As our Fest series continues, Scene Point Blank talks with Circle Takes the Square co-vocalists Kathleen (bass) and Drew (guitar) about Fest 3. It was the Savannah, GA band’s first Fest, so we wanted to know what they remembered about 2004 in Gainesville. The band is currently putting the final touches on their first record in seven years so, naturally, we hit on that topic as well.
Scene Point Blank: How many Fests have you played now?
Kathleen: I think we’ve played 3 so far, this will be our 4th. We played the 3rd (2004), the 4th (2005), and 6th (2007).
Scene Point Blank: What has changed over the years?
Kathleen: It seems like the vibe is still the same, it’s just bigger now. The first time we played there were 70 bands. There’s over 200 bands that play these days. But it’s run very well and Tony and his crew do their best to make sure everyone has a great time. Even with such a hectic schedule going on, the entire crew was helpful and nice as hell, from the door guys to the sound guys to the kids on the street helping us carry gear past the dense crowd of people into the tiny club.
Scene Point Blank: So Fest 3 was your first time playing. How did you get involved?
Kathleen: I think we just got an email and we were very excited to make it happen.
Scene Point Blank: What’s your dominant memory of Fest 3?
Kathleen: I can’t differentiate one Fest from another in my memory banks. But, at one of them, a girl came up to me in the Ladies room and said she’d flown from Mexico to see the Fest, and she brought us luchador masks!
Another year we were offered a show the very next night in Richmond playing with one of my favorite bands, Karate. The drive from Gainesville, FL to Richmond, VA is over 14 hours on a good day and we played a crazy, sweaty, and packed show at the Fest and then headed out late for the long drive. Shortly into drive, our trailer tire blew. We eventually made it to Richmond after about 20 hours straight in the van, right as Karate was starting to play. There are few dominant memories: mostly it’s all a blur of stoked people and great bands.
Scene Point Blank: Do you have any favorite performances that you can remember, from a spectator point-of-view,?
Kathleen: We always have the pleasure of seeing the bands we play with. Baroness played a ferocious set; Ampere’s set is always short, yet sweet. I always try to see my buddies NOMORE also. Unfortunately we’ve always had to play and run.
I think this year we’ll try to stick around for a night and check out some shows. Our drummer, Caleb, and I have been going over the bands and making a list of who we’d like to see: Comadre, Samiam, Capsule, and a bunch more.
Scene Point Blank: What makes Fest different than the other festivals you’ve played?
Kathleen: We haven’t had the chance to play a ton of fests but I think The Fest is successful because it’s not afraid to be diverse. We’ve always had the best time to playing with bands that sound different from us. The Fest is like a great mixtape that lasts 3 days.
Switching topics from Fest to what’s happening with Circle Takes the Square, Drew chimes in.
Scene Point Blank: How many different volumes will there be to the Decompositions project? Once they've all been released, do you plan on releasing them all in one package?
Drew: We have several more songs to record, which will comprise future installments of Decompositions, but the total number of volumes will depend on the length of the final recordings. Some of the songs are rather long, so it's a little too soon to speculate.
We intend to release a comprehensive version someday down the line, however our focus at the moment is Volume I. Currently, all of our collective creative energy is going into making this an album that we're proud to share with everyone who's been waiting patiently for some new Circle Takes the Square. We've worked hard to make it a collection of songs that can stand alone entirely, while still filling the opening role in a series, and relating to the ideas that will unfold in the forthcoming releases.
Scene Point Blank: Given the time it took for this whole thing to come together and some of the hurdles you ran into, did you think you'd never finish writing and recording it?
Drew: Haha, there were definitely times when we realized how much easier things would be to just to drop the project entirely. But something in the back of our minds wouldn't let us do that, and now that the finished versions of these songs are finally tangible, we have no doubt it was worth the struggle. The whole process has done a lot to confirm to me that we are, first and foremost, continuing this band to gratify our personal desires for musical exploration, experimentation, and expression, and that we would be challenging ourselves to the same degree—even if there was no one to share it with in the end—because at times it definitely felt like we'd never have anything to show for all of our efforts. But we kept at it, over long distances and every other challenge that developed along the way. It was definitely an exercise in learning to embrace the process, which in so many ways became the point of the thing entirely.
Scene Point Blank: What was the most difficult aspect with writing Decompositions?
Drew: Looking back on generating this first batch of songs, I think the biggest struggle was trying to find a fresh perspective and identity that we were comfortable with and excited about within the context we had already established in our previous releases. I remember having conversations early on about wanting to craft the most ambitious record we possibly could and having such a vague, but lofty, goal in the back of my mind while being forced to accept my own creative and technical limitations was definitely a personal (and admittedly self-imposed) challenge. Learning to accept the flaws, I guess, that would rear their heads regardless of the efforts put into snuffing them out and, ultimately, learning to be excited about integrating those flaws into our creative vision once they arrived. That was the challenge and the lesson learned.
Scene Point Blank: So what are the primary themes it will it cover? What is the concept behind the whole thing?
Drew: A lot of the subject matter was built around some of the same artistic challenges we've been talking about, actually. The title Decompositions relates to the biological process of solid objects breaking down. It's an overarching theme throughout the record, as many of the songs examine different aspects of transitional states, which occupy such a major, yet somewhat taboo, and certainly under-examined roll in the consensus version of reality.
The first few songs look at the struggles that come with committing to a creative path, a journey with strong parallels to the initiatory rituals of ancient esoteric practices and the rites of passage in many traditional societies. All that said, it has always been the listener's relationship and personal understanding of our songs that matters the most once the album is released. At that point we have deemed it complete, and it begins to speak for itself.
Scene Point Blank: Who or what influenced your writing on this album the most? Did your writing and playing go through different styles over the period of time it took?
Drew: Having two new members with their distinct musical tastes and styles definitely influenced the feel of the new record. We all have pretty far-ranging tastes when it comes to musical, visual, or written art, so we tried to remain open to exploring aspects of whatever we were excited about at any given time while we were writing. Whenever we found something that resonated, for whatever reason, with the big picture of Decompositions, we gave ourselves the time to explore it, knowing that it may or may not ultimately fit.
We did experiment with a lot of styles and techniques that were new to Circle Takes the Square along the way, and we ended up incorporating a lot of what those explorations lead to in the finished work.
- Tony Weinbender and Grabass Charlestons interview by Loren
- Circle Takes The Square interview by Loren and Aaron