Circa Waves return today (August 28) with joyous new single ‘Lemonade’, assisted by Alfie Templeman on vocals. Started over two years ago, and tinkered with since then, the track gained a new lease of life and a new meaning during the recent period of enforced lockdown.
“It was a very Postal Service scenario,” frontman Kieran Shuddall tells NME of the track’s recording process, referencing Death Cab For Cutie singer Ben Gibbard’s side-project with Jimmy Tamborello – in which the pair famously posted each other tapes up and down the west coast of the USA to create their sole studio album, 2003’s ‘Give Up’, and ended up naming the project after the institution.
“I’d be on the phone to [Circa Waves guitarist] Joe [Falconer] saying, ‘Can you send me your guitar part?’ and he’d email me the part, and Sam would then send over the bass,” Shuddall remembers. “Colin [Jones, drummer] would record drums in his friend’s garage and send me them. It was the only way we could do it. It was in the time of full-on isolation, so it could only sound like this.”
NME called Shuddall and Templeman to discuss the creation of ‘Lemonade’ and the message behind the track, as well as how they’ve been coping in lockdown.
Hello chaps! How are you spending your respective lockdowns this week?
Kieran Shuddall, Circa Waves: “We’ve just done our first rehearsal since COVID. We’ve been in a van together for seven years and now hadn’t seen each other for six months!”
Alfie Templeman: “I’ve got a new hobby while I’ve been at home since March. Every day, I get a piece of paper and just write down every single US state. I’m not sure why, but it’s stopping me from going completely nuts. I’m going to get onto every country in the world next… it’ll prepare me for when I’m allowed to go on tour again.”
Kieran, you released your new album ‘Sad Happy‘ just a week or so before lockdown. That must have been surreal?
Kieran: “We were in the middle of our instore album tour and we were in Sheffield and had just soundchecked… and then Boris said that everyone needs to fuck off home. It was strange, and when we got top five [in the album charts], we’d have normally gone out to have a drink and celebrate, but I think I had a curry and went to bed!”
And now you’re back with new single ‘Lemonade’ with Alfie joining you on vocals – tell us a bit about how that came together…
Kieran: “It’s been a long process, over about two years. It solidified with being at home [during lockdown], and the chorus of ‘we thought we’d be doing something great by now’ resonated more so than it ever had. I’d been writing the verses over a year or so, and it finally came into its own when I was in isolation, and it started to mean a lot more.
“The song has been a bit prophetic in a sense. It’s almost as if I felt what the nation now feels, months before it all happened. This feeling of imagining that you’d be doing something better than what you’re doing at the time… I think everyone has that sense all the time anyway, thinking that life should be a bit more interesting than it is, and Corona has just put a massive magnifying glass on that.”
And what made you reach out to Alfie to add guest vocals?
Kieran: “I have been bowled over by his talent, and the new stuff he’s releasing now. He plays loads of instruments and produces his own music. I thought, ‘This lad’s fucking incredible’. I was chatting away to him anyway, and asked if he fancied singing on the song. He happened to like Circa Waves anyway, so said yes, and it all happened very quickly from there. I love having Alfie on the song, and it makes me listen to it in a different way, because I’m not listening for mistakes in my own voice – I can actually just enjoy it.”
Alfie: “Kieran just sent it to me and said, ‘Just give it a go’. It was really cool because we’re both producers so it’s always nice to just mess around and give each other song ideas. We do it quite a lot now. He just asked me to sing some lyrics, and so I did it in five minutes.”
Alfie, what were your first impressions of the song when you were asked to hop on?
Alfie: “It’s one of these songs – and Radiohead do this so well, too – where you can’t quite tell if it’s sad or happy… which I guess makes sense given that [Circa Waves] have literally just made an album called ‘Sad Happy’. I think they’re really good at that, and [Kieran] is great at hitting that spot in the middle, where it can go both ways. If you’re in a good mood, you can listen to it, but if you’re more upset and low, it works as well. It’s hitting all the spots.”
What is the message you want people to take from ‘Lemonade’?
Kieran: “Most of the time when I write songs, I don’t know what they’re about for a long time, but with this song, I want everyone to feel like we’re all in the same position. The feeling of not quite knowing what’s going on, or where you want to be in life, is a universal thing. Even if there are people who seem like they’ve got it all figured out, that’s not true. Someone might look at Circa Waves and think, ‘I want to do that, and be in a band that tours and releases records’, but even we are sat here thinking, ‘What the fuck are we going to do after the next record?’ Nobody really has their shit together, and it’s quite a nice relief to actually say that, and admit that you’re not really sure.”
Alfie: “It’s one of those songs where you can take many meanings out of it. You can pick your own meaning! I think the most important thing, to me, is that it’s telling everyone that we’re all in it together. Even though it feels like everyone’s distanced from each other at the moment, it’s OK to not be OK, and we’ve all got this. We’ll come out of it in one piece if we just remember to look out for and look after one another. That’s what the song is to me.”
‘Lemonade’ is out now.