Circa Waves explain new single ‘Jacqueline’ and their two-sided new album for 2020, ‘Sad/Happy’

Frontman Kieran Shudall tells us everything about 'Sad/Happy' and why he's voting Labour in the General Election

As the pop world spins ever faster, with albums making one-week impacts then disappearing into the ether, you’ve got to sprint to keep up. One solution? The Foals Method, AKA putting out two connected albums six months or so apart. Double the publicity, double the impact. All you need now is a relatable millennial theme to link the records together. On Foals’ ‘Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost’, it was the acceleration of climate change and its aftermath. For The 1975, on their ‘Music For Cars’ project, it appears to be a portrait of modern online malaise.

Liverpool guitar pop firebrands Circa Waves own take on the double header album comes with ‘Happy’ at the start of 2020, side one of their new album which will combine with its more sullen sister-piece ‘Sad’ to make a full album a few months later. But the two halves aren’t as easily defined as the titles suggest; there’s plenty of upbeat sounds on both, only the tone is different. “It’s more the vibe of the lyrics,” frontman Kieran Shudall explains. “I’ve always been a fan of sad euphoria…”.

Is the ‘Happy’ side of the album going to be relentless joyous, just smashing us full in the face with positivity?

Kieran: “Potentially, yeah! You might feel too happy at the end of listening to it! It’s positive but if there’s anything the world needs now it’s positivity. I think the job of a band is to entertain and pull people out of living the everyday 9-to-5. The ‘Happy’ side is the antidote to the terrible things going on today.”

So is the ‘Sad’ side relating to the state of the world?


“It’s a bit more personal. A lot of the sad things on the ‘Sad’ side are to do with me being a young man growing up and the anxieties, and the strangeness of growing older. There’s a song called ‘Birthday Cake’ – I think the celebration of growing older is always an odd thing. You’re one year closer to death, to be morbid about it, but you’re also in a celebration. That duality always interested me. Being a man in his early 30s is a strange time, there’s a lot of things changing and you’re leaving that happy-go-lucky period of your life, maybe. There’s a lot about that.”

“I kind of feel like this is our ‘Rubber Soul’ in a way – Kieran Shudall

What was the thinking behind releasing the album in two distinct halves?

“We were inspired by how quickly pop and hip-hop move and didn’t want to be left behind. We felt like alternative music needed a quicker turnaround. People tend to consume music at such a high rate now. An album, as soon as it’s released, it’s kind of done with and people expect the next thing.”

The influence of Foals, Two Door Cinema Club and Vampire Weekend is shot through the record…

“I think this amalgamation of big influences like Vampire Weekend and Foals and Arctic Monkeys and The Strokes. We’ve developed that now into what I think is something that’s quite unique. If you look back at the great bands, they had longevity, like The Beatles. They were always progressing. I kind of feel like this is our ‘Rubber Soul’ in a way.

“We’re pushing forward and trying new things. I’ve listened to a lot more Gorillaz and Drake, a lot more electronic drum references penetrated the record. We love making pop music and we love making guitar music but we want to push things forward, we don’t just wanna do stale old guitar music and watch it die. We wanna make guitar music that excites people.”

There’s a song on ‘Happy’ called ‘Jacqueline’ that reads like a message of support to someone going through a tough time. True story?

“It’s about a struggling mother who I knew who was extremely sleep-deprived and going through a really hard time with a newborn. Because the song was quite upbeat sounding I wanted to write something that was quite real, something to mothers saying ‘you’re doing something crazy and amazing so let’s celebrate that a little bit’. Since writing that song I’ve had a baby myself, so now I can relate to my own song even more. You don’t hear many pop, indie, upbeat bangers about young mothers.”

‘Move To San Fran’ suggests that, actually, you wouldn’t want to move to San Francisco. Why not?


“I don’t want to offend the people of San Francisco, but I find San Francisco beautiful and quite horrible in the same way. It’s the closest I’ve ever seen pure capitalism and pure poverty so close to each other. You can turn the corner and see some of the richest people and the most incredible buildings and around the next corner there’s 100 tents of homeless people. It was quite a shock to the system.”

When you see the NHS being destroyed by the Tories it’s really upsetting – Kieran Shudall

Over on ‘Sad’ there’s ‘Wake Up Call’, a diary of a booze-sodden deadbeat – is this a wake-up call to yourself? 

“It’s definitely about me more than anything. It’s self-deprecation, which I tend to write about a lot because I’m growing older and the anxieties of life make you worry and hope you’re doing the right thing. You want to be a good person but it’s not always easy for that to be the case. It’s just a way of saying ‘I’m doing my best’.”

You’ve previously been quite a politically outspoken band. How do you feel the election is going so far?

“We’ve always been a pretty Corbyn-heavy band – I don’t follow it as much as I should but I’ll still be voting Labour. We feel passionate about looking after everybody in the country and not just looking after number one, which seems to be the case with other political parties.”

Have you been following the threat to the NHS from a US trade deal?

“I know that there’s been talk of selling stuff off. Anyone trying to monetise health I think is the devil. But you only have to watch one of the Big Pharma documentaries on Netflix, people finding ways to make money off sick people, and when the NHS is involved in that, which is a thing we’ve built up and created and what makes us so proud to be British. When you see that being destroyed by the Tories it’s really upsetting.”

Are you a fan of Extinction Rebellion?

“When it’s done properly it can be really good and useful and climate change is obviously the biggest thing we need to be talking about now, so it’s great that they’re in the public eye. I think they need to do the protests properly and not affect working people who are just regular folk who have to get to work. Jumping on top of their trains is probably not a good idea. But as far as the message goes, of protesting to try to push forward positive changes in climate change, that’s a good message.”

Catch Circa Waves on tour in the UK next spring. The full dates are as follows:

March 2020
27 – Glasgow, O2 Academy
28 – Stoke, Keele University
30 – Cardiff, Tramshed
31 – Leicester, O2 Academy

April 2020 
2 – Norwich, Waterfront
3 – London, O2 Academy Brixton
4 – Liverpool, Mountford Hall