Artist of the Month: THE CIRCUS
New Delhi based Rock band ‘The Circus” steadily rose to fame as one of the Top 7 short listed bands on Channel V’s LaunchPad III. Since then ‘The Circus‘ has developed a huge fan following from not just the Delhi circuit but also from all over India, ♦We caught up with Guitarist Arsh Sharma for this exclusive interview with ‘The Circus‘.
Hi Arsh! Thanks for the interview !! What’s the latest with ‘The Circus’ ?
Arsh: Hey man, thanks for taking the interview and for making our presence felt. Well, as far as the latest goes, we’ve put all the finishing touches on our album called “From Space” and we’re done with the artwork as well, a website is underway, we’ve got a few gigs in the next month which include Chandigarh and Shimla as well, so all in all it’s a lot of fun and pretty exciting as of right now. And we’d really like to thank Grey and Saurian for all the help and direction they’ve given us in most of the work we’re doing now, and it’s turning to be quite a lot of fun at the moment. On the music front we’ve already started making new songs and already have around 6 songs added to our set list besides the album, so our palette of choice is increasing with respect to the songs we want to play at a show, So it’s quite a lot of fun really.
Please introduce the band members and tell us about your influences in music, international and Indian artists
Arsh: well the band members basically are-
Anshul Lall- drums
Arsh sharma-Guitars, vocals.
Well, firstly most of our influences musically arise from a lot of varied genres, some artists being Tool, Nine Inch Nails, The Mars Volta, Radiohead, Incubus, Old school thrash metal, Daft Punk, Infected mushroom etc. So basically going into a variety of genres as far as listening to music is concerned, As for Indian Artists some of our favourite artists are Indigo children, AVR, Shaair and Func, Scribe, Undying Inc., Thermal and a Quarter, The constellation project etc. Beyond this I think willingness to experiment, randomness, weird bordering on eccentric lunacy and our unwavering will to make our guitars not sound like guitars are our primary driving forces.
Let’s go back in time a bit, how did you all meet? When was ‘The Circus’ formed?
Arsh: well, Basically this was around three years ago, I had tried to form and successfully broken up with around 7 bands, and was really tired of constantly havingto search for band members, I found Anshul Basically from Orkut in a “drummer needs a band” Ad and called him as soon as i saw that, he came over to my place and before he could setup, his phone rang and it was this crazy Hindi song, and I was like “this guy’s coming for a rock band audition with a really weird hindi song caller tune, I love this guy”. And him and me were the first members of this band, He was in a hindi rock band then and i convinced him to give them the boot and join up with us full time and he did. The first line up was Me on guitars and vocals, a bass player and Anshul on drums, and after our first show we realized that my voice tore at the end of the set really badly, and we weren’t tight enough and really needed a couple of new people. Abhishek was in my college and i was jamming on a couple of songs I’d written on an acoustic with him ,and the whole chemistry was gelling really well, so I asked him if He’d like to join us on vocals and he was all for it, and that’s how basically he came along. Abhinav(bass) is also from my college and probably the best bass player I have ever seen, and at that time he was really committed to another band of his, and I desperately wanted to steal him to be a part of our band, so after a lot of convincing and emotional blackmail he finally jammed with us, and the first time we ever had a jam we jammed for over a couple of hours without even talking to each other, and I was like” Finally, this doesn’t sound like something which came out of a garbage dump”, and we basically stuck it out since, and there’s never been a line up change since. And our first few months were spent constantly jamming and trying to get a chemistry going, and our first show happened in July 2007 which like almost everyone’s first show sucked really really bad, and we’ve been on a constant self-imrovement binge ever since.
The Circus was one of the shortlisted top-7 bands on Channel V’s Launchpad III, how was the experience? tell us about some details which the channel might have opted to remove from the final footage aired ? tell us about the whole mumbai house experience
Arsh: Well, it was a lot of fun in the house at least, and unlike what television showed there were no politics involved at all between the bands, It was basically like a two week chill out session in a good looking house with a bunch of cameras around and food at all the right times, so it was quite a lot of fun in the house at least. The bands were a lot of fun to hang out with and i had a great time chilling with Reverse polarity who are really good friends of ours now, workshop and Faridkot were also a lot of fun to chill with, and each time you needed an intellectual conversation about the “doings” of music, Rahul from Cassini’s division was the person to be with. The producers of the show were also a bunch of really chilled out people with an adequately perverted sense of humour which existed at every instance the camera wasn’t on, so as far as those two weeks in the house are concerned, it was all loads of fun. Well, as for the channel, they I think must have had a field day trying to make us look like we were fighting against each other, so a lot of times when we were merely laughing or chilling were made to look like really intense moments, cause in a scene which is a niche like ours it was more of a band brotherhood than constant fighting against each other, also a lot of statements which were shown were the ones which cause some “masala”(read-profanities) while most of it was just taken as excerpts for mindless banter, It also made it look like the judges were really on top of the bands heads while in reality they were having a lot of fun with the bands themselves, and most importantly, I think they showed bits and pieces of songs, which at least for us didn’t quite convey what the band is about, but nonetheless, it was a lot of fun while it lasted, and we had a great time an sometimes a great laugh watching the show, so no hard feelings.
Who writes the lyrics for ‘the Circus’? What are the theme or message behind your lyrics? also what inspires the compositions ?
Arsh: The lyrics aren’t really written but “assembled” and they have constantly been the most controversial aspect of the band in the sense of their focus and direction. Basically the lyrics come out from vocal lines and are written by Abhishek and me, where the balance of how it’s skewed is between who’s written the melodies to the song, so once we’ve got a basic framework of the vocal line written, Abhishek and me sit down and try to create as many tangents as we can lyrically in it, and the more the song contradicts itself the more we enjoy working on it, If you delved into our lyrics too much you probably would end up a really confused person, because the lyrics are more like an image caught in a frame of time and a description of it rather than a long flowing message or a story, So lyrically it’s more like photographs than stories, still frames basically. And mostly the lyrical content is a satire on the concept of making lyrics, where sometimes we consciously work as “anti-poets” to give the songs a semi-absurd sarcastic abstract lyrical base, so thematically the message would be to go out and play and have fun making blocks out of nothing, why?, because you can, there really are no rules or frameworks we need to bind ourselves to thematically, and that’s basically what we try to achieve with our song and lyric writing, to be absolutely free of all constraints, and not fall into a deliberated pattern, it’s sort of like surrealist writing which as a concept is to write before you think so as to let your instinctive child come out on paper, and that’s what they are, an arrangement of abstract thoughts as a lyric which basically contradicts itself after every line, creating a surrealistic cartoonish portrait around it. Thematically, our topics range from phlegm, sex, women in sepia dancing at parties to the need of anaesthetics, how much a band get’s paid after a show, or why samurais aren’t trained to swim properly.
What we have noticed is the amazing display of diverse sound in the band. The tones, the effects that are being used are just perfect, tell us what all equipment do you guys use onstage ?
Arsh: Well Abhinav Choudhary(bass) uses quite a large rig which consists of an Ernie ball music man sting ray-5 bass, A boss auto wah Aw-5, a boss limiter/enhancer, turbo rat distortion, A sub decay noise box, a boss bass eq, Ehx small stone nano-phaser, digitech bass processor 200, and a sansamp bass driver di programmable. With all of these inputs skewed to just the correct degree I think he manages to get a sound which no other bass player in indie has, because it involves a lot of .clean effects coupled with a lot of ambient soundscape drivers, which enables a lot of layers for a four piece band
As for me I use a PRS SE paull allender guitar, A boss Gt-8 for most of my effects in which I have a 40 effects bank which I use in the set, coupled with a boss flanger,and an analog bad monkey, Some of my favourite effects used are Wave synth, Flanger’s at really skewed settings, Feedbackers on delay effects, Pitch shifters, arpeggiators, auto riff, slicers and ring mods, and I’m trying to build up an analog setup with my current setup to allow a lot of parallel Fx connections with my effects pedal so as to generate some crazy effects.
Tell us about the much awaited debut album, when it will be released? What can we expect from the album?
Arsh: All work from our side is complete on the album and that just happened a couple of days back, and we’re trying promote it our level best and have a really good product out, when the print comes out we want it to be the best possible representation of the band as what it is at this point of time, we’ve worked hand in hand with grey and saurian for the last six months trying to get the best we can out from us with songs we have on the album, and hopefully if everything goes according to time and schedule it should be out end October – November sometime, once we’ve adequately publicized it and basically Shashwat Gupta(from Grey and saurian has figured out exactly how to go about it and support it. Well, the album is basically a catharsis for us and all the songs from the last 2 years of writing which we thought were worth being put on the first album are there, we’ve also done a lot of foolery in the studio along with Anupam Roy (who’s produced the record) and had a blast doing it, so you can basically expect a really fun slightly eccentric sounding record which I’m having a blast listening to at this point of time. A lot of time in the record you will go like “why would you do that?”, and that’s exactly what we want from the album , if you had to define it I would probably call it a “frantic spastic abstract rock” album. And that’s what I think you guys should expect. As for a record label, we will be releasing this on “grey and saurian” records and we are really glad they have put us on their roster and given us a lot of direction and focus as to as where the band is going. We’ve also started writing a lot of new song so expect probably another album in a year or so if we can pull it off.
Since you guys are signed up under Grey and Saurian who have created a benchmark by launching the new Bhayanak Maut album, what are your expectations regarding the album from them ?
Arsh: Grey and Saurian are probably the best thing to have happened to us in the last 6 months, as they are both fantastic people as well as fantastic at what they do. We were already recording with Anupam Roy when Grey and Saurian took off and got signed on to them almost as soon as they were formed, and they have been majorly supportive of our work and have pushed us to our level best to hand them over with the best possible product we could as a band, and from their side they have given the recording their fullest , with Anupam Roy adding and subtracting a lot from our songs so as to create an album which sounds more than just an “album” and more of a complete self contained unit, Shashwat‘s been pushing the band around the circuit quite a bit since we joined them, and has put almost everything he has into the making of the album, so quality wise I think the album should look and sound the best it could have been, and we as a band are really happy with the way Grey and Saurian have gone about it. So I think as a label they have already taken care of our expectations by giving the album their personal best, so however the outcome of the album reception wise maybe, we are really happy with how the work with our album has progressed so far, and are also really happy to have Grey and saurian backing us.
As a rock band you guys are quite famous in Delhi music circuit, you guys have played very less shows in the other parts of the country, which city’s audience have been more responsive towards you when you played there, tell us how different are the audience in each city according to you ?
Arsh: We’ve been playing In Delhi for a long time now ,but contrary to what you have said we have played quite a few shows in other parts of the country as well, some of the cities being Hyderabad, Lucknow(IIM), Kanpur(IIT), Pilani(bits-oasis),we’ve also played in Bangalore, Pune, Mumbai and are about to go to Chandigarh and Shimla over the course of the next month, we’ve also got calls from Goa and Jaipur, so we’re hoping to hit these destinations as well. Also we have a lot of supporters from different parts of the country and I frequently chat with supporters of the band from Gujarat(Ahmadabad), Mumbai, Pune , lucknow and all. The one place we really want to play but haven’t had the opportunity to as of yet is the north east part of the country. As far as reactions are concerned They’re different in different cities, The Hyderabad crowd went nuts when we played there and we’ve had one of our most memorable gigs in Hyderabad, we’ve also had a great time playing in Mumbai as we have a lot of friends as well as supporters there, and the recent gig we played there went down great. We’ve only played in Bangalore once and while half the crowd was really “prim and Propa’” and slightly shocked at our slight abrasive nature on stage, the other half was going nuts, so that’s a city I have to play again in to figure the crowd out, though I know for a fact we have quite few supporters down in Bangalore, The Pune crowd wasn’t really aware of our music till we played but had a great time once we got on stage, Pilani and The IIT’s are generally a lot of fun to play to. So it’s like a different palette each time you go to a city, because you really don’t know what to expect until you hit the first note of your set, and can gauge the reaction of the audience, and with us it’s usually a love-hate relationship, they either like us a lot or can’t stand us, and i personally love a younger audience aged (16-20) in a place which is slightly gritty rather than elitist, because that I think is more suited to the gritty nature of an underground band and also more suitable for the young ones to go nuts without having inhibitions of what their girlfriends think of them.
Tell us about highs and lows of ‘The Circus‘ as a band? Did it ever get to a boiling point?
Arsh: well, we’ve had a lot of ups and down in our short career till now, like when we started off we were basically an untight act, and i remember being personally ridiculed by a lot of people on a few forums during our formative years, Like when we played Bits-Pilani in 2007, we sucked majorly, and it affected us quite badly, specially the fun which was made off us at some forums, so we stopped gigging for three months and worked like madmen over our sound and tightness so that when we’d come back to playing atleast we in our hearts would know we’ve done a good job, and we’ve been on a every jam we have to improve binge since then, we are the biggest critics of our own music, and everyone in the band is constantly working at pushing themselves, and that basically stemmed from the rejections we faced in the scene during our early days. The only time it really got to a boiling point was in that pilani-2007 trip where we’d constantly be at each others throats and play the blame game a lot. Things basically picked up for us after the IIT-Blitzkrieg-2008 competition where we came second and won best guitarist and best bassist, and after that we spent the next 8 months going to every competition we could in the hope to get some acclaim as well as money to finance the album we so desperately wanted to record, though we never won any competition we’ve always come second(besides launch pad), which is quite an irony looking back at the number of times we went aimed to win. The launchpad experience was definitely a high, so was the great Indian rock show we played last year in Hyderabad which was quite insane. Again, after launchpad some of us in the band went through an almost a 5 to 6 month low, where a lot of things concerning our health and personal well being got totally messed up, but I think we’re on an upswing again with the whole Grey and saurian deal, the album coming out and playing a lot of gigs, so things are slowly again getting back on a positive upward track, and that’s definitely a good sign.
Vishal Dadlani while judging you guys at Launchpad III had said that “The guitarist is also trying to be a frontman, the bassist without saying anything is a frontman” what was you take on this judgment of his ? how have you guys made sure that this doesn’t happen again ?
Arsh: Well, firstly I have to say Vishal Dadlani is one of the coolest people I have met from the scene, and as a musician is really open minded and a lot of fun to interact with, he was also really supportive of the band while we were there in Mumbai(which due to obvious reasons wasn’t shown on television, as bonhomie isn’t quite as fun as nasty backbiting and backbitching, suddenly we know why Roadies is so popular). When that statement was made it was quite hurtful in the original sense, and my first thought was “Dude, these guys are my best friends and I’d do anything for them, and duh, The bassist fucking rips so obviously he stands out”. The whole comment of me being an overtly egotistical attention grabbing wannabe sociopath/musician though not completely of the mark, did hurt a bit when it was said ,but soon became an in band sort of joke, and Abhishek and me have been mock “ego” fights on stage ever since, and what we’ve done since is the opposite of what we were told, we’ve given mikes to everyone onstage so everyone can speak, there is no front man in our band, it’s a free-for-all-do whatever you wish manic sort of communion, and as far as communicating with audience goes, our methods have successively become more chaotic and unplanned, which is what we want, a band with a singular identity represented to the audience as a singular identity, so rather than having a spandex wearing crotch grabbing fool upfront talking shit we have four raving egotistical maniacs upfront talking shit , we don’t like the whole stereotypical way a band is supposed to function, and we don’t function that way, so instead of sobering down I think we’ve gone wilder as far as our stage attitude is concerned, cause you can say anything you want, but you can’t shut me or any of us up.
Is there anyone you’d like to acknowledge for offering financial or emotional support?
Arsh: See, we’ve never taken financial support from anyone. That’s why we went through all those competitions so we could save up enough money to go about upgrading our equipment and sound, and also to be financially be in a good enough state to make an album which sounds and looks great. Because, we’ve always believed that if you can’t garner up money through your own means to support your own musical ambition by playing shows and competitions, then you obviously aren’t competent enough. So we’ve challenged our own competency and efficiency throught this entire journey, and all the money we’ve spent on the album and equipment and all is all by playing a number of shows, and saving like nobody’s business. Whereas, for emotional support there are a lot of people I’d like to acknowledge.
Firstly Rock street journal for giving us shows and believing in us even at points when no one did, our parents for never being the pains in your ass which parents usually are, Another vertigo rush(AVR the band), because i remember after our first outing In Bits pilani-2007 where almost everyone scorned and hated us, including ourselves, they were the only band which came up to us and said “dude, your music’s good, you’re not tight, but at least you’re trying out and making something new” and that really did give us a lot of strength at that point of time, and we’ve been big AVR fan boys since. Also, grey and saurian, basically Anupam Roy, Shashwat Gupta and Keshav Dhar for helping us out and believing in us for the last few months, it feels pretty kickass being under their roster. Nikhil Kaul, Anoop Sebastian and all the people who believed in us in our formative years and everyone who has enjoyed the music we’ve made over the last two years, and lastly the organizers who haven’t been too cheesed off with our use of excessive profanities onstage.
What advice would you like to give to youngsters who want to form their own rock bands?
Arsh: Well, Firstly practice a lot and be good at your instrument,practice hard as a band, don’t change your line up, never follow trends, be a little anarchist if you can, remember you aren’t white so play and sing aboutwhat you know and feel, we’re right here talking and speaking in english in a globalized world, So anyone who says rock bands are aping the west should go shov it up their backside, so most importantly don’t be an “ape”. And try out as many as many substances and experiences while your body still can, it opens up your mind a lot, listen to a lot of music, and lastly play original music y’all.
Any last words for your fans?
Arsh: Well, if you guys exist then listen to the songs and keep tuned in to the band, buy, download, steal the album when it comes out, come to our shows, and basically just stick around. you’re a nice bunch of people, why would you want to leave?
♦ IRMP3 Thanks Ashwin Sharma for the precious input given by him to prepare the questionnaire.