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Circa waves 2019 2

Our human fascination with other people

21 February 2019, 10:00

Circa Waves bassist Sam Rourke examines the reasons why humans are endlessly engrossed in the lives of others

At this point in time it is beyond a cliché to point out all the ways that social media has turned everyone into brain dead, celebrity-obsessed nightmares. It's also preachy and boring. People were fascinated with David Bowie, Katharine Hepburn, Byron, and Alexander The Great so it's safe to say that our obsession with other people predates Facebook. Not that it hasn't enabled it on a whole new level.

I think that a big part of who we are comes from and is reflected in the people that we find fascinating. A favourites list could almost be used as a window into someone's mind. Maybe it's a fundamental part of being human to be endlessly engaged by other people. Right now I'm fascinated with John Lennon (as always), Stanley Kubrick, David Foster Wallace, Donald Trump (morbidly) and Kamaal Williams to name a few. Sometimes I become fascinated by strangers on the tube. I imagine who they are and what their story is. Sometimes it's not even real people that I'm fascinated by.

Growing up, I was the kid who would sit inside reading instead of playing sports or going out. Nerdy things like Lord of The Rings or my dad's Stephen King books. I was obsessed by the idea that these totally mundane characters would suddenly be transported into amazing scenarios. I still think that it's a really powerful storytelling idea that you too could be taken from one world to another like that.

The British arts critic John Berger once said, “In our urban world, in the streets where we walk, in the buses we take, in the magazines we read, on walls, on screens, we are surrounded by images of an alternative way of life. We may remember or forget these images but briefly we take them in and for a moment they stimulate or imagination. But where is this other way of life?” This sea of images that we wade through every day are a constant appeal to a way of life that, for 99% of people, can be aspired to but never really reached. But despite how surreal and even crude they become, after we scratch their surface they are still effective.

This was something that we talked about a lot when we recorded our new album, What's It Like Over There – this idea that there's one reality that's everyday, mundane, and predictable. Then there is another one that we see in films, books, celebrities and all of those carefully crafted social media profiles that burst with life and technicolour. It feels as though we are living in one life whilst being fascinated by the other, and the lines between them can easily become blurred. We can't help but become trapped in these spells of other people's lives. This inspired the album in other ways. One day when we were in the middle of a tour, Kieran [Shudall, guitarist] saw a couple breaking up in the middle of the street. He imagined the story around that moment, and that's the lyrics for the song "Passport".

As well as this, I think that maybe the reason we're so interested in other people is because it allows us to get beyond ourselves, even for a brief moment. It's strange to think that no matter where you go you'll never really be able to escape your own mind (which I think about a lot). But our interest in others can take us outside of that experience for a while and into something greater. This can be a bit of a double-edged sword. Seeing somebody succeed can be inspirational or it can just make you feel like a failure. For instance, right now I'm looking at what Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is doing and thinking, “What am I doing by comparison?” But then I see my friend create something amazing and it just makes me want to be better. Sometimes I just don't look because that's easier.

Circa Waves' brand new single, "Times Won't Change Me" is out now. The band's third album What's It Like Over There? drops 5 April.
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