’t wanna do. I could do one solo tour every two years then chill and make music and support a family. Yeah, it’s fucked up (laughs). I was talking to my wife about renting a bus and paying for it out of pocket for the last week of tour. We have more bills now than we have for our entire life but we’ve also been really fortunate for the last two years. It’s not like a huge burden but we have these children and these things we have to pay for but we have money coming in and neither of us have expensive taste. The biggest thing is that we order out all the time. We have a tiny little house and we spend a lot of money. We’re not rich but we can support each other and I can make music full time and that’s the dream, that’s what I always wanted. To be able to do that is absolutely unbelievable.
SMP: Do you think you’ll ever do commercial stuff? Any thought of alienating fans?
AG: Depends. Its not one of those things like if they want it, they can have it. It has to be right. Circa has been offered stuff, I’ve been offered stuff that we’ve had to say no to. We’ve said no to more things than we’ve said yes to. Circa was offered a video game thing and we were like “This could be cool”, but we checked it out and it was absurdly violent so we said no to it. Video games are cool but we don’t want something that’s gratuitous violence but it has to be cool and just fit our aesthetic. If you start getting yourself into just doing stuff for the money, even if it’s a desperate situation, I just firmly believe that if you stick it out through that, then something right will come down the path. If you do the right thing, the right thing will come down the path, at least it has for us throughout my career. I’ve done some really stupid things financially. I’ve left bands, left situations, said no to things that were, at the time, seemed like the only option. I sat back and said “Fuck that, that’s not my only option, I will not take that, I will not settle”.
SMP: Any thought of alienating fans?
AG: We wouldn’t do something that would bum us out. I feel like we’re really close to our fans and what would bum us out would bum them out. That’s why we said no to the video game, that’s why we said no to a couple little things. It just wasn’t right for us. I mean everybody, the band, the fans, it’s a big collective us. When we write songs I’m not sitting there wondering if every kid who comes to the show will like it, I just know that if we like it, odds are they’re going to like it. You burden yourself by trying to accomplish something like that or speak to a large amount of people. I think if you whittle it down to a reasonable size and you make it about your peer group or yourself, everyone else will be taken care of. If you try to speak to everyone you dilute yourself with this idea that all these people are paying attention and that’s a hardcore thing to do. You want to go in and write for all these people? What do you say to them? Make sure you’re speaking to yourself or your buddy in the band, then everyone else will come.
We were in the studio doing Blue Sky Noise and Demi Lovato was doing some songs next door and she was like “Oh my God, I love you guys” and I was like “I have no idea who you are by my nieces and nephews probably do”. She met our guitar player then Tweeted that she met me, it wasn’t me at all (laughs). She was like “Don’t make fun of these songs, they’re not my songs, they’re just songs Disney wrote”. She wanted to make music. That’s what she wanted, that’s okay with her. Everyone has different things they’re okay with.
SMP: What was it like for Circa Survive being on Atlantic?
AG: They let us do whatever we wanted. I think it was more of an experiment on their part than our part. We got to mess around with big budgets and pick who we wanted to record with and who we wanted to direct stuff and spend a lot of their money (laughs). In the end I think we spent so much of their money that they were like “Hey, we want to offer you way less than what was in the contract we gave you”. They didn’t come to us and say “We don’t want you on the label anymore”. They said “We want to give you less than what we’re contractually obligated to give you because you didn’t make enough on the first record. So instead of offering you X amount for the recording budget, we want to offer you Y”. That gave us an our if wanted to walk. We said “We’re out” and that gave them the opportunity to say “Okay, we’ll give you the money we said we would give you or okay see ya”. They said “Okay, see ya”.
SMP: Did you want to stay with them?
AG: No. They had the option to keep us but at that point why would they have wanted to keep us? We weren’t making enough money. It would have been a nightmare of a situation because they would have made it bad for us. Blue Sky Noise was such a great record to make with them. No one stuck their head in and said anything. When it came time to pick a single, they wanted “I Felt Free” over “Get Out” which we didn’t agree with. We said “Well, you’re the ones who sell music”. I love both those songs but I see “Get Out” as an obvious single but what do I know? I’ve never put a song on the radio, they’ve put thousands of songs on the radio.