Brian Cook from Russian Circles talks to us about upcoming UK gigs and more
Guidance still feels really fresh, exciting and new to me. Writing is I realise it’s nearly two years since it was released. Do the songs still feel new to you? What is your favourite song to perform from that record?
We recorded Guidance back in December of 2015, so most of the material is over two-and-a-half years old for us at this point. But most of last year was spent on the road with Mastodon where we were playing four songs spanning our whole catalog, so we didn’t touch upon much from the new record. It’s a bit surreal because the record now feels pretty old, but given the circumstances we haven’t exhausted ourselves on it yet. I still enjoy playing all the songs off the record, though “Afrika” is probably my favorite.
The Mastodon tour last year, seemed like a great pairing style-wise, how were you received? How does it feel to finally get out and play full sets again?
We went into the tour with some trepidation. We’re all Mastodon fans, and we’re all admirers of how they’ve charted their own musical path and rejected a lot of metal conventions, but we’re wary of the more mainstream rock world. We’ve garnered a cool grassroots fanbase and there was some concern about drawing in new people. That might sound elitist, but one rotten apple that stirs up trouble in the crowd can ruin a whole show. And there’s always a little uncertainty when you open for a bigger band because there’s no guarantee another band’s audience is going to appreciate what you’re doing. I don’t want to have to police crowds or deal with knucklehead behaviour. We’re comfortable and content with our current size, and we’re happy that folks that come to our show tend to be respectful both to us and to other attendees. So we viewed the tour as a gamble, but we also wanted to try something different, so we went for it. Fortunately, there is a strong cerebral component to Mastodon and that translates into a fanbase that has an actual appreciation for the music instead of just a bunch of dudes looking for a soundtrack for pushing each other around. We were fortunate to go over well with their crowd, but it feels good to play to our audience again.
You have limited stops in the UK this time around but I’m really excited to see you in Leeds again, the Brudenell show in 2015 was one of my favourite gigs of all time! How do you find UK audiences compared to home and any plans to tour here more extensively?
The UK feels pretty similar to the US in terms of audiences. There’s a bigger disparity between UK crowds and European crowds. I think a lot of that stems from nightlife culture. UK venues feel a lot like US venues in that they have a nightclub feel to them, so people tend to be in more of a party headspace. European venues tend to feel more like dedicated performance spaces or art centers, so the vibe feels a little more like a cultural event. I like the vibe of both. I like people letting their hair down and having a good time, but I also like shows being treated as these art-focused communal events. This will be our fifth trip across the Atlantic on this record, so it’ll likely be our last tour over there for awhile.
Any plans to record a follow up to Guidance once touring is complete? Can you give us an insight into your songwriting process? Are the songs born in the studio or do you get together and write as beforehand?
We meant to get started on the new album last spring but all the support tours put the writing process on hold. Since we all live in different corners of the US, we can’t just meet up a couple of times a week to jam. We have to block out weeks of time where we all convene in Chicago to work. We’ll come up with song bits and pieces individually in the meantime, but they don’t really come together until we’re all in one room. So hopefully this summer we can start threading together all the riffs and arrangement ideas and get something together to record in the fall.
Any Festival plans for this year?
Just the ones we’re doing on this upcoming tour… Dunk!, Freakvalley, a few more.
What is the last gig you went to as a punter?
It was either Kikagaku Moyo or Grails and Daniel Higgs. Or maybe it was this local Seattle d-beat band called Fucked & Bound. I just moved back to Seattle from NYC a few weeks before this tour started and I went to a bunch of shows in that time. Can’t keep the timeline straight though.
What album or band are you currently listening to and just can’t get enough of?
It’s a toss up between Can and Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main Street. The Can obsession has been a continuous exponential growth over the last decade-and-a-half, and now i’m finally delving into the late era albums where Czukay relinquished bass duties. Exile just gets better with every listen and sounds good in every environment, so it’s my current default album when I can’t decide what else to listen to.
Russian Circles play Leeds Stylus on 15th May 2018. They’re bringing Brutus with them too! Which should prove amazing, I’m really looking forward to their set. Here’s a teaser. Make sure you get down early!