Probably one of the best indicators that demonstrate Prog still has a healthy beating heart are the number of festivals and events around the world celebrating our love of this music and the bands who play at them. ROSfest is no exception. The latest one just took place this month but it is back in 2016 we focus on the 13th International Rites Of Spring Festival, particularly the 7th of May where Circuline performed at The Majestic Theatre at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Now I’ve enjoyed listening to their music for a while now and even got to write a couple of articles on their two studio albums. The icing on the cake was finding out a good friend and fellow Yes fanpage, “The Word Is Yes,” co-moderator, Joel Simches had recently been their bass player. Joel also got to mix the Live DVD/CD, so it was with great excitement and interest that I got to see this band through a recorded performance which you will be able to see for yourselves. You could say, I’ve heard the band, seen the band and worn the T Shirt. No, seriously, I’ve worn the T Shirt! Andrew Colyer generously sent one down to me here in New Zealand. If you haven’t heard any Circuline music yet then you’re in for a treat. If you have then you know just how good and refreshing their music is. And you can see it some of their best songs performed here on this DVD if you haven’t caught them live as yet. I actually watched it initially some months ago and played it again this weekend to refresh my own experience with watching it and have to say I had a very enjoyable time seeing Circuline in a live environment, with the band playing for the ROSfest crowd and now for us!
What follows is a very open and engaging interview with Circuline around their new DVD.
[These questions were answered by Circuline co-leaders Andrew Colyer and Darin Brannon.]
It’s been a busy couple of years for Circuline since your last studio album, COUNTERPOINT in 2016. Tell me about what the band has been up to?
AC: We had great gigs in the latter half of 2016 which included the New Jersey ProgHouse, Philly’s Liberty Music Fest, and the second traveling Sonic Voyage Fest. In January 2017 we headlined at Prog on the Ranch in Florida, before boarding the Cruise to the Edge and participating in the Late Night Live Prog Experience. Darin Brannon and I were hired to go on tour with another artist in spring 2017. In summer 2017 we toured England opening for IO Earth, which was a blast! Those gigs included Trading Boundaries (the Roger Dean gallery, and Roger was at our show), the Wesley Centre (sponsored by the Classic Rock Society), and the Harmonix Fest. October 2017 we performed at ProgStock in New Jersey (that was great), and finished up the year performing for a superfan’s 50th birthday party concert in November. 2018 has been about getting this CircuLive::Majestik product out, doing a Kickstarter campaign to support it, and doing all of the marketing and promotion that is required these days to launch a new product, since we’re the record label.
Why a Live album?
AC: Why not? It’s one thing for people to produce studio albums. That is done on a regular basis these days. We want people to see what we can do live, so they will actually buy a ticket, leave their house, and come see us when we perform. The only way to do that is to show them in advance what they can look forward to. It’s about a live, human, interactive experience with the band. You can’t get that staying home and just watching videos on your TV, computer, tablet, or phone. Also, we felt like it would have been a missed opportunity if we didn’t capture this RoSfest performance. It’s now part of our catalog, and part of our history and evolution as a band.
DB: I think it was a natural decision based upon the opportunity presented to us by George and RoSfest. How could we not take advantage of the larger stage and audience? With that said we did rehearse with the intention of a multiple camera shoot knowing well in advance that we would release this as our first live DVD/Bluray show. It was good timing.
What can you remember about playing and filming at the 13th International Rites of Spring Festival (ROSfest)?
AC: Being hungry and having to eat a food bar on the way to the stage! Being nervous and excited about this particular band being on a big stage for the first time. Being distracted by the light show, when the gobos would sweep across my hands playing the keyboards. Absolutely loving the first-class treatment by the RoSfest stage crew – they were an absolute joy to work with. Feeling like that kind of stage and theater is somewhere I would like to be every day.
DB: Of course being very nervous, but one of the many things was the first class treatment from the staff, from the time you load in til you our loading out. They are truly a professional outfit with top notch people running things and the support staff was incredibly helpful and accommodating, too. I remember the stage being so much bigger than what I thought it was going to be. We were never so spread out before.
You’re a band that stands by your tagline, “Modern Cinematic ProgRock.” It really does look like you live up to that especially with some enjoyable and visual performances with both of your lead vocalists, Natalie Brown and Billy Spillane who on this particular Live DVD show how well they work together with these sometimes very challenging and complex compositions. Some of this music comes from an angular place. You only have to look at the brilliant “One Wish” with all those discordant notes not to mention counterpoint contrasts between each other, and you and the band to realise there must have been some pressure on them to deliver a great live performance in one take for film and off course a live audience. Were you happy on how this song was captured for prosperity?
AC: First of all, thank you for those kind words. I think we’re all aware of the pressure that’s on when we’re performing live. Billy and Natalie are aware, and they do their best to help carry the show, providing entertainment value in addition to handling the challenge of this music. We all love performing live on a big stage, so we worked very hard to prepare for that performance, knowing it was going to be captured on audio and video for a live product. Fortunately, “One Wish” was one of the first songs we ever wrote back in 2014, so we’ve been performing it long enough that it now feels fairly comfortable. I think it came off pretty well at RoSfest.
DB: I think any band going into a live performance puts a huge amount of pressure on themselves no matter what. But for us, for this performance it was something a bit bigger and grander than anything we’ve done in the past. There really wasn’t much conversation during rehearsals saying “you better bring it or else” We all trust each other implicitly on stage. So with that, there were never any conscious thoughts in my head on whether the rest of the band would deliver.
How did Ad Astra’s bassist, Harold Skeete and Stratospheerius’s violinist, Joe Deninzon become involved in this?
AC: Joe Deninzon was a guest violinist on our first studio album, Return, playing the electric violin solo on “Silence Revealed”. We’ve also shared the bill with his band, Stratospheerius, at some of our live shows. It was just a no-brainer to ask him to come perform with us, as he is a great guy, and there really was no one else we wanted to take that solo spot. Paul Ranieri had been Circuline’s bassist since November 2014, performing live with us and recording all of the bass tracks on Counterpoint . He had a family emergency and had to bow out of RoSfest with two weeks notice. Paul actually found Harold Skeete to take his place, and what an amazing job that Harold did. I don’t know how he learned all that material in just two weeks.
I have to say on first viewing this DVD it’s is very polished and such an enjoyable viewing and listening experience seeing you all up close at your best. Was there any amount of chorographical direction leading up to ROSfest during your practise sessions knowing that this was being all filmed specifically for a DVD? The reason I ask is that I didn’t see any video director’s name against this and wondered whether this was going to be tightly produced or an on-the-fly, as-you-go, see-it-as-it-is performance. In other words, how much pre-production was involved and did you do anything different with the live DVD that you don’t typically do in your other shows?
AC: We were all very aware of the fact that we wanted this product to hold up against any other live performance from a professional band that someone would see today in the marketplace. We go to live concerts not just as fans or spectators, but for research. We watched other videos to see what people are doing. Natalie has a 30-year track record in theater, and she has good taste. Darin is an encyclopedia of Prog and Fusion, and has seen countless concerts. So those two really have a good sense of what a “show” should look like. We rent a large rehearsal hall so we can have a realistic sense of the spacing and layout of the stage plot. We absolutely did not want to look like amateurs. Every time we would plan something for the show, we would stop and think, “would [insert famous band here] do that?” We left some things in that make us unique, but we were very aware of time constraints, pacing, and what the audience experience would be like. During our rehearsals, we definitely had some uncomfortable moments when correcting each other, without a director to do so, but we were producing ourselves. We have entertained the thought of a live performance coach in the future.
You have two amazing studio albums including a couple of my favourite tracks on it, and of course one or two I would have loved to have seen you perform. How did you choose these 12 tracks for this particular project?
AC: Since our songs tend to be longer, with lots of instrumental sections, we really wanted to make sure we focused on the vocal songs. One instrumental opener, eleven vocal songs, and the one solo spot for Harold, which he did a beautiful job on. Don’t worry though, we brought back some pieces on our next live CD/DVD/Blu-Ray, that will be out next year!
Anyone new to Circuline will get a good idea of your music and how well you perform together as a band, is there any one defining track you play that really sums you up?
AC: For me, I think the longer tracks with the instrumental breaks would be good examples. I would have to pick “One Wish”, “Hollow”, or “Summit”.
DB: I recommend for the hardcore prog fan, listen to “Fallout Shelter” from our first studio album, Return. I dare you! If that’s not enough, please consider “Erosion”, on Counterpoint.
Not forgetting this is also a festival, how accommodating was George Roldan and the RosFest team with your own demands of filming this event for DVD and a wider audience?
AC: George and his team were great! He made the offer to us, as part of a package. If a minimum number of bands signed up for the weekend, they would bring in a 4-camera film crew and shoot everything. Fortunately for us, more than enough bands signed up. I can’t imagine why a band would not take advantage of this kind of opportunity. We used a 5th camera ourselves on stage.
Looking back at the filmed performance is there anything on it it that stands out for you?
AC: I can only say that I’m really proud of how well we all pulled together to give such a good performance, especially since our bass player brought in a substitute, two weeks before the festival. Besides focusing on our own parts, we were all focusing on Harold’s needs, so he could be up to speed with everything.
DB: It was the first big performance the band has ever done, and being filmed for a product and posterity, there was a lot of pressure, especially adding Harold in with just two weeks to go. I thought everybody came through pretty well. I would say it was a much reserved performance, compared to what we have planned for the future.
What went into the mixing of both the DVD and CD? Take a track on here like “Summit.” To these ears it sounds so polished, and have to say you and Darin and Jerry Belodo, including Harold are right on point. Just so tight, and you can hear it. The clarity and mixing is fantastic! What kind of equipment did you bring to the Festival to get all this down on tape?
AC: Jerry is traditionally a jazz fusion player, he’s used to locking in with a rhythm section, and he and I were watching each other a lot. Harold is obviously a super professional prog and fusion player, and he just locked right in with Darin. Darin and I had been playing together for years, and we wrote all of the music, so we usually lock in pretty well. I think we all had our intensity level on “10” that day, because we knew how much it meant for us. So we were all watching and listening and focusing on each other the whole time.
As far as the recording equipment, that was part of the package that George Roldan and the RoSfest team offered to us. They brought in veteran engineer Mike Potter from Orion Studios in Baltimore, who sat backstage with his two computer towers and mixing board, and all of the microphone and instrument lines were split onstage. One signal went to Mike in the back to record, and the other signal went to the house for the stage monitoring and front of house P.A. system. It was a really great setup they had. The mixing for the CD/DVD/Blu-ray was done by Joel Simches, who was running Front of House sound that day, so he already knew the show. We gave Mike Potter a hard drive, and we left the weekend with all of our tracks, which we handed off to Joel. We had a shared Google Doc that everyone had access to, and after listening to the rough mixes, we would all make notes, talk on the phone, and tweak everything until everyone was happy. Joel did a great job, and we’re proud of the teamwork that went into this product. It also gave us great experience for creating future products such as this one.
Were there any tracks you had to leave out from the ROSfest performance?
AC: No, we were allotted a 90-minute set, so we maximized every minute. For the Audio CD, we did some very tight editing to squeeze everything onto one disc.
To order their own copy of the DVD/CD for CIRCULINE’s “CIRCULIVE::MAJESTIK” when can they go to purchase it?
AC: You can purchase the CD/DVD through Bandcamp, CD Baby or Amazon (which ships through CD Baby):
If you want the CD/Blu-Ray version of CircuLive::Majestik, that is available on Bandcamp:
What comes next for CIRCULINE?
AC: Right now we’re working on our next release – a live CD/DVD/Blu-ray from our ProgStock performance last year, with a new lineup (Alek Darson on guitar, and Joel Simches on bass), a whole new live show, and a new view to where we are headed as a band. That will be out in 2019, while we are currently writing our third studio album, for a 2020 release. Speaking of the next studio album, our good friend Matt Dorsey (Sound of Contact, Dave Kerzner band, In Continuum) has returned to collaborate with us! He’s already been here in The Cave writing with us, and we’re very excited about the evolution and direction of the music. Besides playing bass, Matt adds a fourth vocal, so we’re already thinking about what we can do harmonically, and you will hear him singing lead as well. Alek Darson adds some intensity in the guitar department, which you heard in two songs from Counterpoint.
To have everyone in the band writing together in the same room is a great experience, and we hope it shows in the next record!
My thanks go to Andrew and Darin, and best wishes to Circuline! visit their websitre for more information about the band