Contact Music caught up with Circa Survive frontman Anthony Green, ahead of the release of his upcoming solo album 'Young Legs', who spoke to us about experimenting with new sounds, fatherhood and finding 'legs' on the new record. 'Young Legs' is Anthony's third solo album and the follow up to 2012's 'Beautiful Things'. It's released on February 17th 2014, just before his upcoming tour of the UK with The Deer Hunter kicks off at Bristol on February 24th.
ContactMusic: How are you doing?
Anthony: I'm doing good. Right now I'm in the car with my wife and children; I'm heading to the studio to go sing this cover song with Sam Mean from The Format. He's got this merch company and he asked me to do a cover of a Lana Del Ray song with him for Record Store Day, so he's done the music and I'm doing the vocals.
CM: You seem really busy!
Anthony: Yeah! I'm also working on Circa stuff like crazy as I have a bunch of demos I have to put vocals to; I've just been working a lot every day. It's weird; I'm busy right now but it's only been about two weeks. Before this I was pretty much taking it easy; I was on tour but then I'd come home and relax. I seem to be really busy for condensed periods of time and then I can take it a little more easy.
CM: Your next solo album, 'Young Legs', will be released on February 17th, what can you tell us about the album?
Anthony: I'm really excited about it! It's my first proper UK/European release. I know that my other records have come out on iTunes and I know that they're available but this is my first proper release over there. I've never toured my solo material in the UK or Europe, and I'm going over with the Deer Hunter which is really cool and, yeah, I'm pumped!
CM: Where does the album title come from?
Anthony: The title is something I came up with right when I was recording my last record 'Beautiful Things'. I wrote a song that I was calling 'Young Legs' because of the subject matter of the song and the phrase works two ways; in one way I picture a beautiful pair of, you know, female legs, and on the other hand it's also sort of a metaphor for being young and being new at something and not having your grounding and your footing very solid. Those things correlate with each other anyway so I thought it was a cool way to encompass all the themes from the album.
CM: So is 'young' and 'fresh' how you'd describe the overall sound of the album?
Anthony: It's a new thing for me, really. I haven't really put a lot of time into really developing a sound, I just sort of made music I liked, and with this album I went for a specific sound I wanted to hear; a crisp, low, bass tone piano, like a grand piano. I wanted the guitars and strings to be clean and drums to be more held back and more old, big band style, and less typical rock 'n' roll you know. I wanted something that felt a little more Sinatra and a little bit less Metallica.
CM: I noticed the piano was a real focal point, especially in 'Young Legs & Breaker', did you feel like you wanted to change things up and experiment with different sounds?
Anthony: I was backstage at a show with Casey (Crescenzo) playing a bunch of solo songs and he started playing this stand up piano; I was really inspired by what he was playing. I thought it'd be really cool to experiment with the sound of the piano - it changes everything! You don't just add it in there and say, 'Okay, there's a piano in there', it strips away some of the bass of the guitar and it really plays with the vocals. There's moments where the dissidence of the piano note is fading and it's blending with another melody, whilst almost creating a new one underneath. It's almost like a phantom/ghost melody that you can barely hear all projected by the climb of the note. When you hit a piano note you really do hear the scale drop and the other notes trying to get tickled on the way down. You hear the tone bend and become a bit sharper as it disappears. It's a magical instrument!
CM: Were there any records that made you want to develop that sound further?
Anthony: I remember hearing the last Fiona Apple record that came out, and it was so awesome! I was sitting there thinking, 'Man, she is a great artist'; her voice blends to the sound of the piano so well and she's been able to develop and change her sound even though the focal point has always been piano and vocals. I remember thinking that I really want to experiment more.
CM: You seem really excited for the new album, are you happy with how it's turned out?
Anthony: Yeah, I think everybody always says, 'Oh I love it, it's the best!' when their record is finished, but I mean it. You always want to push yourself to do better, and I have every time I've ever done a record. I've always been like, 'F***, I'm so happy with this album! How am I going to do something better than this?' and I always manage to do something better. I listen to it and I'm so happy that I don't hear anything I want to change. A lot of the time you do a record and you listen back to it thinking, 'Oh I wish I would've done this a little different or I wish I would've sung this instead of that'. I truly do mean it when I say it's the best thing I've done.
CM: Your solo music sounds really different from what you do with Circa Survive - is this a conscious effort to ensure your solo music isn't seen as merely an extension of Circa?
Anthony: Well, with Circa it's a really thick collaboration. What I mean by that is there's not just me and another guy who does all the writing. Everybody writes the music, everybody takes different turns in being a leader of that song. Some songs are like, a song that Steve (Clifford) wrote or a song that Colin (Frangicetto) wrote and we all really help each other out. With my solo stuff, I'm writing all the music which gives a different perspective on the song and the themes of a song. Writing from just my perspective and not having to think about any of the other guys being represented makes the songs a little bit more personal which changes the dynamic of things. It's not a conscious thing; different ingredients make different soups.
CM: You worked with Will Yip as producer for the album; having worked with him before with Circa, what made you choose to work with him again?
Anthony: When Circa did our record with him he really just engineered the record. We didn't have him producing it - he helped us along with a couple of little things here and there but I hung out with him during that period of time and I really liked him! He expressed such a huge interest in wanting to be more of a part of the production. I got such a good feeling from being around and working with him that I thought, 'I really want to do this next record with him'. He and I come from the same place; we both come from a punk rock/hardcore background and we both know what we're talking about. We want to hear something and accomplish it by using technology for good, not for evil. This is the first album I've done in a studio and not in a house with rented equipment, I wanted to see the effect having a real producer spending real time with it and being able to focus on making the songs sound huge. It's taken such a long time to find my producing guru! The Chili Peppers have Rick Rubin, I have Will Yip!
CM: So how do you manage to juggle your solo career, Circa Survive and parenthood?
Anthony: You know what, I wish I could be like 'this is how I manage doing that' but I've no idea! I'm still figuring it out every second of the day. I drop the ball so many times it's ridiculous. But in dropping the ball you learn how to hold onto it a little bit tighter next time. I'm still trying to work out how to do all this stuff, it's very challenging yet also very rewarding when you do it right.
CM: How supportive of your solo career are the rest of Circa Survive?
Anthony: I don't know! But if they're bummed about it, they're certainly not telling me. I feel like I get a lot of support from those guys and from the very beginning they've always been very supportive. Brendan (Ekstrom) came out and played guitar with me on this tour. I think that they're pretty supportive of it.
CM: It's been said that the song 'Anytime' is an ode dedicated to your youngest son, your children must be huge influence on how you write your music.
Anthony: Yeah, this is a huge thing in my life right now. I have a three-year-old and a one-and-a-half-year-old, it's such a huge change you go through having children that I don't think it's possible that an artist can go through being a parent without it reflecting in their music one way or another. In so many ways these guys have influenced me, whether it be the actual theme of a song or just trying to make myself more disciplined when it comes to managing my time. I used to be bummed out when people used to say, 'How has being a parent affected you?' I used to rebuff it like, 'It hasn't, it hasn't changed anything!' but it's changed a lot for very good purposes.
CM: But you're not ready for taking it a bit easier, sitting in a rocking chair in a dressing gown with a pipe just yet?
Anthony: You know, I think there's a part of me which is ready for that life, but there's a part of me that thinks when you have kids your life isn't over, your life's really just beginning! I used to go out, d*** around and not really notice anything, and now that I have children I notice when I have time to myself, when I have time with my wife or when I have time with my friends, I appreciate it more. Whereas when you have endless amounts of time to yourself, you wind up just sticking your thumb up your a** half the time and not getting things done or taking it all for granted which is really the biggest insult to the creative spirit. I refuse to do that. I did it for a long time and I won't do it again! I believe that your life and my life have just begun!
CM: Thank you for your time Anthony!
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