Q – You guys are about two weeks into the tour, how has it been treating you so far?
Brian – The first couple of weeks were pretty rough. Lot’s of rough weather and harrowing drives. We also seem to have a habit of starting out on tour by playing a lot of smaller cities, so it was a lot of really nerve-wracking driving coupled with some of the smallest shows of tour. But it’s good to get the kinks ironed out in front of a smaller audience. It’s just a little disheartening to start a tour thinking, “man, is this the way the whole tour is gonna be?” Things got exponentially better as the tour progressed and the weather improved, though.
Q – “Memorial” has been out for nearly four months now, how has the reception for it been?
Brian – Good? I don’t know. People in my life seem to like it a lot. I’ve got a lot of random folks who’ve never really approached me about our past records coming up to me saying that this is easily their favorite album of ours. The thing is, I don’t spend time digging around on the internet looking for criticism these days. I only read reviews when someone is like, “did you see what so-and-so had to say about the record?”. so I don’t know how it measures up in terms of critical reception because I’ve only read either really great reviews or really stupid reviews (like the reviewer who said “Burial” sounds like a Black Sabbath rip-off. jesus christ, even my mom knows more about metal than to make that dumb ass comment). We’re on album number five now, which means any review of our current record is going to stack it up against our past albums. And that’s totally a reasonable way to assess a record, but I also feel it gives us a bit of a critical disadvantage. Blake Schwarzenbach can’t put out a record these days without people comparing it to Jawbreaker. Sonic Youth can’t put out a new album without people weighing it against Sister or Daydream Nation or whatever their favorite Sonic Youth album is. I’m not trying to say that we’ve attained the same kind of status as Blake or Thurston; obviously that’s not the case. But I’ve come to realize that reading our album reviews is kind of pointless because in a lot of instances the critic already has a favorite album of ours, and the new stuff is just going to get evaluated next to that instead of being examined on it’s own merits. Fortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a consensus as to what our “classic” record is.
Q – The title track featured Chelsea Wolfe on vocals. How did it come about having her on the album, and would you consider collaborating with her again on any future releases?
Brian – We toured with Chelsea on the Empros tour and just found her to be a kindred spirit. I think we were making plans to work together after the second day of that tour. It was just an obvious pairing, in our opinion. And it was easily the most fluid collaborative process I could imagine.
Q – “Memorial” hit #136 on the billboard top 200. Did that surprise you, or did you expect the album to do so well?
Brian – I had no idea that even happened. that’s pretty cool! to be honest, I keep thinking that at some point our popularity is going to taper off and people are gonna be like, “oh, another Russian Circles album, whatever…” but we’ve been extremely fortunate in that we’ve managed to gradually grow in popularity. the fact that we’ve hit the Billboard doesn’t really mean much to me in terms of charting and bragging rights, but i think it’s really exciting that people are still excited by our records and actually inclined to buy them. that’s a big thing for me: I’m an old dude that still enjoys going to the record store and buying a physical artifact. when I’m at home, I still listen to my turntable far more than my laptop. Not meant as a diss to Spotify users, because I use that service too, but I’ve always been someone who feels more connected to music when I’ve actually invested in it. And I’m glad there are still other people out there that share that little tactile thrill of holding an album in their hands.
Q – Brian has stated before that “Memorial” was hugely influenced by Pink Floyd’s record, “Animals”. How has the album directly influenced “Memorial”, and the band overall?
Brian – I wouldn’t say the album was “hugely” influenced. But Pink Floyd is one of those bands that really mastered the art of the album. The long-play format was–and really still is–primarily a means of selling a handful of singles with some padding. It’s total bullshit. it’s why you have so many people in the digital age justifying downloading with the whole “why buy an album when it’s only got one or two good songs?” argument. The thing is, if you’re buying an album with only one or two good songs, you’re buying the wrong albums. Pink Floyd made albums that were really meant to be listened to in their entirety. The reprises on Animals or Wish You Were Here really hammer home the fact that these albums were conceived with the big picture in mind. And that’s what we try to do with our records. So that was the influence. Our bookending of Memorial with variations on the same song is a hat-tip to Animals, for sure, but that’s about the extent of it.
Q – Russian Circles turns ten years old this year, are you guys planning on doing something to commemorate the band’s anniversary?
Brian – We’re hoping to get all of our albums repressed on vinyl. Maybe even issue a box set. We’ll just have to see how things pan out.
Q – What’s the best concert you’ve ever attended that you didn’t play?
Brian – That’s tough. There are quite a few. In high school i used to go see this hardcore band Undertow play all the time and some of those shows were seriously transcendental. I’m sure a lot of it had to do with being young and that kind of music being so new to me at the time, but those shows were so visceral and intense that i still enjoy listening to their records. Jesuit, which featured Nate from Converge/Old Man Glooom/Doomriders and Brian from Miss Machine-era Dillinger Escape Plan, were another hardcore band that were so devastating live that they still always pop to mind when i think of the best shows I’ve seen. The first time I saw Fugazi, the first time i saw Neurosis… those are big contenders as well. On the lighter side, I saw Belle & Sebastian play a week or two after 9/11 and it was this really beautiful, strange experience. There was just so much tension and fear at the time, and it was sort of like the entire audience really needed this catharsis, and Stuart from Belle & Sebastian came on stage in this sequined American flag shirt, extended his condolences, and played his heart out. A lot of the magic had to do with the circumstances, but that was still one of the greatest shows I’ve ever attended.
Q – What are some of your favorite music releases from the last year?
Brian – In terms of brutal stuff, I really like the Inter Arma album “Sky Burial”. we just got off of tour with them and I can’t stop listening to that record. I also really liked the 2013 albums by Nails, Iron Lung, Power Trip, Sandrider, and Deafheaven. Obviously, Chelsea Wolfe’s “Pain Is Beauty” is crucial. I also have a soft spot for The National, so I was pretty stoked on “Trouble Will Find Me”. I also wish more people had picked up on Rose Windows’ “Sun Dogs” album. It’s a great combination of old heavy psych rock, bluesy folk, and weird Eastern music.
Q – After this tour is finished, what’s next for Russian Circles?
Brian – Australia, Asia, Canada, then… who knows.