Interview with Russian Circles

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The summer of 2022 seems to be getting really busy in terms of concerts and May ends with a really great one. Russian Circles, the post-metal trio from Chicago, are back in Athens after 6 years, on their first big after-Covid tour, playing in Gagarin 205 on the 26th of May. Mike Sullivan, the guitarist, answered George Gazis’ questions, discussing the past, the present and the future of the band.

- Hello and thank you very much for your time. It’s been a while since you’ve been in Greece and we couldn’t be happier for your show on the 26th of May in Athens. How does it feel touring again after all this Covid-19 downtime?

It really feels great to be out there playing live again. I missed traveling, seeing new cities and making new memories on the road. Thankfully the shows have been a blast so far. Fortunate to be back at it.

- Quarantine days were really tough and weird for most people, but also a chance for some creative free time. A lot of bands out there experimented on their sound and made a bunch of new music. Was this the case for Russian Circles?

Absolutely. From the moment our March 2020 European tour was cancelled, I started working material for a new record. We were able to write and record a new record in the midst of all the madness. Thankfully the timing worked out well, as our last record was released in 2019. It was nice to have uninterrupted time to focus on the new material.

- I really don’t like putting genre labels, so my personal description of your music would be image-making music. How would you describe it to someone that has never heard of you?

I like that description. Whenever someone asks what we sound like, I realize they might not be aware of sun-genres or underground music so i just say we’re influenced by Pink Floyd and Metallica. It’s pretty basic but I don’t want to sound pretentious when my dentist or mechanic ask what kind of music we play.

- Writing instrumental music can be tricky, meaning that a lot of attention must be given to the flow of a song, so it will have a beginning and an ending. Is there a specific way that you are thinking about the structure of a composition?

Each song is different I suppose. Pacing is important. We’re conscious of tension and release.

- Track selection is another tricky part of making an album. I think your albums can be set as an example on how to connect tracks and make a full composition. Is this just magic or something that you are trying to achieve?

We’re aware of the impact that track sequence has on a record. Some albums are more stitched together than others. Since all our albums contain both loud heavy songs and more mellow somber moments, we naturally make sure the sequence is evenly balanced.

- What is your creative process? Does someone come up with an idea or a riff and you go into the studio all together and jam it out?

It all comes from compiling riffs and song fragments. Once we amass a stockpile of ideas we begin arranging the songs and the album begins to come into focus.

- I read that you were victims of a theft while en route to a show with System Of A Down in California, USA, losing a lot of your gear, including a lot of custom, unique stuff. What happened and how did you manage to overcome it?

We unknowingly stayed in town that has a significant crime/theft problem. Our rental box truck was broken into and nearly everything was stolen. It was certainly a bummer to wake up to be we immediately put our heads together to spread the word and amass gear for the remainder of the tour dates. The outpouring of love and support completely outweighed the negativity of the theft.

- Your last release, “Blood Year” came out in 2019. Is this tour based on performing the particular album live or do you mix it up with older and new stuff?

We always like to mix up the set with new and old material. I suppose we’re touring in support of Blood Year but every tour features different set lists.

- What does the future hold for Russian Circles? More touring and live shows or a new album in the making?

We recorded a new record last fall which will be out later this year. We’re looking forward to touring in support of the new record and playing new songs.

- I really appreciate you taking the time to answer my questions and thank you very much for this interview. I hope we’ll meet at Gagarin 205, Athens on Thursday, 26th of May. I’ll leave up the ending to you with a message to your Greek fans!

Thanks for the interview. We love playing Athens. We’re fortunate to have such strong support here. Can’t think of a better place to wrap up our European tour. Our last Athens show was one of my favorites in the bands history. See you soon!