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Traveling Circle - Escape From Black Cloud (2012) review & interview

Traveling Circle was formed around 2006. Trio of musicians from Brooklyn New York combine many different genres. From soft hypnotic melodies to heavier songs. Their influences come from obscure psych gems to anything they find interesting enough. Back in 2010 they released on a German based label Nasoni an LP called “Handmade House”, which was a wonderful blend of psychedelia and heavier parts. They have just released a brand new album called “Escape From Black Cloud”. Tell us guys, what the title means to you?

Josh: It means let's get out of here!!!

By the way, thanks very much for giving us the chance to discuss our record on "It's Psychedelic Baby!"

Dylan: We were trying to come up with the name over some steins at Radergast Beer Hall in Brooklyn and this one came out of nowhere. We just thought it had a nice ring. It sort of has that Native American vibe and seems to tell a story.

Charlie: I’m not totally sure but didn’t this come from a dream you had Josh? Those giant beers make for a foggy memory.

Josh: An ecstatic fever dream!

What would you say is the main difference between your “Handmade House” and “Escape From Black Cloud”? You told in the interview we did, that “Handmade House” is the first chapter of Traveling Circle. All the songs were chosen by Carola, who is the owner of Nasoni Records in Berlin. Now, I think with the second LP out you became more specifically directed into certain direction. What do you think? What can you tell us about writing and recording your latest LP?

Josh: Yes, Carola picked the tracks for Handmade House from two studio sessions we did with Mitch Rackin at Seaside Lounge in Brooklyn. I am really happy with her choices though and I think it is a better record for her editing. We are so happy to work with Nasoni. There are some gems that didn't make the album though. We would really like to get out a single called "Tie A Bow." We still play it. I agree with you on the direction of the new record. I think with this record we get into some really pure territory in terms of our sound. I love the first record too though.

Dylan: Carola gave us complete autonomy on the second album. We handed her the tracks and she really didn’t have any issues with what we put on the table. It all seemed to gel quite easily. In terms of our writing process, it was all pretty natural. We just went with what we were feeling. We wanted to capture that moment of discovery on tape, as it happened. It isn’t terribly overwritten or tampered with. It’s just true to what came out in the moment. As a general rule, I prefer to keep fussiness out of the equation.

Charlie: We had a less is more approach on Escape From Black Cloud. I think there was an underlying consensus to keep things simple and succinct but the process of working out the songs was all very loose.

I believe, the cover artwork was made again by your friend and artists Erin Klauk, right?

Josh: Yes, Erin did the cover for this one too. I love it! We also have photography from Alexandra Zorbas-Maiden on the back cover and insert poster. We rely heavily on our talented pals!

Charlie: They’re the best!

I don’t want to go into details regarding the songs. I think it's to hard to talk about individual pieces. Tracks probably represent just pure joy and creativity of Traveling Circle with no special meaning or leds to concept…
I find the band getting into much more darker approach in writing songs. Would you agree or am I wrong? Is there any special cause to this change or it all just came naturally.

Josh: Escape From Black Cloud definitely has a darker sound. For starters, Dylan brought in some really fantastic material and that is sort of the core of this record. I approached my drums from a different angle as well. Maybe a little less fill driven in favor instead of generating a pulse. Sort of based on Spacemen 3 guitar effects. Like a Vox Repeat Percussion effect but drums. Charlie always has a very musical approach so I focused more on providing a pulse and building a frame. I think by the time we had these songs somewhat polished it was clear it had a darker feel. We approached the recording with that pretty well established. It is certainly a more bass heavy and darker mix. My first inclination is usually that bass would be low in the mix, sort of as the foundation, but here Charlie is fairly up front and it really adds to the feel of this record. The whole thing is pretty reverby and delay heavy. This one is a real spacey head pumper!

Charlie: We’ve always had a dark element to our music and we drifted more in that direction while working on these songs. I don’t think it was a conscious decision but once we recognized that we were headed that way we embraced it.

We think, the second album is even better than the first one and much more original and shows some interesting ideas you should explore more. For those who enjoy classic psychedelia with some modern touches and perhaps some heavier parts this album will be a killer. How are you guys satisfied with the result?

Charlie: I’m glad you like it! I’m very happy with this one. I think we were able to solidify our own distinct style.

Dylan: Escape From Black Cloud demonstrates a new level of maturity both in our sound and in the way we write together. We explored many new environments and melodic textures. It may not be apparent to others, but for me, this album has many underlying dimensions of experimentation. On the surface it may seem to be a nod to the classics. But we are anything but blatant, as this album contains many cosmic accents that allude to the future.

Josh: Thanks! I love it! It is the sort of record I always wanted to be part of. I think there might be a thing or two I would change if we had unlimited resources, but unlimited resources could just as easily ruin a record too. I hope people will check it out. I think we are all proud of it and we enjoyed making it together.

For the end I'd like to ask you if there will be any tour in support of the new LP?

Josh: We have listening parties coming up in New York, Sydney and San Francisco. San Francisco is set for Sunday, February 10th at Laszlo on Mission between 22nd and 21st Streets. We played on the West Coast for the first time recently. We would really like to do a larger tour and especially to come to Europe. If any somewhat more known bands want to have us along let us know! If we could get a few festival spots, that could be a great foundation for trip to Europe too. Metelkova sounds awesome! We will have to work harder to set something up. Thanks again for conducting this interview!

Interview made by Klemen Breznikar/2013
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