Ahead of their Australian tour, I had a chat with RUSSIAN CIRCLES’ bassist Brian Cook, to discuss tour life, their ambitions and Coheed & Cambria.

Russian Circles have earned a loyal following around the world for their uncompromising attitude towards making music. Backed by the formidable Sargent House management/label, they have toured consistently and produced several acclaimed heavy/post-metal/doom-laden albums featuring their blend of instrumental rock with dark atmospherics.

This upcoming tour presented by Life Is Noise sees them playing some of their biggest shows in Australia to date. Check out www.lifeisnoise.com for tickets & details.

So this is your 3rd time coming to Australia, how does it feel to be able to come down here and play these kind of headline shows?

It’s definitely a pretty crazy thing – still one of those things where we’re all very grateful for the opportunities we have and I’m not even sure how we got to this point!

Haha well that leads into my next question, how are you able to maintain and build a fan base playing the kind of music you do?

I don’t really know, I mean I look at my friends that play music, I see bands that are terrible and popular and there’s no shortage of amazing bands in obscurity.

I think it’s just luck of the draw, time and place, although part of me also thinks we have been doing this for a long time. We’re up to album number 5, we take it seriously, set high standards in terms of the material we write and performing live. I think we’re not just getting drunk and bashing things on stage and that sorta helps. But overall it’s a mystery!

So speaking of your approach, you have new record out, how do you approach your albums and what are those standards you set?

Well first and foremost it’s really about finding material that resonates with us.

Is that emotional or technical resonance?

I’d say emotional.

I mean, when we made Empress, we had just done Geneva and it was lush, it was done with nice fidelity and it was a very satisfying record to make, but difficult to play out live. I’ve seen bands get into the habit where each successive record gets more polished and refined. When we did Empress we didn’t want to make a record that’s more polished – we don’t want a gospel choir, we still see ourselves as being a three piece, loud and abrasive. When it came time to do it we deliberately scaled down to a punk humble style studio and knowing it’s a more raw and refined sounding record.

But we didn’t go into writing thinking it needs to be gnarly nasty and shty sounding. Memorial is just like an extension of us being true to ourselves.

So for a band who’ve been around the world and no doubt ticked off a lot of what’s been on the bucket list, what’s left to achieve for Russian Circles?

Well we are finally going to Japan this year, that was one of the big ones, we’re excited. We’re pretty happy with where we’re at now, I mean it’s hard not to ever want for bigger things, I know people always want to feel like they’re evolving and expanding, but we’re able to operate in a really comfortable manner where we’re at. We want to keep doing what we do and as long as we can keep writing and feel like we’re still pushing, learning and evolving creatively we’ll be pretty content.

What was it like touring with Coheed & Cambria, do you listen to them, or was it an experiment in playing outside the niche?

Well we played few shows with them years ago, we did string of dates in the south. It was with them and Secret Machines and we just did it cos we were Secret Machines fans more than anything else.

I don’t really listen to a lot of more big budget contemporary rock bands, they’re not really on my radar. I love old big budget rock records, like Zeppelin or Rush but as for modern stuff I usually listen to scrappier DIY type of stuff.

So they’re not really a band like that and we did the shows. Their fan base is really weird, Coheed and Cambria fans aren’t really part of any sort of scene. They’re a very insular and kinda huge fan base and it’s really nerdy in a way I like – dudes that are really into the band and really into instrumentation and modern prog rock. So we were definitely out of left field, but the last time we toured together it went over really well so we felt confident we could play with them on a full US tour. It was pretty positive for me, pretty exciting to be able to do a really short set and play in front of people with no expectations. It’s awesome to be able to headline and know everyone is there to see you, that’s an awesome feeling but there is something also fun that you get when you’re first setting off as a band and people don’t know what to expect –

– like you have to prove yourself again

Yeah! It’s fun to do that, we don’t have to play the hits we can play whatever we want – I’d be bummed if we headlined and people hated it – but here if people didn’t like it it was like – cool it’s not for you for then.

One of things I wanted to ask you about is the tour diary you did last year or the year before – a lot of musicians here were following it and it gave a really great insight into life in Russian Circles. Is that something you were comfortable sharing and do you feel obligated to provide that kind of information in the way that bands like Intronaut do, the realities of life in a touring band? Or do you prefer to keep it all to yourself and project an image?

The only reason I did it is because I was writing for The Stranger, a weekly Seatle website. I was asked to do it and I initially declined and then got coerced into doing it. I think there’s a tendency in the music industry to over saturate with more personal information than is really necessary. I like a little mystery, but I do enjoy reading tour diaries and find myself fascinated by other people’s experiences and how they related to my own.

It was a challenge to talk in a way that somewhat neutral – actually that’s not true, to talk in a way that people who hadn’t been in situation could relate to it and see it’s not all easy and it’s not all bad either. There’s a tendency – there’s a great twitter called ‘DJs complaining’, where people retweet things DJs say like – ‘why is there a baby in first class’. It’s like – why would you complain about being in first class and travelling the world making people happy. But I’m sure that guys like “I work and this is my job and in these situations where I’m denied privacy and comfort…others get to sleep in your own beds at night.” Sometimes others don’t get it – sometimes you play bad show and you have to process that – it might be someone else’s concept of an awesome show – and I don’t want people to think “what a spoilt dude, you just played to 300 people in Manchester and you complain.” So you have to deal with that and find a way to communicate to people what it’s like without coming off like a jerk.

We’re almost out of time. Thanks again for the chat – finally, any cool Aussie bands you’re into?

Umm let’s see – one band I kinda like we played with them last time, or maybe the first time we were out there – The Broderick – heavy dark hardcore band, they opened one of our shows, gave me copy of their record. I didn’t see them at show, but when I listened to record I think I would have enjoyed them live. I like My Disco, we did a bunch of shows in the past with Scul Hazards, we’re friends with them. Slug Guts are great, I saw there was a Grong Grong reunion, I would love to see them. Up here I’m going to see Mournful Congregation too I think.

See Russian Circles on the following dates:

Tuesday, April 29 – Crowbar – Brisbane
Tickets from lifeisnoise.com, oztix and the venue.

Wednesday, April 30 – Fowler’s Live – Adelaide
Tickets from lifeisnoise.com, venuetix, moshtix, oztix and the venue.

Thursday, May 1 – Hi Fi Bar – Melbourne
Tickets from lifeisnoise.com, oztix and the venue.

Friday, May 2 – Rosemount Hotel – Perth
Tickets from lifeisnoise.com, oztix and the venue.

Saturday, May 3 – Manning Bar – Sydney
Tickets from lifeisnoise.com, oztix and the venue.


By Michael Solo| News

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