For a while there, it seemed impossible to track Young Circles' movements through the band's quick-succession name and lineup changes. As Stonefox, we drooled over the sometimes-trio, sometimes-quartet's pared-down, fuzzed-out take on psychedelic garage-rock.
They blew speakers and eventually broke hearts as they broke up, with half the band dispersing to New York. But, uh, wait, then they were back, when frontman and cofounder Jordy Asher came back to Florida. Only now they were called Blond Fuzz... and still playing garage rock?
By mid-2010, though, they pulled the plug on Blond Fuzz too. Voila, Young Circles was born, and the garage rock was killed off. Which was just fine, because what rose from the ashes was a lot more interesting. In place of the old distorted guitar riffs and recognizable song patterns was a fresh take on psychedelia.
A little bit of the old swampy vibe lingered, but here it came through filtered through Big Beat-style rattling drums, looping synths, and ambling, almost chanted vocals. Remember when Chemcial Brothers teamed up with Oasis for trippy tracks like "Let Forever Be"? Young Circles kind of sounds like that -- an ex-rock guy's predilection for aggression and layering combined with a futurist's love for technology.
The first Young Circles release, the Bones EP, dropped last year, and you can still download it for free on the band's Bandcamp page. But the band's fullest creative expression to date, its debut full-length album, Jungle Habits, is forthcoming in mid- to late-August. Release plans are still under supersecret wraps, but as a teaser, the band's released a couple of free new tracks, "Love Hitch" and "2012."
Oh, and there are yet more changes -- band cofounder David Barnard has left the group, while Asher and Jeff Rose remain. In the meantime, they've added another permanent member, Antonio Gonzalez, and a loose collective of additional live players to beef up the sound.
County Grind caught up with Asher the other day to chat about the new material. Download the two new free tracks below, and then check out what he had to say.
Download: Young Circles - "2012"
Download: Young Circles - "Love Hitch"
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County Grind: First off, are any of the songs from the EP reappearing on the full length?
Jordy Asher: No. We were considering putting "Sharp Teeth" on the album, but then we decided against it. We've done that so many times in the past. With the last Stonefox or Blond Fuzz or whatever you want to call it record, it was pretty much a conglomeration of things from tons of different sessions. So we did all brand-new songs.
When did you write all the material that was on the EP? Were you still technically Blond Fuzz at that point?
No. That's when we made the conscious decision to trash everything on the old albums. We wrote all those songs free and clear, thinking it was something new.
What was the difference semantically between Stonefox and Blond Fuzz? It sounded pretty much like the same thing.
It was exactly the same thing. We just changed the name because there were other Stonefoxes, one of which was a Euro-pop, Spice Girls-type band. We were getting some emails we didn't appreciate, and we had just gotten back together, so it was a new start. People hate us for changing the name so many times by now, but we don't care. It doesn't bother us because we're doing what we like. And if we're not happy, we're going to keep changing until we're happy.
Are you going to stick with Young Circles for a while?
Yeah, Young Circles is it. We've been feeling around for years trying to decide what we wanted to do. Nobody knows this, but Stonefox didn't start off as a garage rock band. The first Stonefox release, if you listen to it -- which nobody has -- the first album has like, two garage songs, maybe. The rest were very strange, psychedelic songs, but then we lost that, because we had to live up to this garage rock 'n' roll motif that we placed there for ourselves.
Well, you were doing electronic music before Stonefox, right, while Dave and Jeff were doing experimental music?
We were doing a bunch of stuff, and we listen to all kinds of music. I just got tired of playing garage rock 'n' roll. That's the problem with me -- I get bored very easily and move on very quickly. That's just the way I am; my ear's always getting tuned to different things.
I think that's the good thing about Young Circles. It allows us all to go through our whims and changes and still be Young Circles, because that's the point. If people don't like it, we don't care.
And you're still a three-piece?
Technically, yes, but David has left the band, and we're a five-piece live band now. But our good friend Antonio is now an official member, but it's really me and Jeff writing the songs. There are two other guys playing live with us right now. We have one person on guitar and organ, another guy on bass, and everybody plays drums at different times in the set.
When did you guys record the full length?
I'd say the earliest recording session for it went back to like a week after the Bones EP, when we recorded the first song for it, "Jungle Habits," early last November. Then I recorded "Love Hitch" in December, and the rest we pretty much recorded in a week pulling all-nighters in Jeff's house, recording almost 24 hours a day.
When you started this new project, did you have the specific musical direction in mind, or was it just serendipitous how it came out?
I think the best part is we didn't have a musical direction when we started out. We were just so sick of what we were doing. I hate the guitar right now; it doesn't inspire me, and I know the same six chords are going to come out over and over again. I'm not saying I want to switch to synth or piano; I just want to find new sounds.
So I think that was the first step, just dropping the guitar. After that, I took it a step further and just said, how can I make a guitar not sound like a guitar? Most of the sounds on the Bones EP are guitar noises, but you'd never know it, because I did things to deconstruct them, with analog pedals and samples and anything else.
So are you still writing the songs, essentially, on a guitar?
Yeah, certain things are always going to be written on a guitar. Most of it, honestly, is acoustic guitar that I've made sound like something else. The recording process is honestly the most interesting part about this band, because that's where everything takes shape.
This record is also the first with real strings on it. We had a violinist come in and lay some down on like three songs. It's adding a whole new dimension to our band that we didn't even see coming.
Have you found it difficult to reproduce the songs live?
Absolutely not. I'm always ten steps ahead of what we're doing, which is why we needed more people. The three of us were making these landscapes that we couldn't re-create with just us playing without a backing track, which would be fucking lame. So we're just adding people that we know and trust and are into the music, and they're playing the parts we played on the album. If it eventually takes even more people, then who gives a fuck? It'll be like the Arcade Fire.
How is the sound on the full length different from the sound on the EP? And for someone who's heard neither, how would you describe your sound in general?
Well, for people who have heard it, I think the best compliment I've gotten so far, which actually wasn't a compliment, was, "Damn, I thought you guys were gonna start it with a bang." Which to me means it sounds different from what we were doing before. I guess I would just describe it as Young Circles defining what we sound like. We're not trying to sound like this band or that band.
I can't describe it musically because it does have a little bit of everything, but I think the common thread is drums, beats you can dance to, things that you can groove to, things that you can escape through. It's got everything on there.
Even though it's really different from what you were doing before, yo've been pretty much the chief songwriter throughout all these projects. So what do you think is the common thread in your personal songwriting from Stonefox on to Young Circles?
I don't think it's a thread now as much as it's just a learning curve. With having Stonefox under our belt and being a garage-rock band for so long, we learned how to put on an exciting live show. If anything, that's what I'm taking from the most. We've learned when to appropriately rock out now.
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There aren't many moments on this album where we're balls-out rocking out, which is fine by me, but the live show is going to be exciting. If we played some of these songs exactly as we played them on the album, people would get bored.
For example, there's this section at the end of the song "Dreams" on the album where it breaks down as a folky acoustic jam with strings and stuff. Live, we're making it more exciting. We add drums to it, and it blows up into this big finale for the song, instead of kind of dying down. So the common thread, I would say, is we learned when to be exciting and put on a big show.
So when are you going to play live to air out the new material?
We're playing on July 15 at Propaganda with Jeff's old band, Goolsby. Then on July 23, we're playing at Green Room by ourselves, with a cool burlesque show going on. Then we're going on the road for about a week, playing Spike Hill in Brooklyn on July 27, then Piano's on July 28, and back down in time for our CD-release party at the Vagabond in Miami on August 19.