Circa Survive frontman Anthony Green can be a difficult person to get a hold of these days. Between recording his new solo album, Young Legs, touring with his “day job,” and taking his two young boys to the playground, it’s easy to understand why the highly revered lead singer can seem so elusive. AP was lucky enough to catch up with Green for a few minutes and pick his brain on his new solo record, fatherhood and how to avoid getting “flabby.”
Interview: TJ Horansky
Where are you calling from today?
Right now I’m home. I took the day off from the studio today. We pretty much have one day left tomorrow, so today we had a little extra time. Today has just been a little bit of regrouping and going over some last minute things I want to do. I have two acoustic songs to do tomorrow, so I’ve been putting off committing to a structure for those songs. Right now, I’m in the process of trying to figure those out.
Young Legs is your first solo album with producer Will Yip. What went in to your decision to record with him?
Will did Violent Waves for Circa, and when we worked together, I noticed how he was with everybody. I really loved his energy. He always came off as the type of dude who was down to try anything and was open to new methods. He takes every band on an individual basis and does what he thinks is necessary. Beautiful Things and Avalon had been fairly written for years before I recorded them. This was the first time I went in with a couple of songs like that, but it was mostly ideas that I wanted to advance on and build in the studio. Will and I would get together and pick the ideas we wanted to jam on. We then spent a week just listening to the ideas. We would sit around a piano to figure out chord structures and vocals. It was building the song around just the piano and the vocals. We would then track it live for a few hours until we were done making our little various changes. When that was done, we would move on and start from scratch on the next song.
Was that a more organic recording process than on Avalon and Beautiful Things?
For those records, I had a pretty clear vision of how I wanted the songs to sound before I went into the studio. With some of the ideas on this new album though, I would only have a chorus idea or a couple notes, but nothing was committed. This is the most off-the-grid album I’ve recorded since I was a little kid. Since Circa and other stuff over the past 10 years, budgets got bigger and time got different in the studio, so we would be more prepared. I have been really dying to just go into the studio with a handful of ideas and work with them on the spot. Mainly, writing vocals and lyrics on the spot. I wanted to let it direct itself and capture it fresh in the studio. I’ve wanted to do that since I was a little kid. We had to do it when we were younger because of time constraint, but now I’m used to going into the studio for months at a time. Will is such an awesome producer, and I think he was pretty scared coming into this process because he didn’t know what it would be like. All the times before, I would get together in a house down the shore or some place that is not a studio to get comfortable and chill. We took this really seriously. We came in and utilized every minute we had together. We really just tapped in to what felt good. We would have those “Oh shit!” moments where [we] would both look at each other and know that it’s right. We started from scratch, and we kept our antennas up for those moments in all of the songs.
Pretty much all of the songs on this record are centered around the piano and the vocals. I never really listened to piano music before until about a year ago. I started to become really interested in the sound of the piano. I was on tour with the the Dear Hunter in Buffalo, New York, and there was a little upright piano backstage. Casey [Crescenzo] and I just started to jam to some weird chords he was making up on the spot. I was riffing off what he was doing, and we started singing and writing right there. It sounded so good. Right then, I started thinking that I wanted this record to have that feeling. I think from that realization onward, I started to come up with more of a vision. I wanted the album to be more classical instrument-based, rather than big, distorted guitars and super-trippy delay. I wanted to use violins and violas and piano and lots of percussion.
That sounds much more orchestral than typical acoustic rock.
Yeah. I was sort of over the whole “big drums and giant guitars and screamy vocals” rock thing. You can still be as powerful and moving, if not more. The sound of, like, a timpani and violin playing something degenerative and creepy, with a passionate vocal part can be just as archaic and visceral as any typical rock band atmosphere. I’ve been doing that for a while, and I love it, but I just felt like going further toward the spectrum of musicality and really trying to tap into those powerful moments without the same old tricks.
What sort of outlet does your solo stuff provide you, compared to Circa?
Circa have always been very much a collaboration of everyone in the group. We don’t say things or do things without everybody agreeing. To an extent, that is really awesome and it’s worked for us. I love it. It can also be limiting. I always want to be writing. Circa have time off sometimes, and my solo project was pretty much born out of having time off from Circa and having songs that the band didn’t want to use. I was able to continue playing music and play these songs that still meant something to me, but maybe didn’t get represented by Circa. It’s gone from that to a place where I need it now. At the beginning, I did it because I had songs and I wanted to keep working. I wanted to try and see how it went. Now, I need to do this. I write songs specifically for an Anthony Green album, as opposed to a Circa album. It gives me a feeling that I can directly communicate from myself and not have it be something that four other guys have to be represented in as well. When you have something you can control, and can decide when to give up control, it’s really beneficial. When I take time off, I get boring. When I keep writing, I just write better stuff. That’s one thing I think needs to change with bands. Back in the day, when people bought records, you would write a record, tour on it for two years and then go write a new one. You should be writing all the time. People need to not be focused on writing just 12 songs for an album and putting it out. Tour all the time, write all the time and put music out all the time.
It’s like a muscle—you need to keep at it and keep exercising it to stay strong.
That is a perfect analogy; it literally is a muscle. If you stop writing, it gets weak and flabby. [Laughs.]