In May 2012 I got this message sent to the ‘Like’ page of my label’s Facebook:
HEY JEN! Hope you are well!!!
Brand new band only a week old, with big tunes!
Something i think you would really like!
Check out the track Get along with you!
And I did check it out, and I did like it. It sounded a bit like Wild Nothing at the time if I remember correctly. And there was one song, “Fossils”, which I really loved and wanted to release as a cassette of.
I started messaging Kieran, who at the time was writing and recording alone in his bedroom. I remember asking if he’d been in bands before. He said he had, but wouldn’t tell me their names, which made me suspicious. I thought he might have had something to do with Bells for Rene who were a band from Liverpool that I think members of Death at Sea had been in. Anyway, like a massive creep I went through all his pictures on Facebook until I saw him in front of a kick drum that said Fly With Vampires on it. Sorry about weirding you out on that one, Kieran.
Nearly a year of messaging passed and we decided to do a run of 50 tapes in June 2013. The track was either going to be “Fossils” (which I still love), or “Young Chasers”, a new song he’d put on Soundcloud that was starting to get a lot of attention online.
And then Zane Lowe played Young Chasers. And then everything went insane for Circa Waves.
“It was the day that Zane Lowe played Young Chasers, was the day I met Joe. And I probably met you two,” Kieran says, pointing at Sam and Sian. “Like, a few days before Sound City or a week before or something. It was basically the pressure of that being played on Zane Lowe was what made me actually get a band together.”
“And then we got fired from our jobs,” laughs Sam. “That made it more imperative that it worked out. I was working at a Cathedral’s visitor’s center café. It was fucking terrible.”
“I was doing customer service for UPS,” Sian chips in.
They have now been a band for approximately thirty-six weeks. In that time they’ve been hyped, played shows to crowds of A&R men, signed a deal, supported Phoenix, and even found a fan in Fearne Cotton. It’s not how most bands start out.
“Our first gigs were just with ourselves under the pseudonyms Wet Wet Wet Wet and Malkovich Malkovich,” Kieran explains as they argue over which name came first. “The first gig was with Die! Die! Die! and it was the worst gig ever, “ continues Sam, shaking his head. “It was a four band bill at the Night and Day and there was no one there. The other two support bands pulled out. Die! Die! Die! asked if they could borrow an amp and we said we didn’t really want to share an amp and they were like, fair enough. And then all of our stuff broke and we didn’t have spares so we needed to borrow off them…”
Everyone bursts out laughing as Sam looks on the bright side. “It was good though. It was nice for the first gig to go so wrong because after that we just didn’t care anymore. We just went to Night & Day sort of, every other week, and just played a really terrible gig. Until the Swim Deep tour which was meant to be secret, but it’s really difficult to face the fourteen year old girls in the front row and lie to them when they go, what you called?”
Circa Waves were forced to play secret shows as their first gigs due to the huge amount of attention given to them by the music industry, but are they worried that doesn’t equate to an actual fan base? “Yeah, I was surprised because I thought it was only industry who were interested, but I think we sold 150 at King Tuts,” replies Kieran, as Joe continues. “That was the first one where we actually felt like there was a lot of real people and there were people outside as well who seemed to know us. “Stuck in My Teeth” was on the radio two days before that and people were singing along which was the first realisation that the process of music being released and people hearing it and relating to it actually happened as opposed to turning up and there being A&R people there.”
“It was really weird but that was a realisation to us as well,” Kieran explains, “to play to like literally no real punters and realise that you’re not selling tickets and you haven’t built a fan base yet.” Joe continues, saying that “there were a couple of gigs on that tour where the A&R people didn’t show and then it was really obvious.”
Where most bands get a gradual introduction, a slow build up to big gigs, national media coverage, and A&R execs, Circa Waves were in at the deep end. One of Kieran’s first interviews was with Zane Lowe. No one gives indie bands media training.
“I did an interview with the Telegraph and I said yeah, I’ve been in bands and stuff but nothing ever really happened,” Kieran signs. “And they wrote ‘in loads of dead end bands.’ Well, that’s a bit mean. And then in every interview from then on it’s just got worse and worse, like, ‘Shitty dead end band musician Kieran’. And then my old mates from old bands are like, ‘Oh, just a dead end band, yeah?’ I can see how it works, someone says something and you go, yeah, I’ll just jazz that up a bit, but don’t change the meaning all together.”
“Like that thing in NME,” Sam chips in, “‘I only write singles.’”
“I write so much mediocre material,” Kieran admits, “I write loads and loads. For every single there’s ten absolutely shit songs.” Everyone breaks out laughing.
Two years on, Circa Waves are set to record their debut album this May following a dream slot opening the NME Tour. If there’s one thing I’m sure from having spent over eighteen months falling in love with their instant, smart, sugar-sweet indie – mediocre isn’t gonna get a look in. God bless Facebook.
“Stuck In My Teeth” is out now on Virgin Records.