Winter is coming, and not just for the show from which this slogan is borrowed. Winter is also the name of the Circles national tour happening in the season of the same name. It's shaping up to be a pretty nice time of the year for the prog-metal Melbournites and guitarist Ted Furuhashi loves the irony. “Coincidental, I guess,” he says. “We kinda thought, ‘We’ve got a song called winter. It’s winter. It’s the winter tour. Kinda one of the dumb things that we all went, ‘Yeah alright!’”
The song comes from the opening track to last year’s album The Last One, a massive step up for Circles in terms of their creative dexterity since Infinitas in 2013. The Last One was a cohesive and developmental process for Circles, one whose effects Furuhashi says the band are still feeling today. “We put a lot of time into this one,” he says, “[a] bit of a gap as you can tell – four years, almost getting to Tool and Karnivool status with that one!
“The music was written by the end of 2014, the album was ready, we just had to do vocals. We obviously had a bit of a line-up change. It was hard, because of Ben [Rechter]’s voice, and the nature of writing vocals and the structures of the songs had changed.
“We wanted it to be the best it could be and with a different voice as well. We’re big believers in the vocals being the main translation of our message.”
The lineup changes Furuhashi is referring to are of course the departure of Perry Kakridas, with long-time guitarist Ben Rechter assuming the role of vocalist in his place. It’s his talent that contributes to the game-changing and volatile tones we hear on The Last One. “We wanted Ben to have as much input as he could because he was going to be the one delivering the message at all the live shows,” says Furuhashi.
“We wanted him to be as comfortable as he could be when delivering it. That took a long time but everyone had some input.
“We’re really stoked with the product – it’s very honest and sounds the way we wanted it to.”
Furuhashi’s perspective on the role of a vocalist is pretty cool, and Circles’s support and their patience (though the word may seem condescending) with Ben moving into this role, is admirable.
“I guess we’re in this field of progressive metal, that’s what people want to describe this music as, but when you get into instrumentations, time signatures and different effects, it’s easy to get carried away with the music being really important – which it is.
“But at the end of the day when you go to a show, the first person you gravitate toward is someone who opens their mouth. As humans, that’s the way we communicate, through the voice. The music is a support for that.
“As much as we get a bit self-indulgent with our music, at the end of that day that’s the pull, and that’s where we want to grab the audience’s attention first – lure them in with the vocals and go, ‘actually, here, we actually write cool music and put thought into it as well.’”
The Winter Tour will be the first national tour Circles have undertaken since the release of The Last One. After nearly ten years of Circles’ existence, Furuhashi says there isn’t any worry about how existing fans will respond to the new live show with both a fresh body of songs and a new vocalist at the helm. “It sounds bad, but we’re kind of playing music for us now.
“When you’re starting out, yeah you want people coming to your shows and get as much reach as possible, but at the moment we’ve come to an agreement – we want to write music we’re all proud of and makes no compromise for anyone but ourselves.
“Fans will come and go and what stays is the music that’s created, your standpoint on the music world. An audience will perceive it however they want. If they’re on board, then awesome, and we’re not here to tell you what you can and can’t like. We’re just giving you what we do as the best we can do – if you like it, awesome!”
The Last One is out now via Wild Thing Records. Catch Circles on tour in July/August.