After a seven year split, Brisbane punk-rockers Speedlab made their triumphant return to music with …
2014’s Decensus was a record which nearly failed to happen at all. A year beforehand Circa Survive found themselves in a pitiful state. The band was stricken with depression, exhausted from a near decade of touring and mired in druggy excess.
Anthony Green was worse yet. But after struggling with a secretive and years-long heroin addiction, Circa’s frontman embraced the unexpected … he came clean.
It was do or die. Green emerged from rehab and the group cleaned house. Jettisoning label and management, they deliberated on whether they would continue at all. They did. Circa Survive rose from its ashes an altered beast. Descensus documents the experience yet it closes on a lingering note of uncertainty. In conversation, Anthony reveals that he sees 2017’s The Amulet as a response to many of Descensus’ looser threads. As one of post-hardcore’s singular and eclectic talents, he’s brimming with attention-grabbing comments and moving quotes about his struggle. Yet the matter of fact manner in which he talks about this Decensus period, now three years past, leaves the feeling he isn’t looking back.
What’s driving Green in 2018? He’s jettisoned rock’s typical vices for slower burning gratifications. There’s the art itself of course, but when it comes to his salvation it’s performance. The loose feeling of transcendent abandon it entails elevates him above all else.
Hysteria: Your work with Circa Survive is coloured by an eclectic array of artists and musical heroes. I’d like to throw two of them at you in quick succession.
Anthony Green: Yes!
H: Number one, Nirvana. You’ve both covered the group live and recorded your own version of In Utero’s Scentless Apprentice. What is it about the band that pulled you in?
AG: It’s hard to remember exactly what it was, but I remember being really young and my brother getting the Nevermind album for Christmas. I remember my parents being bummed out because there was a naked baby on it. I remember hearing it. It immediately connected with me. It’s a journey in an energetic way and an angry way, but also in a celebratory way. I feel like Kurt Cobain’s voice is that perfect balance between viscerally, gutturally harsh and something that is ethereally beautiful and atmospheric.
H: Number two would be the one and only Bjork. What is it that inspires you about her work?
AG: You know it’s the same thing. As long as I can remember I’ve admired her. I remember listening to her, to her lyrics. Sitting there, just not understanding what she’s saying but wanting to know so badly because it felt like she had such passion. Then looking up to lyrics on songs on Post and just seeing how she would sing certain words. Certain words she would pronounce in a way that was better to sing. I found that so interesting! The way she pronounced words, sang and prolonged certain syllables.
She gave everything such a second meaning with her passion. She’s a transformative artist. Her music is taking on another a form culturally. Ah man! She is like something else! A fucking alien!
I don’t really know, I still feel like a kid trying to get his foot in. I still feel I’ve not yet made the music I’m supposed to make … I feel like we’re getting closer and closer but I don’t really know what comes next.
[ Anthony Green ]
H: You’ve covered Homogenic’s Unravel as part of your solo work. How did you go about wrapping your voice around those vocals?
AG: I think that there is a little bit of attenuation in everything I’ve ever sung. So whether I’m singing my own song or whether I’m singing someone else’s, there’s this thing where when I’m singing I’m taking a little from every singer I’ve ever liked. But with covers I’m emulating a feeling not necessarily a tone. When you know the feeling it’s easy. You just kinda flow.
H: Would you say that you’re interpreting when in you’re in that sort of headspace?
AG: Sometimes you’re interpreting and translating. Sometimes you’re just reflecting.
H: On to your own work. Three-and-a-bit years on Decensus has built this semi-legendary narrative around itself. It’s viewed as an album which represents a turning point for the band. All of you overcame a few demons and made a fresh start. Were you anxious about following up?
AG: Not really because I felt like there were all these questions at the end of Decensus. It was written when I was white hot out of rehab and there are all these things hanging in the balance. If Decensus was the question, then The Amulet was the answer.
H: Is there a track from The Amulet that has stood out for you as a kind of anchoring track?
AG: I would say there’s a bunch of tracks on that record. I feel the band has accomplished so much by writing them. There’s tracks from the album like Flesh and Bone and Lustration that I feel like we’ve had in us for quite some time but just because of time and pressure didn’t come to the surface. When I hear the song The Amulet, I feel like it’s the pinnacle of everything we’ve ever done as a band. It’s definitely a good example of a song that represents all of the exceptions that we’re trying to wrap our heads around.
H: How would you characterise the band now that you’ve been moving along this new trajectory for a couple of years now?
AG: I don’t really know, I still feel like a kid trying to get his foot in. I still feel I’ve not yet made the music I’m supposed to make … I feel like we’re getting closer and closer but I don’t really know what comes next. Every time Circa Survive makes an album we go through it, look at each other and feel like that’s the last thing we’re gonna do! [Laughs] Then we let it soak in and revisit our relationship a few years down the line. We’ve just started working on some new music and we’re not sure where that’s going to lead us. We’re sort of taking everything as it comes.
H: Granted you have your solo work as an alternative outlet for your creativity, but is there a place you’d like to see Circa’s music go which is yet untraveled?
AG: I mean it sounds cliché, but I think Circa has put out a lot of big rock-sounding albums. Things where we’ve had big drums and big guitars. I think we’re all ready to experiment. With our voices, with our instruments–with everything—just as much as we can. I feel like we’ve made it across the finish line by having so many records out and still managing to be a successful band. I feel like we almost have a free pass to just go wild and let our creativity just fucking go nuts!
H: Is there a degree of expectation though? Do you feel as though the fans will continue to follow you wherever you go?
AG: There’s always going to be that group of people that want a certain thing and if they don’t get it they won’t stay interested. But I truly believe that if you’re an artist and you’re creating what you love with passion that for as many people who might drop off because it doesn’t play into what they expected there’ll be other people that will be attracted by that courage. I feel it always balances that out. Nature tends to reward courage.
H: You once stated, “I have very little in common with the person that goes onstage and sings and myself. It’s almost like an alter ego.” Can you elaborate?
AG: There’s a weird thing that happens to me. It’s like hard to describe it, but have you ever gotten real angry at somebody and you sort of lose yourself in it? And you’re like, “Oh shit! I said something I didn’t mean!” Or you did something that you didn’t want to? I get carried away really easily onstage. Not in a negative way, not to compare it negatively. But when I go up there and start playing and singing, the goal is for me to sort of lose myself. A lot of the time I’m trying to be singing good or I get lost in the insecurity for a moment. But all of it is a meditation, an exercise at trying to clear your head and just be a part of the pattern of rhythm.
Sometimes I just shut myself off a little bit and my ego, who I think I am or who I have to be–all that stuff that kind of exists on a physical realm–will drop off. I’ll sort of just connect with a feeling rather than an idea of myself. It’s a very unifying connecting feeling. A lot of times it manifests itself as anger and aggression. A lot of the time it’s like a vulnerable thing.
I would imagine it’s what people would describe as like a trance. Like shamans would go into these trances. I don’t know, a lot of these times I’m disconnecting myself and coming into something that transcends elements of the human experience. That is one of the greatest thrills of it for me. That surrender…
H: One final thing. We’ve got to talk about this Australian tour! What’s in store?
AG: The band is having more fun now than we’ve ever had. All of us are in much better shape than we’ve ever been in … emotionally and psychically. We’re really excited to just go fucking let our bodies go absolutely wild with music. I think if you like watching people freak out while they play music, really let it overtake them, then you’re going to enjoy watching us play!
Catch Circa Survive this coming May at the following dates:
Thursday May 24, The Gov, Adelaide SA
Friday May 25, Corner Hotel, Melbourne VIC
Saturday May 26, Factory Theatre, Sydney NSW
Monday May 28, The Zoo, Brisbane QLD
Wednesday May 30, Rosemount hotel, Perth WA