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Robert “Bob” Duvet Jumps In the Middle Of A Circle Pit Interview And Lives To Tell The Tale! Or, These Aussies Are Slaves To Rock And Covered In Honey...

Circle Pit's Jack Mannix & Angela Bermuda
Savage, primal, and destructive, sure, but that would only tell part of Sydney, Australia's Circle Pit's story. Last year's full-length on Stiltbreeze, "Bruise Constellation" was that elbow to the temple one sometimes gets in an actual circle pit. The "sound" in that collection of songs nodded toward White Stripes, Iggy and The Stooges, 13th Floor Elevators/Roky Erickson, Royal Trux and Flipper but managed to sound singular. What I could not have predicted from that release was their latest 7" featuring the songs "Slave" and "Honey", which marked a real shift in production and a stylistic re-invention. This is a band that never sounds content and that is an exciting place to be for a fan. Australia's isolation produces some of the most unique approaches on blues-based rock, a medium that at times feels fully tapped out. Circle Pit  has a misleading primitivism that evaporates after repeated listens into a decisiveness to capture feelings, rather than concoct them They are like a newly discovered source of energy that has yet to be harnessed, refined, commodified and incorporated. One thing you can't manufacture is the driving core and angst-sty fire in their sound. Even when exploring more "ambient" territory, there is a tension between the two songwriters that is not easily described. That is what makes Circle Pit such a fascinating band to watch develop. I conducted my interview with Jack Mannix and Angela Bermuda - two lifelong friends and musical foils over email. They are not burning your mother's Midnight Oil people!!! Below is the result , ENJOY!

WDS - Thanks so much for chatting with me from the other side of the world. I think I got a handle on how this project came together from reading other interviews. I’m a bit more curious about the shift in sound from the songs on 2010’s The Bruise Constellation and your recent 7” release “Slave/Honey” on Hardly Art. It really threw me – in a really good way – could you talk about the shift in songwriting?

Circle Pit - For us, the only major difference in song-writing for this 7" was the fact that we came to each-other with an almost-finished song each, “Slave” was mostly written by Jack, and “Honey” by Angie, although we collaborated on lyrics and wrote/played guitar solos for each others' songs, whereas for the most part on Bruise Constellation the songs were written collaboratively. We didn't really feel that the songs themselves were so different to the slower material on the LP, more so that the instrumentation and production was more lush, glamorous and polished. We approached the recording of this single differently to previous releases. We've always dreamed of the luxury afforded by having a nice studio and time at our disposal, but previously this hasn't been possible, and so most of our recordings up until this point were done live with a band, with few overdubs and re-takes. This time, however, it was just the two of us, and Harriet, and we had 2 days in a nice space, with amazing instruments to focus on just 2 songs, whereas we had the same amount of time, in a smaller studio, to do the entire first LP.

WDS - So many reviews use words like “Brutal”, “Gutter”, and “Savage” to describe your sound but while that may be a component, I always heard some hints at this recent recording. Do you think this represents a “sea change” or transition away from the more bare bones attack of your earlier material?

Circle Pit - We constantly drift between sounds and aesthetics, while still remaining true to ourselves and what we want to express. Previously we've explored more immediate, “savage” recording styles and sounds, and while this is something we still enjoy, and want to explore further, for now we're more interested in exploring the possibilities of clean, “hi-fi”  production, because in some ways it makes the song more vulnerable - unable to hide behind the haze and grit of a “lo-fi” recording. We'd like to think that our songs can stand alone, that they don't inherently owe their impact to the way in which they're recorded.
This is what a band should look like.
WDS - How conscious (if at all) were you going into these latest recordings of trying for a more ambient and polished sound?

Circle Pit - We were entirely conscious of what we were doing, and how it would differ from previous releases. We went into the recording process knowing that this would be the most widely distributed release so far, and our first with Hardly Art, Sub Pop's new-ish more 'experimental' imprint. We've always wanted to do a more polished recording, so we took this almost as a challenge to ourselves, to see what we are capable of when we work with a producer, in a fancy studio. Previously, not much focus has been placed on the vocals in our recordings, which was always a result of the conditions under which we were recording, and not a conscious decision - the vocals and lyrics have always been one of the most important elements of our songs, so this time we made sure that we were able to do them justice and spend more time getting that aspect of things “right”. 

WDS - A lot gets mentioned of the “drug haze” that contributed to the making of The Bruise Constellataion, you could say that this recording almost sounds like the result of a binge on different kinds of drugs. What or who were some of the inspirations for the songs “Slave” and “Honey”?

Their songs are Duvet's drug of choice.
Circle Pit - I think that more gets made of this so-called “drug-haze'” than is deserved. We want to make it clear that drugs have never been an inspiration for our songwriting, nor have we ever made anything terribly worthwhile as a direct result of taking drugs. Our songs are about our lives, together and individually, and the experience of growing up. The lyrics are personal, but at the same time universal and open to interpretation - yes, drugs have come in and out of our lives at various points, but you give people an inch and they take a mile with that kind of stuff. These songs are essentially love songs, but are also inherently sad. The ideas behind the lyrics revolve around themes of unfulfilled fantasy, projecting your hopes and needs onto another person, and the realization that they, or anyone for that matter, could never live up to them. As we mentioned previously, the songs were written more separately than usual, and so each song has a certain boy as the original muse, but it was more of a starting point in some ways. We were both in relationships at the time we wrote the songs, and these relationships have since ended, but I think in writing the songs, we had a sense of the inevitable - that nothing lasts forever, and both of us being hopelessly romantic and idealistic, but at the same time wise and level-headed - so its about trying to strike a balance, and also knowing that its almost impossible.

WDS - There are harmonies that were maybe hinted at before but in a sense avoided on earlier songs. You must have known that you two could sing beautifully together. Were you ever worried that these types of songs might alienate certain fans from what they had come to expect as “Circle Pit”?

Circle Pit - To be honest, I wouldn't go so far as to say that we “knew” we could sing together beautifully, but having recorded this single its safe to say that we're more confident in our singing and interested in exploring that further. We don't worry about things like alienating fans of our previous work, we celebrate that notion - we want to continually challenge people's perceptions of us, and what “Circle Pit” can mean, and sound like.

WDS - What inspires or informs your approach to songwriting across all your releases?

Circle Pit - Instict, Honesty, Beauty, Chance, Accidents, Freedom, Friendship, Love and Hell.

WDS - I know you were in the US for some shows, how important is it to “make it here”? Or, is America not as big as it used to be in terms of a barometer of “having success”?

Circle Pit - We honestly don't think much about “making it” anywhere. We do what we do because we love it, and while we're not afraid or turned-off by the idea of success, it isn't what motivates us to make music together. We don't plan things very far ahead, things seem to just happen to us, and so we roll with the punches. The reason we came to America for our first international tour was because that was where the most interest seemed to come from, in terms of labels and fan base, but we want to travel the entire world together, playing shows or not, so it was just the first of many overseas trips.

WDS - Australia legendarily has one of the toughest club circuits (perhaps the toughest) anywhere in the world), could you talk a little bit about what it’s like making an name for yourself there?

Circle Pit - I wouldn't say that we have a “tough club circuit” per se, but it is a hard place to tour in the sense that the next major city is at least a 12-hour drive away from wherever you might be. The Australian music scene/industry is a strange beast in that, unlike in Europe or the USA, there's no mid-level infrastructure for independent bands - you're either completely underground or DIY, or you're on a sucky major label. So there's a huge gap in that sense, but it means that bands like us, and our friends, are all very supportive of each-other and its almost like a huge, broken family stretching across our wide brown land. Having said that, there's this phenomenon in Australia, that I'm sure exists everywhere but seems more prevalent here, known as “Tall Poppy Syndrome”, where people seem to want to cut you down at the first sign of what they deem success. This doesn't really exist amongst the family that we mentioned, but seems to come more from the group of people who remain unsigned, but dream of instant mainstream popularity, and when they see a band that is typically considered 'underground' gaining recognition from other parts of the world, or 'big' independent labels, they feel jealous or something. This is so evident on the internet especially, and for some strange reason we seem to have been targeted more so than other bands of our ilk in similar places.
The sky is the limit for Aussie duo...
WDS - What are some other Aussie bands people that are reading this should know about or look out for?

WDS - You’ve mentioned in previous interviews that you listen to a lot of Classic Rock and that it has had an influence on you guys. How do you view the current state of Rock music? Are there still bands out there that capture what it is that you loved about that genre, besides Circle Pit, of course?
Come and say, "Good day!"...we dare you.
Circle Pit - The state of rock n roll these days is pretty abysmal I suppose, but in many ways it’s considered a dead medium. There are bands out there who we feel akin to, who are still exploring the possibilities and limits of the Rock genre, but very few spring to mind. There's a band from Brisbane called Blank Realm who do it like no-one else - one of the best bands to ever come from our country. In America, there's bands like Blues Control, Pink Reason and others who seem to explore similarly murky territory, and re-invent and re-interpret what Rock means today.

WDS - When I listen to the Bruise Constellation I hear an Iggy and the Stooges sensibility and danger to the music. I guess there is also that Seeds or 13th Floor Elevators garage-psych thread in their as well. Could you talk a bit about how you approach your guitar sound? To me it’s a perfect example of how guitar, distortion pedal, and amp with very little effects, playing a great riff is still exhilarating.

Circle Pit - We don't have many pedals because we can't afford them, and to be honest we don't really put much thought into guitar sounds and tone. On the album, we had Jai Morris-Smith on rhythm guitar, and I guess he was more interested in that stuff than the two of us - and he did a great job of it, but we've always just worked with what we have and while we know to an extent how we want things to sound (dirty, clean, trebly, whatever..) they don't always turn out exactly how we intend them to. We love wah pedals though, that's safe to say.

WDS - Lastly, what would you like to see happen with Circle Pit in the course of the next year or so?

Circle Pit - We've recently decided to take a break from playing live for the time-being, and after such a grueling year of touring last year we're excited to be hanging out as the two of us again, and getting back to where we were when we started. Things have come full-circle in a way, and at present we're just playing around in each other's bedrooms - writing, drawing, talking, and working towards future releases. We find more satisfaction in releasing an album than anything else, and so we'd like to release a few of those in the coming couple of years I guess. Maybe see some more of this insane world.

Ridiculous But Necessary Questions
What is your favorite cheese?
Jack - Haloumi
Angie - Tilba (a small NSw town) - particularly Ol' Bitey

Surfing or Football?
Angie - Surfing (hot boys)
Jack - That's really tough - but I guess I'll go with Football, but only Gridiron.

INXS or The Hard Ons?
Angie - Tiger-Lily
Jack - Paula

Moshing or Stagediving?
Angie - ON stage
Jack - Circle Pit

A month in the van with anyone (entirely open)?
Jack - Angie
Angie - Jack

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