Circa Survive’s Anthony Green – How Love, Loss + a Diagnosis Fueled ‘Dream’ EPs
Circa Survive finished out 2021 with A Dream About Love, their first new music since 2017's The Amulet album, and they continue their current vision this Friday (Feb. 4) when the second part of their writing and recording sessions, A Dream About Death, follows. We spoke with singer Anthony Green about the harrowing journey that he's been on since the last album, and he opened up about the experiences that informed the two new EPs.
Green speaks about being diagnosed with bipolar disorder, the relapse in sobriety he experienced just as he started writing for the two new EPs and how that ultimately impacted the music and his relationships. He also offers insight on the newly released single "Electric Moose," reflects on reconnecting with the band's Blue Sky Noise album for the upcoming 10th anniversary tour and hypes up the group's Patreon account where they're consistently delivering a variety of musical treats. Check out the chat in full below.
Can we talk about the origins of this project? We’ve got A Dream About Love and A Dream About Death and I was curious how it came about and if writing one informed the other in any way?
We wanted to do something different from the ground up. With the music, we were trying to make something more along the lines of what we were listening to at the time and we wanted that to happen organically.
But with the release, symbolically there are a lot of things going on in the songs about either a breakup or a split and so putting the record out in two pieces instead of one, it’s easier to get more attention on the songs, and it’s easier to digest.
And it’s also symbolic. I was diagnosed and a lot of the songs have to deal with me being bipolar. I had been dealing with that diagnosis right when I was writing.a lot of this music and you deal with some pretty different extremes when you’re bipolar and I thought the symbolism of putting it out in two pieces would kind of give each of the pieces a spotlight. The idea of a relationship that is splitting was one thing, but now it’s two again. So I really liked that symbolism.
The songs were about relationship stuff or things that were more serious like addiction or suicide. So there were two big themes of what I was writing — this passionate love and this mortal, kind of intense feeling of dealing with the death of loved ones.
For instance, I OD’d while I was writing this album and clinically died for a short period of time. So there’s sort of stuff like that in the album. Even in addiction, you’re sort of in love with your drug but it’s also killing you. Even relationships can be like that where you’re dreaming of what could have been, what it should have been, what it was and it’s sort of sending you off the deep end.
Off this new album, “Electric Moose” is the first song we’re getting. What I got out of it was the contrast of “this is the public perception of what people think of death verses what I personally have to do to get right with myself.”
I really like that interpretation. I think that’s beautiful. “Electric Moose” is written about a relationship that is abusive. I hate talking too specifically about what songs are related to cause it’ll take someone’s own feelings about a song and change that, but if you want to look at it in more of an abstract way, your interpretation of it was correct.
But more specifically, it is about being in a relationship with someone who is abusive and is also kind of fake. They’re one way in front of people and they’re different to you.
Circa Survive, "Electric Moose"
Another thing about that song, I loved the synths, and it could be just me but it feels like there’s more synth focus throughout this album than we typically get. Was that intentional and did something lead you down this path?
Yeah, absolutely. We really wanted to make an album that sounded different. We had been putting out records and at the end of The Amulet we were like, "This is awesome. This is great. But are we getting pigeonholed in this kind of sound?" It was big guitars, big drums, big classic rock ’n’ roll elements. And a lot of us had been listening to different styles of music that involved different instrumentation.
Our drummer specifically had always been making electronic music since the beginning of the band and introducing it as a substance to write with. And I think that’s another reason for splitting the record into two is the band is sort of changing. It’s taking on a new form. And I think the love and death thing is a sort of a funeral procession for the years of sounding the same in my opinion. It’s ushering in a new era of Circa Survive where we can do different things, experiment with different genres and musical elements.
I’ve read where you discussed “Imposter Syndrome” from A Dream About Love feeling like a rebirth. You had mentioned your relapse over the course of working on these two records and I was wondering if you saw coming out of rehab as a rebirth and did it impact how you approached this music at all?
I’m sure it did. I listened to “Imposter,” which got stuck in my head the whole time I was in there. I was in such a fog writing it before I went in and I was having such a hard time with it and all I could remember is “How can I make you believe me and get you to see?” I was crying out and begging for help in a lot of the song and I was sending out this message and not even realizing I was talking about it.
I hate how much drugs have played a role in my writing. I hate how much they’ve played a role in my life. I hate that I’m writing another song about drugs or my relationship with them or struggling with them. It makes me feel cliche and stupid, but it’s also just a sad reality of what I’ve been going through. But I had no other choice but to put it into something.
But once I got out of rehab, I really started to focus in on the music as something to help distract me, to help provide escapism and provide a natural intoxicant. That happened with me also right before Descensus, I had just gotten out of rehab. I hate it. I don’t like it and I wish it wasn’t the way it was, but it is.
Circa Survive, A Dream About Death Artwork
I had seen the quote of you talking about reconnecting with your old records and coming to the realization that it was an echo chamber rather than therapy. Given that you’ve come to this realization and had the time with yourself, has that impacted your writing moving forward and have you found more vulnerability and honesty in your approach?
You know there’s always been a heavy amount of vulnerability and honesty in the work, but I think now it’s more outside of the song and finding ways to communicate better with the people in my life. I’m going to therapy, taking my medication and doing the things that help me to stay on the right path in my real life outside of the song. That just sort of exists in its own place.
You can't just put it in a song and think that you’ve dealt with it just because you experience that catharsis of putting it out through that medium. There’s still work that needs to be done on yourself. And I think that’s the work that I’m doing now more. Not being able to tour because of COVID has helped me mentally with being able to see a therapist on a consistent basis that I just wasn’t able to do while I was on tour.
Getting back together with the guys to work on music again, has that relationship changed? You’ve been through something and you’re coming out the other side, but is it a different relationship you have now with the band?
Yeah, I would say. Some of the guys and I have gotten really close. Some of the guys and I barely talk ever outside of doing music and creative stuff. But sometimes that’s just the way it is with a relationship. But I feel on the creative end of it, we’re working better than we ever have and I’m grateful for that.
I know you had planned to tour Blue Sky Noise for its anniversary prior to the pandemic and you’re just now getting around to it. What is your relationship to that record today? Do you still feel like the guy who wrote it all those years ago or does the material take on new meaning for you over the years?
Well I am the same guy. A lot of things about me have changed and I like to think that I’ve grown a lot. I think we all want to think that we’ve grown even if we haven’t. But I find myself relating to those songs as they pertain to me in life at this very moment. The lyrics have this way of being able to adapt and change and fit different backgrounds or time periods for me. So where there was a song where then it was something I was struggling with, now I can see it in sort of a celebratory way, even though I’m going through that experience again every time I sing it. I now know on the other end how it played out so I can draw that emotion into it just as well.
I love those songs, too. Just processing that stuff every night is really just a crazy experience. It’s a blessing, it’s a curse, and it’s also just a lot of fun. It’s my favorite intoxicant.
Circa Survive, "Get Out" (from Blue Sky Noise)
Is this your first time out since the pandemic?
We’ve played a couple of shows, mostly outside shows, and I’ve played a handful of acoustic shows here and there. But this is the first real big tour we’ve tried to do so it’ll be interesting to see if we have this big strict COVID plan to avoid everyone getting sick. In a lot of ways, this is cool because it really gives us a chance to focus on the music and what we can do together in terms of making more music.
Obviously you’ve got to take care of the anniversary stuff with this being put off, but you’ve got two new records to consider. Will these shows allow for that or will that maybe come down the road?
I think we’re going to try to work a couple of new things in there. I don’t know how we couldn’t. We’re mostly going to focus on the anniversary stuff, but I’d love to …. Like we do a VIP thing at the beginning of the night where we play a bunch of extra songs for people that come early and we might play some then, and you never know at the end of the night, if we still have the energy, we might play a couple of songs. You never know. But we are trying to figure out more touring so that we can play more of the EP and more of the old songs, too.
I have my favorites, but wanted to see what new songs were exciting you as potentially getting a chance to play for a live audience?
We’ve played “Imposter Syndrome” a couple of times. We played it at this festival, and I just love playing that. It’s such a powerful song. And we’ve played a few other songs like “Even Better,” “Sleep Well” and I’m really excited to play “Electric Moose.” There’s so many of them. We recorded at our practice space playing a bunch of these songs live and we’re going to be releasing that in little bits of video and audio. We should start putting that up soon.
It's very much a constant cycle ...
We’re writing new music, too. We have a Patreon that we work on every month and every month we put up a new song. We put up a new song every month, we put up a cover, we pick an old song and we re-arrange it and do a different version of it. We do a bunch of cool shit on there, and I just really love it. So you should check that out. If anybody wants more music, there’s literally a new song every month on the Patreon and we probably have a new album’s worth of stuff up there since we started doing that.There’s two albums worth of covers …
Okay, now I have to ask. With that many covers, do you have a favorite?
We did “Happier Than Ever” by Billie Eilish and I love that, but singing Radiohead’s “Nude” is absolutely incredible. I love that. And man, we did [the Bee Gees] “How Do You Mend a Broken Heart?,” there’s just so many cool covers, I can’t pick one.
Beyond the new album and anniversary tour, what does the rest of 2022 hold in store for you?
I just want to continue working on new music, maybe do some shows for the EPs. I have a bunch of new shit as well. I’m working on a new solo record that I’m trying to have come out this year and we’re constantly just writing new music and putting it up. And maybe we’ll even get out some new music.
And I thought I’d ask about your other band, Fuckin’ Whatever. One of my favorites from last year.
We have a new EP and we’re trying to put that out as well. It is pretty much finished. And I really want to do a show, a Fuckin’ Whatever show, like bad.
Our thanks to Circa Survive's Anthony Green for the interview. The band's new EP, A Dream About Death, will be released this Friday (Feb. 4) and is available to pre-order here. And you can find out more about Circa Survive's Patreon here and see their upcoming 'Blue Sky Noise' 10th anniversary tour dates starting Feb. 6 with tickets available here.
If you or someone you know if struggling with drug and/or alcohol dependence, help is available through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website. To speak to someone on the phone, dial 1-800-622-HELP (1-800-622-4357) or send a text message to 1-800-487-4889.