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The Circus: Back In The Ring

Delhi experimental rock band talks about channeling experience on their third album ‘With Love’


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The Circus. Photo: Srijan Mahajan.

The Circus. Photo: Srijan Mahajan.

After crafting strange experimental music on their past two albums, Delhi rockers The Circus are changing the pace on their third full-length record titled, With Love. Guitarist and producer Arsh Sharma says with a laugh, “It’s a lot slower and groovier. It’s almost as though you’ll hear it and say we’ve got old now.”

With Love comes three years after their second album Bats [2013], which the band admits didn’t get as much reach as they wanted. “I think the momentum dropped and a lot of places [in the country] weren’t aware of the new stuff. So we held back a bit so that we could come back stronger,” says Sharma. The seven-track With Love was already in the works when Bats released in 2013, but The Circus wrote and recorded material for nearly three years since then, meeting thrice a week for six to seven hours. The resultant album is not as haphazard and frenetic as Bats and From Space [2010], something Sharma chalked down to the fact that their songwriting process started with jamming. He adds, “We’ve written nonstop. This album is very diverse. It’s the best thing we’ve done and we really thought this through.”

Recorded at Sharma’s StudioFuzz in Delhi [co-owned by Parikrama drummer Srijan Mahajan and producer Nikhil Malik] and vocalist Abhishek Bhatia’s home studio, The Circus worked on With Love when they could spend time outside of other projects. Sharma’s electro rock duo FuzzCulture with Mahajan released their debut full-length album NO, while Bhatia released his own electronic music EP Drones last year under the moniker Curtain Blue. Bassist Abhinav Chaudhary and drummer Anshul Lall were both part of post-rock band Ioish’s new EP We Move the Sky, which released in January. But Sharma says the band has avoided letting the projects bleed into The Circus. He adds, “It starts falling apart when everyone evolves into their own sound and wants to add that to the band. It’s a beast of its own.”

A childhood band set up in 2007 when everyone was just entering their 20s, The Circus showcase a different side of experimental rock on With Love, incorporating synthesizers and slow grooves for a “relaxed vibe,” as Sharma calls it. Songs such as “Goodbye, We Won’t Meet Again” are moody, while “I’m Bored” is the pop-leaning. Meanwhile, “Lions and Wolves” features downtempo elements set to grooves reminiscent of Australian prog rock band Karnivool. “Discourse! Discourse!,” the song they premiered live last year, is also set to be the first single and music video from the album.

Unlike Bats, there’s a raring-to-go spirit about With Love for the band, who are part of the third edition of the ongoing multi-city independent 2Stroke Tour, which is traveling to eight cities this month. Playing alongside Shillong pop punk band Street Stories, Sharma says this will be the first time The Circus is undertaking a tour of this scale. He adds, “We’ve done it and we’re used to it [touring] but we’ve done it on our own. This time, we’re doing it as a band.”

This article appeared in the March 2016 issue of ROLLING STONE India. 

Listen to “Not Yet Dinosaurs” off With Love.

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"Tamacun" (Rodrigo y Gabriela) by Shruti Naik & Ashar Kazi


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