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The PV Q&A: Circa Survive's Anthony Green On DIY, Staying Weird, and the Core of Success

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When change occurs, it's not uncommon to search for ways to reject it. Sometimes though, a select few embrace it with open arms, and without fear or thought for consequences. Circa Survive chose the latter route when, eight years into their exceptional career, they made the decision to self-release their new album, Violent Waves. As frontman Anthony Green will tell you, the result has been nothing short of rewarding.

Violent Waves
, which officially drops tomorrow [August 28], showcases the band's incredible depth of musicality and thought, presenting an effort that speaks as much to their past as it does to their future. Here, we catch up with Green for an inspiring chat about breaking molds, making emotionally-charged music, staying weird, and what it really means to be successful.

PureVolume: It's an interesting move to self-release an album at this point in your career. What was the breaking point in this decision?
Anthony Green: We really approached the idea a long time ago, before we had even signed to Atlantic Records, but we figured we might as well try doing it with a label and see how it works. We tried it with them and, for us, it was a great experience. We got to use all of their resources and they were really great partners as far as never expecting us to compromise with our creativity. But the thing with a label is that they’re like any other business and they need to make money. They spend a lot of money on bands and I don’t think they saw the return coming in quick enough. We didn’t return as much money in the first year as they wanted us to, so they wanted to move on, and the thing about our career is that we’re not going to stop making music because we didn’t make enough money. And I think that the breaking point was really just having the opportunity [to self-release].

When we decided that we weren’t going to re-sign with them and we weren’t going to do the record with them, there was a really interesting thing that happened. They contacted us in the beginning of our writing and told us that they wanted to offer us less money than they’re contractually obligated to give us in the record contract we had with them, because they didn’t make as much money back. But because of the contract, in offering that, that offered us an out. So that was really the breaking point. It was like, well, if you’re not going to let the band grow, and grow in time, than we’re going to take this opportunity to really try to do this on our own. Every day the last couple of months that I’ve been preparing for the record, (laughs) I thank our lucky stars that they came to us. This just felt like the right move for us.
PV: In “Sharp Practice” the lines “you get what you pay for/we can’t sell our god damn souls anymore” seems to resonate with that. Was this your way of expressing disdain for the industry and what had happened?
AG: I think that had more or less to do with the fact that music is available for free if you can somehow get it online. It’s not necessarily a direct stab at the industry, I think it’s just more the fact that we’re trying to make money off of something that is free [laughs], and asking people to buy something that they can very easily get. It wasn’t necessarily directed at the label but I can see now how there are themes that had to do with working with Atlantic, and working with people trying to create a market for a band like ours which is a little bit weirder, and create an audience therein for something that’s a little bit more off beat.
PV: In light of that, was it particularly difficult for you to deal with the album leaking a few weeks ago?
AG: It was a bum out at first. When I heard about it I got kind of scared, because we all expected it to leak, but I think that we expected it to leak a little bit closer to the release date. But then when you think about it a little bit, and you really accept the fact that this band has always been carried by the passion of our fans, and the fact that they have the record and they can digest it for a little while, it’s really positive. That really helped us. It’s going to happen anyway and it doesn’t change anything. If anything, it just gives people something to talk about and it gives them the actual audio to start listening to and go around and start talking about. So, at first I was kind of bummed because a lot is riding on this, but then I realized you have to try to find the silver lining.
PV: You mentioned that your decision to release independently has made you deeply involved in every aspect of this process. Aside from writing, recording, and distributing, how does this album represent the people you are as a band and as individuals?
AG: There are a lot of tasks involved in putting out an album on a label, and the label helps in the decision making. I think that doing it this way really helped our band come together to figure out ways to compromise with each other. We run our band very much like a democracy. We all want everyone to be happy, but you have to make a decision on some things. It really forced us to figure out how to compromise when it involved decisions regarding our music, and how we represent the band, and how we market the band in a way where we're not trying to market it as so much of a product, like a t-shirt or a CD, but really put ourselves out there as artists who are trying to pass a message on to people. The music is very personal, the songs are extremely personal. We’re not passive people, we can’t not like something we put out. So it’s really put us in a place where we decide ‘this is what the band is,’ and try to make decisions that send out the message of our band, which is the fact that if you go towards what you’re passionate about in your life, you can accomplish things because of your passion. We were focusing on that rather than trying to just find a brand. It’s really been important to us.
PV: Being that these songs are so personal, and maybe even more personal than any you’ve written in the past, did your songwriting process differ?
AG: You know, I still think it’s a lot of practice makes perfect. There hasn’t been a label, or any people that we’ve worked with, that have assessed the way we write, or have assessed our music and our lyrics. It’s always come straight from us. And in that respect, it’s more like giving the voice tuning — don’t just hear it, but hone in and figure out that it gets better and better if you're introspective, and use it in an almost therapeutic way to express whatever may be happening in your life. This being our fourth album, we’ve had a lot of experience working with each other and writing songs together, and I think the more we do it the better we get at it. The deeper we’re in it, the deeper we’re able to go. We really focused on the aesthetic of the band. And the people that like the band will like [the record] as long as we’re doing it for the right reasons, we’re doing it for ourselves, and we’re doing it as a therapeutic process. They can see through bullshit. We’ve never done that, we’ll never be that, and I think we’ve gotten better and better at going as far as possible and really coming straight from our hearts.
PV: That genuine quality definitely seems to be one of the main things that draws Circa fans in.
AG: You can tell. I know that the people who listen to our music are epic fans and they’re the people who like the same kind of really passionate, emotional art — the kind that has dark and light. We’re never going to be that kind of giant, marketable band. I feel like we’re the kind of band that are more of the outcast type, the artist type, for people that are a little more eccentric. I could be totally wrong (laughs) but that’s how it seems to me! That’s always been what I’ve been trying to do. We’ve always tried to work with people who would market the band’s weirdness, and I don’t want to market [the music] and put it out so that it makes the top 50 countdown. I want the people who are weird to feel [connected to it].
PV: Like you had mentioned before, this album does go back and forth between heavier moods and lighter, almost atmospheric tones. It’s a great balance you’ve found.
AG: That’s awesome. I think if there was any goal I had for the album, it was to have a balance. I wanted it to be just as much of a question of itself as an answer, and I feel like closing the album out with the song “I’ll Find A Way” speaks to that. It’s kind of like, ‘I’ll find a way, I’ll figure it out.’ Sometimes we don’t know the answer, but we don’t have to stop trying to look for it.
PV: You’ve been in the game for a while now. What have you learned about the industry and being a successful band? What do you think defines success?
AG: You know, it’s a weird thing. The industry is so fucked, and you can’t really define success in numbers. You can’t really define it based on Facebook friends or Twitter followers. It’s about being able to sit there.... and really love what you’ve done. If you’ve been able to really exercise something, or create something, there’s a feeling you get there. It’s a rush, it’s like a drug rush. And if you have that, if you have a feeling like that about something you’ve done, that is an accomplishment. That is success to me. And I can’t say whether or not this record is going to help the band to go on, if it will feed my kid, I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I know that it gives me that feeling. To me, that’s success.

 
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