Joe from Circa Waves is in a confident mood. Sporting gold-trimmed aviators and an athletic build, he looks the real deal too.
You wouldn’t recognise him as the boyish, floppy-haired guitarist from when the band first broke through. Smart and straight-taking, here’s a musician who knows where he’s going.
‘Just giving everything, really,’ he replies, when I ask what the audience can expect from a Circa Waves show. ‘We’re very fortunate to be a band who play music that’s quite up-tempo and fast-paced, and I think that makes it a little bit easier. Everyone gets a bit excited.’
‘The sort of people we appeal to love music, love going to gigs, they’re of a certain age where they don’t give a fuck if they think they look bad, you know?. They’re not self-conscious, they let themselves go for an hour. I kind of want them to do that, because I’m doing it too. I think that’s the agreement.’
Since launching themselves into the mainstream consciousness back in 2013, they’ve amassed a collection of exciting singles, recorded a debut album and garnered support from all corners of the industry (Zane Lowe’s a fan). They supported both The 1975 and The Libertines on their respective tours, whilst building a significant live following through their own spirited live shows. They sold out the O2 Academy in Brixton, which is no mean feat – especially in such a short space of time.
Here, today, Joe talks buoyantly. The band have had a whirlwind year, and he doesn’t see that changing anytime soon.
‘We’re recording right now, it’s good. We just started, we did like a week – and we’re going again next month. It sounds good, we’ve got all the songs, we’re rehearsed and ready to go – there’s a definite progression in the music. I’m really excited where we’re at it this point. I think other people will be as well.’
And who am I to disagree with him? A string of festival slots, including their first headline slot at LeeFest, as well as a return to ‘smaller, sweatier gigs’ at the beginning of the summer, have only reaffirmed what Joe and the rest of the band seem to already know – they’re doing something very right indeed. With a proclivity for big choruses and rhythmic indie-rock, Circa Waves are almost single-handedly bringing the melody back into British guitar music.
As we sit and discuss the success of the first album, I ask him whether they’re faced with a dilemma at the prospect of their sophomore effort. As musicians, they want to evolve naturally – which will of course result in new directions, and as a result, taking risks. However, considering the warmth of the reception their debut received, is it tempting to stick to what they know? Especially, when what they know works so well.
Joe doesn’t even think about his response.
‘You can’t really rest on your laurels and do the same thing or people will become disinterested. I think if you’re a musician or a songwriter you’re going to naturally push yourself to a different place – I think if you didn’t it’d be a little odd, and I’d be suspicious if you didn’t,’ he replies, firmly. Throughout our conversation, the guitarist throws scepticism at acts he feels might be ‘doing it for the money’. For him, staying true to your own vision is important – regardless of how anybody else reacts.
‘I think the key is to progress, whilst bringing with you every sort of element that made the first thing work. If you had good choruses, or songs that people can relate to, bring those forward, but do so in a way that makes it feel like you’re taking it and adding something new to it.’
‘Just keep doing what you’re doing,’ he declares, without a hint of cliché.
What resonates most throughout our chat is how important an identity is for the band. They don’t want to be known as the next The Strokes. ‘I think it’s a little bit cheap in a way,’ he tells me.
‘At first it was pleasant, then it was like please stop. It’s kind of unimportant, though. Anyone who listens will make their own mind up. It’s only something to be used to the uninitiated. Those are great bands, and if it it’ll get people listening then that’s fine by me.’
‘I understand why you do it, though. When a band comes along, it’s a way of categorising, but I think people stop listening and just start assuming. I reckon by the time the second album comes out people will be saying ‘that sounds like Circa Waves’, rather than anyone else.’
Clearly, regardless of what anybody else may think, the band know exactly what they want to achieve, and how they’re going to achieve it. There’s a forthright hunger to Joe’s answers, and a competitive streak that doesn’t even try to conceal itself. Stirred by the success of their contemporaries, such as Foals and The Maccabees, Circa Waves want to forge a similar path to the top of the festival bill. The climate is changing – and the boys clearly see an opening.
‘I think we do see an opportunity, yeah, along with other bands. We’re hoping to emulate it and push forward. The easiest way to keep it going is just put on good shows.’
‘You can sell tickets, but you’ve got to entertain. New bands can definitely do that – and those that do get the opportunity definitely deserve to be where they are. It’s a privilege to play – people play quite a lot of money to come to these things.’
So, for Circa Waves, it’s simple:
‘You have to put on a show, and I feel that we’re the band to do that. People will come away feeling satisfied.’
Dismiss them as ‘just another band’ at your peril, because they aren’t planning on going anywhere. With work on their second album well-underway, the wheels are already in motion; slowly but surely, their plan is coming together.
‘We just need to focus on making the best record we can possibly make,’ Joe divulges, during the end of our interview. I quiz him for details, but the usually-vocal guitarist remains coy.
‘All I’ll say is that I’ve bought a bigger amp,’ he smiles. Watch this space.
Words by Niall Flynn