The Farewell Circuit release 'In Our Bones' at the Cedar
Gimme Noise spoke with Danny and DJ before the band's album release at The Cedar.
Band Members: Danny O'Brien, DJ House, George Hadfield, Dan Lawonn, Alex Young
Gimme Noise: The title In Our Bones either sounds very morbid or reflective; where did you come up with the name for the album?
Danny: Morbid? That's funny; this is far and away our most hopeful and positive record to date. In Our Bones essentially stems from the idea that we are all (humanity), when we break it down, made from the same stuff. It's reflective in the sense that we're trying to present an alternative mindset to the polarization of today; the goal of being more unified and supportive view of humanity and its constant struggle for balance. You know, there are the "haves" and "have-nots," how is it that we as humanity have overlooked and exploited one another for so long that the gap between the two seems insurmountable? It's questions like this that really fueled the writing for this record.
DJ: Much like the song itself, it sort of just appeared. Once the record was going to be bookended with that song (because we wanted to feature both the piano and guitar parts), it just made sense. To me it's about realizing that we're all made up of the same molecules as everyone else. It think it's a hopeful idea because once you realize this you can show empathy for your fellow man, no matter what situation they find themselves in. You are capable of being as morally culpable as any other human being on the planet. But you're capable of being as compassionate too.
I am loving the ambient vibe, especially on "In Our Bones (Abandon Your Arms)" and "10-8-10." What was the ultimate goal with the concept/sound for this new album? What was the story you wanted to tell?
DJ: Well on the lyrical/story end, that was really up to Danny. That's his thing. I get to sort of harass him about some of his phrasing and all but it was really hard to pick on him this record.
Musically, we went for good parts with equally suitable tones. We were thankfully constrained by realistic studio times and deadlines instead of having the unlimited amount time to track, mix, argue, and agree upon something. We have had the luxury of doing two releases on our own, which certainly allowed us to gain some confidence into the more technical end of using a studio. But giving up the control over the engineering, mixing, and mastering allowed us a lot more time to focus on the arrangements and the components of each song. And I suppose most importantly, we could just worry about our performances. It's actually a really "live" record, which is new for us too.
It was frustrating at points to feel time erode away from us but it probably saved us from chasing ideas down a few rabbit holes too. Brett was good about keeping us on task, he really paced the schedule well.
Danny: We wanted the sounds on the album to reflect the lyrical content (for the most part). That is to say, we made an effort to create simple, complimentary music for mostly unadorned lyrics.
The story that we want to come across is essentially found in a few of the lyrics from the record. One in "Make it Right" says, "we have responsibilities, we take responsibility to give love in life, to give peace of mind and hope for days of a darker kind." The other occurs in the opening track, "I am you, you are me. Oh, my sister we are one. You are me and I am you, we are everything we need." There are a lot of different philosophies floating around here, but the predominant one (from my point of view) is that when we (humanity) choose to see others in the light of their inherent worth and value, we begin to see that we are all connected, we are all on the same proverbial boat. So, the message is (at the risk of sounding like a hippie): calm down, open your eyes, see beyond yourself, see the needs of those around you and, in the words of Mother Theresa, "BE someone to someone."
How has the Farewell Circuit's music evolved since the last EP?
DJ: I think that EP got Danny on a writing roll. He started writing about things he knows about. There is definitely a personality behind his lyrics and what we try to get across instrumentally -- and cares about -- it's really hard to fake that.
With time being a commodity too, we focused on being a four piece and not adding lots of instruments, which was much different that our last releases. We had no time for overdubbing 64 guitar swells -- next record though.
Danny: TFC's sound has been a continual evolution, which we are all grateful for. While we aware and conscious of our "signature" sounds (chill, mid-tempo songs, spacey ambient instrumentation, etc) we really focused on the actual sounds of each part. For example, we each took at least 4-6 hours with Brett Bullion (co-producer, engineer, mixer) to find "the sound" for our given parts.
This was a drastic change from our previous records when we would simply throw up a mic on a drum kit or amp and play away. Slowing down and focusing on sounds, while tedious and monotonous at times, made for a truly trance-like recording experience where we found ourselves not worrying about mic placement or EQ levels (we trusted Brett with this), but simply playing our parts.
Favorite tracks off the new album?
DJ: Man, there are tons of moments all over this record, hard to choose...
Danny: "Make it Right" and "Run for the Hills."
02 Make It Right (mp3) by zeefarewellcircuit
Who came up with the design for the album artwork?
Danny: I did. The idea was that we wanted something really simple, something that portrayed the feel of the record. Many of the philosophical and theological concepts that are entwined in the lyric of this record come from books, so, we went with the "old book" idea. I took a few photos of some older books that I own, did a little photoshopping and voila...album art.
DJ: I think he had about had it with my armchair quarterbacking of the artwork. But this third or fourth idea for artwork was the best. He did a great job.
You say that you write music about what you hold most dear: people. Can you elaborate on this?
DJ: That's a Danny question for sure.
Danny: Well, it all began in the summer of 2009, my wife, Bri, and I went to Kenya and Uganda with a humanitarian organization. Without getting into too much detail (believe me, I could easily write a book about this trip), the experience completely changed the way that I look at the world.
The way that I look at people who suffer from things that do not have to be what they are, like those who are dying from curable diseases, poverty, exploitation, and marginalization. Having my eyes opened to the realities of this world has changed the way that I function as a musician and as a human being in general. The faces of the friends that I made in East Africa are and will eternally be burned into my mind, and as a result, they directly affect the subject matter of the songs I write.
That being said, not all of my songs are explicitly about East Africa or poverty. "Guard" for instance is clearly about love, but for me, it represents the idea that we are taught to constantly keep walls up to protect ourselves from harm and betrayal. Yet at some point in a relationship the walls have to come down, openness and honesty are what keep real relationships (romantic or otherwise) alive.
What's more, Bri and I had our first child 18 months ago, Micah Daniel. Becoming a father has given me the challenge of writing songs that portray certain moral and ethical values that I strive to pass along to him. I want to write music that I can show him in the future and be holistically proud of it.
|Danny O'Brien, George Hadfield, Geoff Hartnell, DJ House|
What was experience with having a record label behind your music versus releasing as an independent artist?
Danny: Our last two releases (Birdless Sky and Brother's Eyes) were self-produced and self-released. Having Princess Records on our side has been a real blessing. Krista and Grant are great friends of ours, they are ethical and honest people who desire what's best for the bands they support and this is exactly what we have been looking for.
Putting out records on our own has been frustrating. We spent hours and hours hand-making our past two releases (literally...I drew/painted and wrote out the credits on each individual disc) and we would send them off to radio stations, blogs, and various other media outlets and received little to no attention. We had a little ray of hope for the completely independent releases when one of our acoustic videos for the song "Guard" was featured on Coldplay.com. This was exciting and even got us a spin on the Current, but the hype fizzled out pretty quickly and we were back at square one. Yet, now that the new album arrives with a Princess Records sticker and address on the envelope, people are starting to listen. Princess Records happens to be well-connected and respected around The Cities and we are so thankful to be a part of their family.
DJ: I wasn't on a label in this band but I was on EMI for a period of time with George (bass) in another group. Being on a label certainly has it's perks at times; you get a lot of exposure and it sort of gives your band some more credibility in a way, but you do give up ownership and total control of what it is you're trying to do. Sometimes having so many people involved can be to the detriment of the project and sometimes you see it work really well. I think if you're just stubborn and hold true to what it is you're in it for.
With the local music scene finally getting some recognition, where do you see the Farewell Circuit in five years? Any plans on touring with the new music?
Danny: In five years, we will hopefully be living on a homestead, writing music and working the land to benefit families who cannot afford quality foods. The idea is to have a sort of CSA program, but free of charge...and to make great records in the process.
DJ: Well, we'd like to do it for a job, thats for sure. If we could be making a living, supporting our families, and playing new music to whoever wants to hear it, that would be ideal.
In the short term, we are hitting a lot of "weekend warrior" sort of dates down to Milwaukee/Chicago. Up to Duluth, Fargo, etc. Mostly Midwest markets. If the record grows we'd love to do some small runs out to the east/west coasts -- places we've never been before. And after that, world domination will surely ensue.
How did you come to the conclusion to have the CD release at the Cedar? What can we expect at the show?
Danny: Well, the original idea was to book it at a smaller location, where we were certain that we could sell out. But after a few discussions with other musicians around town and our producer, Brett, we were convinced to look into a larger venue. The Cedar is a great place to hear music, so we sent out a message and everything work itself out from there.
What can you expect? Well, you can expect is a solid performance, lush tones, and a whole lot of love and hope pouring out of the PA. We will be playing with our full line-up of band members: Danny O'Brien, DJ House, George Hadfield, Alex Young, and Dan Lawonn. There's going to be a lot of textured instrumentation and a choir.
DJ: It might be loud? I'm not sure. Just some great music from our friends Bella Ruse and actually, old high school friends White Light Riot...and we'll try to play the new record well too.
The Farewell Circuit will release In Our Bones at the Cedar Cultural Center on 11/4/2011 with White Light Riot and Bella Ruse. AA, $10 adv, $12 door, 7 pm.
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