Russian Circles Interview


Band delivers big on new album, sets out to do more in the future

To beat a dead horse: technology and the abundant use of the Internet has further pushed the fan base momentum of emerging artists by giving them the ability of posting new demos everyday.

Russian Circles wasn’t about hopping on the Myspace bandwagon, but with it, has come some early success.

“I thought it was really cheesy at first,” said Mike Sullivan, guitarist for the three piece outfit from Chicago. “But eventually we got one. Even Fugazi has a Myspace page, so it’s pretty inevitable.”

Sullivan said there’s two ends to the Web. On the upside, it’s exposure. He said the exchange of music has benefitted every band that has used it. On the downside, he said the market is flooded with a lot of bad bands.

Even the new addition to the band, ex-Botch and current These Arms Are Snakes bassist Brian Cook, said he feels because of the immediate exposure thanks to Web sites like, fresh bands are skipping the baby steps he feels every band should experience. “I feel like a lot of bands need to take those smaller steps and play smaller venues and towns. I kind of like the fact that those first four years of Botch weren’t documented. Some bands are hitting the road or putting out records too early without honing their craft. They need to find a bit more identity and figure out what they’re trying to do.”

Dave and Mike of Russian Circles

Dave Turncrantz, drummer and Mike Sullivan, guitarist of Russian Circles photos: Adam Pfleider

This summer, Russian Circles have embarked on a headlining tour in support of their sophomore release, Station. With slicker production thanks to engineering father Matt Bayles (Botch, Isis, Mastodon), Russian Circles are intent to make a name for themselves just like any other band, keep a distinct sound– though not recycling much of the same.

“It ruins a record for bands to go and try and re-create a sound of their previous releases,” said drummer Dave Turncrantz. “I never want to go in [the studio] and have the intent of making a song that sounds like ‘Carpe’ or ‘Verses.'”

Evident on the band’s new record, “Campaign” isn’t exactly the heavy opener “Carpe” turned into on Enter, and “Verses” is too light hearted and elegant to find itself anywhere on the band’s debut. With those two songs, the band also wants to progress further from the new territory they’ve come across in the past year.

“A lot of our old bands were more A.D.D. and fast paced,” said Sullivan. “[With Russian Circles] we wanted to slow things down and make it simple. [The album] ‘Station’ is taking an idea and elaborating on it. With [the album] ‘Enter,’ we added parts because we had them, so we simply tried them out. I think the older I get, the more years I’ve been in a band, I want [my music] to be more dynamic, not so much a drum fill every second.”

Sitting at the bar of the Spanish Moon and looking up during the band’s soundcheck, it seems the band is intent on giving the audience the same sound and feeling when listening to the band’s discography. The members are checking parts of the songs they were having trouble with the night before, and making sure every level of every instrument is perfect.

After the departure of bassist Colin DeKuiper, Sullivan and Turncrantz had a few people in mind, but through their manager, picked up Cook.

“The timing was perfect,” said Cook. Cook had downtime with his current band These Arms Are Snakes, and gladly joined on. He was sent four demos, but was concerned about how to contribute. “The songs were so varied. Should I fill out the guitar here? What should I accent? It was definitely challenging.”

“I think you can exhaust your options after awhile,” said Sullivan. “Changing one element of the structure to allow something else to keep going, it can give more length sometimes.” Sullivan enjoys the three piece structure of Russian Circles. He said he can sometimes create something simple, and just leave it. “When you have something like a five-piece, it can be like having a lot of people in the kitchen, everyone wanting to leave their mark.”

“I think if we got another guitar player or element, it would step it up,” said Turncrantz. In fact, for a small early stint, the band had a keyboard player. But Turncrantz isn’t shutting out any musical element, and is up for trying anything.

Sullivan said being a three-piece has a drawback. There are some bands he could never come close to recreating their large dense sound, and said with the small amount of instruments, it gives way to a big challenge, but a ton of creativity at the same time. “I’m not concerned about other bands and competition. I’m concerned solely on compositional writing. Then again, anything that is said to be fresh will eventually be outdated.”

Brian Cook of Russian Circles

Brian Cook, bassist of Russian Circles

For Russian Circles, the future is unknown but the band is ready for anything. They hope to push their sound and their fans idea of them further. With Cook taking a permanent spot, and having more stock in the next record, the band are going to take on a few dates opening for Coheed and Cambria and The Secret Machines in July. “We’re all curious on how that’s going to go,” laughed Cook.

With Cook cemented as the third member of the band, he not only hopes to expand his musical ability, but the band’s as well. “You have to write what feels natural,” he paused. “But keep pushing yourself. Keep it interesting.”

His bandmates shake their heads in agreement.


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