Anthony Green is walking across a beach somewhere in America when we connect over the phone in late August to discuss the upcoming Circa Survive album. Prior to our call, Green spent the day with his family in a brief moment of freedom from his hectic work schedule. “I’ve only been home for about a week,” he tells me, “and the whole week has been spent doing family stuff pretty much every day or going on some kind of adventure.”
This break from the chaos of a life spent in music is something of a rare treat for the 35-year-old vocalist, who has spent the majority of his adult life touring the globe. “Tomorrow morning I go into the studio to begin my next solo record,” he begins, “and then in September Circa has some stuff around the album release [September 22]. But one of us is having a baby in October, so we aren’t really going out until early November, which gives me a lot of time to work on new Circa stuff, my solo shit, and just hang with my family before the album cycle really kicks off near the end of the year.”
The album cycle Green’s referring to will be in promotion for The Amulet, Circa Survive’s sixth studio album. Circa has been playing live throughout 2017, largely in celebration of their record On Letting Go turning 10 years old, but they won’t really hit the road again for a couple months. “It sort of kicks off when we tour with Thrice in November. We’ll be playing a whole bunch of stuff from our catalog on that run, which will help us finish out the year. We will do more touring in 2018, maybe with some stuff around Blue Sky Noise…who knows?”
It’s hard to talk about touring with someone who has played Colorado’s iconic Red Rocks venue without asking them about the experience. Circa Survive made their debut at the venue earlier this summer while supporting California rock band AFI. “Everybody talks about how monumental that place is due to its structure and size, and in reality it was beautiful. But the feeling of being on a stage where the audience is like…usually you look out and you see a flat line of people that slowly escalates like a gentle horizon, but when you’re playing at Red Rocks there is a wall of people sitting on rock pretty high in altitude. It used to be a spot where they did rituals and shit like that. It’s almost like a holy place for people who love live music, and I had something close to a religious experience there – I was elated.”
After a brief pause, Green continues by focusing on the set itself. “It’s funny, this literally never happens to me, but the whole first song I was terrified. I had more stage fright than I think I have ever had in my life, and I fucked up a bunch of parts in the song that I never fuck up. Immediately I was losing my shit, and I thought I might ruin the whole set. The end of the song is pretty chaotic musically, and I found a way to kind of explode with it to break free from that moment. But seriously, it was intense. It was like a monument to everything I hold dear. People travel from all over the world to experience that venue because it’s like a true experience. Not to say you can’t have that kind of moment in, say, The Grog Shop (a Cleveland venue), but there is something special about a place like that with people who understand its importance and cater to it. They’ve created a real escape.”
I mention to Green that I know a handful of people who made the trek from the midwest to Colorado to see him perform that show. “Really,” he asks curiously, “That’s actually fucking crazy.” We discuss specifics of their travel for a moment before another comparison between Red Rocks and religion is made. “That place is like a church for live music,” Green explains, “and that’s our thing. We truly worship music, and that live music experience is when I think our band is at its pinnacle. That’s why, like, I’m stoked people review the record, but at one point I stopped looking at them as records and more as a chapter in our life that is going to fit in a bigger, giant book. An album is like a little brush stroke on a giant tapestry that hopefully I work on for the rest of my life. Each record doesn’t have to be the same sound, or have the same intensity. When we used to try new things I would get so nervous about it because it was different, but I feel now as an older man I am able to live with the idea that this is an ongoing process and not everything has to be perfect right now in this moment. Whatever people take from it is their thing and they’re allowed to have it.”
The idea of chapters as it relates to the release of Circa Survive’s career is a fitting one. Never a band known for singles, the band has cultivated a fan base that is more interested in the group’s musical expression as a whole than a great hook or catchy riff. If those things happen few would complain, Green likely included, but more than anything their fans demand the group simply continue. They are engrained in the band’s journey as much as the band members themselves. Every album can stand on its own, but when heard in sequence with the release before and after it each record takes on new, greater meaning.
Thinking on all this, I suggest to Green that fans may look at the band’s new release less like a traditional record and more like the latest season of a television series they cannot wait to binge. “Dude,” he excitedly replies, “that’s the way I look at it now. I think when you’re young and you’re working with people who are funding your creativity their influence carries weight. It takes time to realize they’re trying to make their money back and it really doesn’t matter to them if the product is something that is creatively fulfilling to you in a way you’re honest about. And that’s been struggle because we were young and stupid, you know? Now, being an older band that has been able to retain its members and somehow found a way to grow with its audience in a steady, slow way based on doing what we want…It’s cool to not have to think about that life as a thing. We have no desire to be the biggest band in the world. I think as a young band we wondered if it were possible to be a huge band who makes our kind of music and still have people giving us all kinds of money. Then you get a taste of something like that and you think it may be possible, but really that’s not what’s important. The important thing is making really cool shit. I feel we are so far removed from the commercial side of the industry. We are music nerds, and we rely on other music nerds to support our band. If something cool happens that’s great, but we make a good living making the music we want to play. Why would you fuck with that?”
Green pauses again before clarifying his previous statement. “I don’t want to come across as talking shit on pop music. I think there is a lot of pop elements on the record and I listen to quite a bit of pop as well. I just don’t think we’re a band like that. Our music isn’t always easy for people to get.”
The conversation turns to The Amulet, which is still about a month from release. “People ask me ‘is it more like the last shit, or more like this thing,” Green begins. “And I don’t know how to tell them I don’t always know the difference between those records. I sometimes don’t digest a record for years. When we were just touring for On Letting Go’s anniversary there were a couple of things on that record I now know I could have done better. Those songs live in people’s hearts now, but whenever I hear those words or a few specific lines I think about what I wish I would have said. It only happens once in a while, but because of that I now make sure I can live with the material before we record it. Sometimes I change things live and it makes me feel good for that moment.” I commend Green for this decision, but he cuts me off before I can say much more. “One time I was doing that a lot and Chris Conley from Saves The Day pulled me aside and told me ‘hey dude, people want to hear you sing the song they love. If you’re going to change something, make it small, but keep the chorus and key moments in tact.’ I realized he was right.”
With a career as long as Green’s one has to wonder how his views on releasing new music have evolved over time. One could argue that producing new material isn’t always a necessity for a band at the level of Circa Survive, as the group could easily tour and continue to profit off their beloved catalog. For Green however, creating and sharing new material is an absolute must. “What makes me excited more than the album being released is how it came together,” he tells me. “The way we’ve been writing since the last album (Descensus) came out is that we take some ideas, enter the studio, and we work together in this way that has left me feeling more connected to the material in a live sense. Some of these songs are so fucking fun to play live, and I really look forward to getting to play these songs. That’s what excites me. That’s not to say I don’t feel similarly about the older material, or that I am not grateful for how that material has helped us, but it’s just like – when we play that stuff it’s the same as it has always been. But this material is new, and the connect I feel to it is exciting and fresh. It gets me off so hard, and honestly – it’ll probably feel like everything else in the near future. At that point I’ll have to create something else to feel that way again, but right now some of these songs and melodies and words and the feelings with them…I crave it. I crave getting to sing and play for people.”
We briefly joke about the time between the album’s release and the band’s first tour as being something done so that fans have time to learn the new tracks, but Green tells me that is not really the case. “At this point in time,” he confesses, “I don’t even think of it in terms like that. I just want to be putting out new music. There is still stuff from the bands with a ton of records, like Portugal. The Man, that is new to me solely because I only recently discovered them. I’ve always liked that. It’s kind of cool when things work out that way, and I think that’s the kind of band we aim to be. We’re always trying to scratch our own creative itch.”
He continues, “Honestly, when we play these new songs live I’m not really looking to the audience for a reaction or for them to know it just yet. It’s like I’m possessed by this shit. Maybe it has something to do with the lyrics or the melody, I don’t know, but I am possessed by it. I cannot wait to play more of this material. I’m stoked for the record to be out and for people to have it, but above everything else I’m stoked to get out there and play it. Everything else after that is kind of in the background for me. It’s cool to see people react to the record and it’s awesome when they love the material, but I try to keep that stuff at a distance because it can get in my head and fuck me a bit. For me, success stems from that desire to play the material live.”
Some artists enjoy listening to their own music. Green never says one way or another about his own art, nor is he asked, but he does share a story about rediscovering Amulet track “Tunnel Vision” just hours before our conversation. “My wife said something about tunnel vision this morning and I remembered that I wrote an entire song for this record about getting tunnel vision and feeling depressed. I told her she had to hear it, played it for her, and even though we had both heard it before we were blown away. I remember thinking how crazy it is that I am in this band because that song is so good.”
Circa Survive will release The Amulet on September 22. Pre-orders are available now on the band’s official website.