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March 10, 2004

{     Interview : Circulatory System     }    

Last month, after being out of print for nearly five years, the Olivia Tremor Control's Music from the Unrealized Film Script Dusk at Cubist Castle was reissued by Cloud Recordings, the label founded by OTC members Will Hart and John Fernandes. On March 16, the band's second full-length album, Black Foliage, will also again be on store shelves (though, for those of you who need to get it now, it is presently available through Cloud.) Both albums are simply masterpieces of pop songs and sound collage, a perfect mix of laid-back melodies and abrupt loops and effects, summertime symphonies and sonic experimentation. Beautiful. Before OTC fans had much time to lament the loss of the group, who went on an (ongoing) hiatus following the collapse of their then-label Flydaddy, Hart, Fernandes, and other members of the band had formed Circulatory System, who released their self-titled debut in 2001. CS lacks the light-hearted effervescence present in many OTC songs, but is instead deeper and dreamier, a collection of contrasts: half awake and half asleep, dense and whispery, lyrically dark at times but always with a gentle reminder of joy and hope, like a glimpse of sunlight under water. And they totally rock live.

John Fernandes recently took time out from label, band, job and parenting responsibilities to answer a few questions about label problems, tours, and upcoming band and label projects, and we are so and forever grateful for all the typing he has done.

Sarah: How long have Dusk at Cubist Castle & Black Foliage been out of print?
John Fernandes: "Dusk..." and "Black Foliage" were out of print since Flydaddy filed for bankruptcy in 1999.

What did you have to go through to be able to rerelease them yourselves?
Strangely enough, we ended up paying Flydaddy $4000 for the rights to our albums, even though they hadn't paid us for 40,000 records sold in '98-'99.

There has been mention of a rarities CD coming out later this year. Any hint as to what's going to be on it?
There is tons of stuff to go through, but for sure we are going to put "Trilogy" and the full "Sky is a Harpsichord Canvas" which were left off of the albums because of time constraints. We are also going to try to bring back the Olivia Tremor Control / Black Swan Network EP, as well as a bunch of material that we recorded for an EP that we were going to put out before Black Foliage, but never finished.

Are you planning a tour sometime soon?
We don't have anything planned right now other than a show at the 40 Watt on March 20th with Sunshine Fix, and a show at Wake Forest on April 24th.

On the last tour, you performed "The Opera House," which was just a blast. Have you talked of doing any OTC songs, especially with a new crowd exposed to the music?
I hope we can get together and play some of that stuff again soon, but we don't have any plans at this time.

What is the new Circulatory System album going to be like?
The new album features a lot of the songs that we were playing on the last couple of tours. Will is writing tons of great stuff all the time, so sometimes the hardest part is whittling it down to just an album. We are sort of working on two albums at the moment.

What's it been like having your own label now & being more in control of your own releases?
It's exciting, there are tons of things we want to put out, if only I had a little more time to devote to the label. Sometimes it's hard to get everything together with the band and the label because we are all working day jobs right now, and it's hard to make everybody's schedules match. I can't wait till we can be one of those bands whose only job is to make a new album ...

From recording the recording of the last Circulatory System album--how have things changed? Obviously you're a different band now in that Bill Doss is doing his own music with the Sunshine Fix, but I mean technically, mentally, how has the approach changed? Shane, creator of the Crown Dozen website, envisioned the making of Dusk... like: "like were they all just living in a big house; waking up, getting some coffee, waking someone else up, sticking a mic under the fridge, record some piano?" (ah, legend!) Was it like that, and if it was, is it still?
Oh yeah, "Dusk" was put together over a month long period in Robert Schneider's studio in Denver. Those were great days, all of us sleeping on the floor of the studio - waking up, picking up instruments, and playing and recording until we went to sleep again. One of us would walk to the super market every couple of days for food, but other than that, nobody went anywhere until we were done. I guess we do have to thank Flydaddy for giving us the money that allowed us to do that, because now it's different in that it takes a lot longer because we keep running out of money while we are recording, have to save up to get what we need, and then get back to work.

Also, kind of related to that...Circulatory System seems to be, more so than OTC, almost entirely Will Hart. How much does everyone contribute, lyrically and musically?
Will writes all the songs for Circulatory System, and then we add things to them. With The Olivia Tremor Control, Will and Bill wrote most the songs, with Pete contributing "I Have Been Floated" and Eric and I contributing instrumental bits, and other sections.

You've released an album by A Hawk and a Hacksaw, & are distributing a disc by Tetsu Inoue (thank you, by the way, I really love his work). Do you have plans to release any works by other artists soon? What can we expect?
We are going to be releasing a record by Griffin Rodriguez under the name Icy Demons on May 3rd. He is a great bass player (acoustic and electric) and a brilliant producer / sound engineer. We are also expanding the Distributed Titles section of the Cloud Recordings website, to include some of our favorite hard-to-find music.

You've toured so much during the past few years and have been so many places...what places/images/experiences stand out the most? Is there anywhere you haven't been that you would like to go? (The staff of Crowndozen, located in or coming from eastern KY and WV, strongly encourage visiting our corner of Appalachia.)
On the last Circulatory System tour, the show at St. Andrews Hall in Detroit was a ton of fun. On all the Olivia Tremor Control and Circulatory System tours, we have always stayed with people everywhere we go instead of getting hotels - there are so many kind and wonderful people that it is hard to single out.

Have you thought of doing any more videos? (see the video for "Should a Cloud Replace a Compass?" on the Cloud Recordings site.)
We should definitely do some new films for the upcoming releases.

I've noticed that you haven't done many covers, or at least released many---I guess three as OTC and not any from CS...Is that something you avoid doing, prefer not to do, or just haven't gotten around to?
We've never gotten into playing covers because it seems like so much work to figure out how to play somebody else's songs, and it's a bunch easier to play our own.

John - Have you ever written and/or recorded anything of your own?
I've never done a 'solo' project, but I contributed some pieces to the Black Swan Network CD (the first three pieces), and some sections to the Olivia Tremor Control records. Eric was a master at synchronizing things we had recorded separately at home with the master 8-track tapes. He'd learn the response time of each machine, then ride the pitch wheel to keep them together. Now that I know what can be done with computers, it sort of blows my mind when I listen back to "Black Foliage" because we did that whole record completely on analog equipment. We chopped tape, synchronized machines, and all had to stand around the mixing board, with ten hands on the knobs - everybody with a certain task "...when it gets to 1 minute 37 seconds pull in track 6 and fly it over the the left speaker, back to the right, and then fade it out by the time it hits 2 minutes 10 seconds...", etc. Oh yeah, I was excited to see my name listed as "Composer" a couple of weeks ago when I did some music for a modern dance performance that my wife choreographed. Man that was such a thrill, I think I'm hooked - I definitely want to do that again.

Interview conducted by Sarah Akers who lives in North Carolina, has a rabbit nose, and crayons for fingers.

    » Order from the Olivia Tremor Control and Circulatory System
    » Art by Will Hart and Hannah Jones
    » More info about these and other Elephant6 bands


beautiful. good people make good music and good people conduct good interviews with good people who make good music.

Posted by: adam at March 16, 2004 12:10 AM

Well done. I cannot wait until they tour. Lexington again, PLEASE! And if they need a place to stay, I promise to shake my piggybank really hard until I can buy a house with cloud carpet and rainbow mirrors.

Thanks, Sarah.

Posted by: Greg at March 18, 2004 3:15 PM

Thanks, Greg! I'll be in Kentucky when CS is going to be in Wake Forest, which is sad in a minor way, but while I'm back in town, I hope that we can have a bake sale (a far-out psychedelic bake sale, you bet) to help jump-start your fantastic house plan. But I bet they'd come anyway if they'd see your great birthday cake picture. And you know they'd love your parents. They would totally kill us at the role-playing game, though, we wouldn't stand a chance.

Posted by: sarah at March 18, 2004 3:49 PM
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