Interview: Colin Frangicetto /// Circa Survive & Psychic Babble
Colin Frangicetto has always been a personal inspiration for me. It was right around my freshman year in high school when I first heard of him. It was at the beginning of the band Circa Survive’s life, a now thriving force in the music scene. Colin was regularly posting entries on the bands website, which was more of a tour diary it seemed. I remember feeling really connected to him and the band. I can recall him writing about life on tour, it was my first look into the “on the road” lifestyle and it enthralled me. It was the personal, in depth, honest writing that he and the rest of the band did that really made me fall in love with music. Eight years later I was lucky enough to get Colin on the phone and ask him what has been itching at me for years. This interview took place in March of 2012. Colin was juggling his successful art career, his solo music ventures under the moniker “Psychic Babble”, and at the time of the call had taken a break from tracking the now popular Circa album “Violent Waves”. Some of it may be a bit out dated, but the conversation went as follows. (Interview conducted by Tim Brown)
First off, tell me your name and what bands or projects you’re involved with.
My names Colin and I am in Circa Survive and I paint stuff and I have a solo thing called Psychic Babble.
You’ve been involved music for a while; walk through how you got yourself into music.
I think I was like 13 and I started playing my dads guitar, he had a guitar lying around, he used to be a band a long time ago when he was in his 20’s. He knew I was getting into rock and he was like “Use this.” It was a Strat I was just messing around with it and then I guess when I started middle school is when I met friends who were into music too. When I was in elementary school and I would start to get into Pearl Jam and stuff when they first came out with Ten. Everyone in elementary school was awesome at sports so I was kind of like, the weirdo and then once I got to middle school I met some other weirdo’s and we started jamming. One of them had a drum set; I think everyone had guitars and shit. I don’t think we even had a bass. But it kind of started to spiral from there. Everyone I had met started to be like “What are you listening to?” or “What do you play?” and then it’s like “Oh, you want to start a band?” and by the time I was 15 I was probably in like four bands at any given time. I think that’s just the way a lot of people get into it when you’re younger. I guess when it got serious was more like 16ish. The band I was in was called Yellow Five. Our guitar player’s dad was a friend with a guy who had a studio, which was kind of crazy for me, but yeah so we wound up recording our first set. And that was the first crazy experience that I had was going into the studio at like 15 or 16 and like having my mind blown about how to record stuff. By the time I was a junior in high school I was in This Day Forward. And I had gotten into Minor Threat and all that stuff like punk and more aggressive stuff. And some guys wanted to play like Converge style stuff and that’s what I wanted at the time. So like in gym class they had said they needed a drummer and I was like well I played snare drum in middle school so I could probably play drums. And plus my neighbor had given me a drum set for my birthday. So I just started learning how to play the set. And we were a band for like a year and you know the hardcore community was so easy to fall into. If you wanted to play you just had to like start e-mailing around and you find people who put on shows in halls and stuff. By the time it was graduation it was like go to school during the week and Friday would come and we would jump in our cars and drive to wherever it was we were playing. Sometimes that was all the way to Florida from Pennsylvania so we would drive Friday night Saturday during the day, get there Saturday night and play the show then drive all the way and miss a day of school, you know? It was crazy. It was an obsession. And all of us worked part time jobs during the week and saved up and when summer came we would just self-book all across the U.S. and it was how we spent our summers, and our money haha. And from then on it just kept growing you know, playing shows in Upstate New York and start catching the ears of people who put on Hell Fest and stuff like that. We were on some local label called Break Even and they like pressed a thousand tapes for us and we never thought we would sell more than a hundred and we ended up selling out within like 6 months. Then Eulogy came around with an actual record deal and from there it just took off. It was more serious and touring nonstop during the summer. By the time we were out of school it was just constantly on our minds like “Should we do this full time?”. We were thinking; Poison the Well and From Autumn to Ashes and Thursday all of our friends’ bands were going full time and hitting huge. And we were like “Yeah let’s go full time, not to get rich just to do it as a job. Make shitty money doing this and it’ll be great.” So we did that for a few years.
That actually leads great into my next question; when was it clear to you that this would be a career for you?
Well you know its weird because the first inclination to try it was certainly not confirmed with any amazing result. For This Day Forward, our last album was on Equal Vision. EV bought us out of our Eulogy deal and that’s when we decided to go full time. At that point I was in community college and doing This Day Forward part time and going to school full time and I was actually going to community college in Philly and wound up getting an internship working in NY for Roadrunner Records and I kind of finagled my way into getting double credits for it. So I got credits for that and some online courses and bam I was a full time student living in New York City getting a community college degree which felt like the biggest scam ever but I totally pulled it off. It was incredible I met so many people and the hunger to do music full time really blossomed. Seeing all these shitty bands doing it and being fine, I was like “Well we’re good, we can do this.” But touring a year straight for our last album wasn’t really received well by our fan base. They just wanted the chugging breakdowns and we were getting into more structured songwriting with melodies and stuff. That was the year we decided to get a booking agent and a lawyer and step it up but it was so daunting to be on the road. We were on the biggest tour we could ever imagine if you’re a hardcore fan. It was the Take Action Tour with Poison the Well and Shadows Fall and all these huge bands for like 2,500 people, but we sold like one cd and one t-shirt a night and it was like oh we can’t do this. So a year of that put a damper on it for everybody and at that point it was like well we’ve been a band for 6 or 7 years and only full time for a year but it was obvious that it was punishing us and completely ruining our friendships so we just decided to kill that band. It was pretty shattering. Putting all your time and all your soul into something and suddenly its gone. For me I was like I don’t know if I want to do something like that again. So I was writing music on the side and doing it for fun, and maybe 6 months later Anthony [Green] is calling me asking to hang out. We had been buds for a long time and he just popped the question of like “Hey I’m gonna quit my band that’s about to be huge and instead to a project with you, how does that sound?” And I was kind of like why the hell would you do that you idiot. Because to me, I was such a big supporter of him from day one. He was always one of my favorite singers since I met him and Audience of One, his first band; we played tons of tours with them. And after he was getting clean and stuff I was just like “Man, if he can get his shit together…” and when I heard the Saosin demos I was like “This is going to be massive, it’s going to be fucking huge” and when he told me he wanted to quit I was like dude just stick it out because the Anthony I knew was always getting scaring and bailing on things and stuff so I though it was one of those things. He was like “No, we don’t have a lot in common and they want different things from me and I just want to be home and make music with people I love” and he was like “if I quit though then you gotta do this for real with me.” and I didn’t even really give it a though I was like “Yup, okay.” I was kind of betting on him not doing it and less than a week later he totally quit mid flight going back to California to meet back with them, turned around and came home and we started Circa Survive the next day just me and him. And I think within a month or so we were signed to Equal Vision just the two of us without a band and we were getting members and stuff. Crazy.
Life for a musician in that first early band can definitely be daunting at times, so how did it feel to experience the massive breakthrough of Circa, especially since it was made on a gamble in the first place.
Right, it was probably one of the best feelings that I’ve ever had in my life. I mean basically like I said that whole situation with This Day Forward, getting the chance to have all we wanted and then it turned out no its just a band, it isn’t going to work like that was a huge sense of rejection. I remember being on the tour that we all dubbed the “Scrape Across America Tour” like the whole tour sucked. It was tanking, there was nobody coming to the shows. And then down in California we played Chain Reaction and it was sold out. We thought it was the best thing ever that could happen. And so they’re all in there and everybody’s watching the first band, and then the whole place empties out while we play. We played for like three people, you know. And that was just kind of like we couldn’t catch a break that was just the way things went. So then fast forward like a year and a half later, after Circa had made our first record [Juturna], but it wasn’t out yet. And we out on our first tour, we were with Bear vs. Shark and Gatsby’s American Dream and we were back at Chain Reaction. And we were the opening band and honestly, that same thing happened but in reverse. Everyone came, it was always sold out and we opened the shows, and they were the craziest shows that we had played to date at that point. And it felt like “Holy shit this is real, things are really happening”. We only had two songs out on the Internet that people even knew but you know the whole crowd was just going insane the entire time and as soon as we were done playing, everyone left. And it was like the complete reversal in the same exact spot that it had happened previously and it just felt like…I felt horrible for Bear vs. Shark and Gatsby’s but it felt so good to know that it was working and that just kind of escalated from then on. Our first two tours, we were just that band. We were the opening band getting paid like a hundred bucks a night but we were selling out the shows and people were just leaving after us. And it just felt really badass to be that band.
Circa is known for having a really passionate fan base. When you were growing up did you feel that same way about any bands?
Man, so many. I think the ones that have really stuck around for me are bands like Radiohead and Pearl Jam. There’s a lot more but it has kind of morphed because a lot of the bands that I was such a fan of when I was younger I’ve become peers with. Bands like Saves the Day and Thursday and stuff, bands that I’ve looked up to forever eventually became our schools in a way. I’m still a total fan of them, but not in the same way I look up to like Pearl Jam or Radiohead or like Bjork; artists that blow my mind consistently that I don’t have a personal relationship with. It’s the same thing with Dredg. We listened to El Cielo like everyday when we were writing Juturna. Never even imagining that our first big support tour would be opening for them. And again never imagining that five years after that we would take them out on tour. And then that I would do an art show with Drew, their bassist, who’s one of my favorite visual artists. It’s crazy the shit that can happen once you get a confidence and start to build on it and you have a fan base that follows you. It’s just a wild ride.
Circa shows have gotten a good name for being really high energy and a bit crazy. What’s it like to be on the stage, on the other side of the craziness that you guys are creating?
It’s really one of the things I’m most thankful for. As an artist and as a person. I look forward to those spans of time when we’re headlining to our crowds. Don’t get me wrong; opening for a bigger band is always cool and really exciting. But when I know we’re going out for like 6 weeks and we’re headlining so it’s just going to be mostly Circa fans, I know what to expect in a way. Like the energy that’s thrown at us every night. It is so amazingly supportive, passionate, and just dedicated. Every tour gets bigger, and any day where I’m nervous about like turnout or anything like that it always washes away. Like what was I ever worried about. Like now we don’t really worry, we just do our thing. It seems like things are just still in a natural steady incline of healthy growth. Nothing like “We’re going to become buzz band of the week!” or anything like that. And that’s what we want. We want to be that band that organically grows. It was fast at the beginning but now everything has sort of leveled out and I feel like it’s just a very natural thing that we have. But our shows are just so therapeutic. For us and I hope our fans. Like, when my wife was first coming to our shows she was like “Oh my god, I cant understand how people would subject themselves to that kind of shit on purpose. And love it so much.” And one step further she’s like “I can’t believe what Anthony does. Like, letting a million people touch him all the time and just being completely one with them” And I think know she has a total different appreciation where she sees that it is like that. We do try to let down all those barriers and sometimes it’s just a fun rock show but sometimes its borderline spiritual experience. That’s the best it can be. At its worst it’s a fucking wild ass good time. Of all the bad shows I’ve played being in different bands, Circa’s bad shows are most band’s good shows. Our standards have been relentlessly raised over and over again and I think now the confidence carries so much. You let go of the worry and become part of the show and make it something special for everyone involved. Were in a really good spot with it.
Touring is something that artists strive for early on. After years it can get pretty daunting though. What’s something about touring that will never get old for you?
For me, something that won’t get old is just performing. Because every show can have this unique identity as a stand out time like this is when this happened or that’s the night this happened but ultimately it never really feels bad to have that relief. But there is plenty of shit that does get old. But the release we get from performing will never. And I think just the activity and traveling the world with your best friends it pretty awesome regardless.
Speaking of that, Circa recently went for a run down in Australia. How did that go?
It was incredible. It was our second time there and the tour went so well, so much better than we ever could have imagined. Especially just looking at the line up at first was intimidating because it was all real heavy bands. We knew it was going to be fun because we had friends like Dredg and Saves the Day and Thursday on there and we knew some bands we wanted to check out. But we had dudes from all over, everywhere from like Slipknot and the Used all these bands you wouldn’t expect to be Circa fans coming up saying I love your band, we were like holy shit really? Haha
So you guys are in the middle of recording your fourth studio album. With the past albums, your core sound seemed to change slightly with each new release. So far, is that what we can expect from the new album?
Yeah I think so. I think its very fluid with Circa’s spirit. And I think that you would be able to tell that it’s us right away, of course. But there’s definitely a lot of new energy on the record, a lot of new things that we’re trying. This record feels the most free of all of them. It’s definitely the least painful record to make. I think were just in such a good place mentally and as a group just really tight and extremely understanding of each other’s stuff. And in a way we went back to the mentality of Juturna. There’s no focus on people flaws, unless they ask for it. There’s very little fighting. There’s not much debate going on, it’s just like “Yeah that’s fucking awesome, that’s what it should be”. It’s not the huge weight of “Everything’s riding on this record.” That’s completely gone. I feel like we know who we are and we are confident to try new things and were confident that our fans will follow us down any road we tend to go down at this point. On the last record we tried some different ways of songwriting and then kind of split the difference with this one like some of the old stuff that we would do, stuff we learned on the last record and then this new shit that we can kind of experiment with.
The last album [Blue Sky Noise] was described by you guys as a new chapter for the band, is this one going to be a new chapter as well, or an extension of the last?
I think this is a drastically new chapter as well. I think if you looked at our records from start to finish it would be like: Juturna is chapter one, On Letting Go is like the middle of chapter one, and then you have chapter two with Blue Sky Noise and this would be chapter three, in my book. But I’m sure that would be different for everyone. Over the last couple years there’s been so many big changes in all of our lives and I think we’ve come to grips with the idea that nothing lasts forever and that this band is so lucky and we so accomplished already that a lot of this is just bonus stuff now. We just want to do right by us and the legacy that we’ve created. We want to treat our fans with respect and write and perform music that means something to us. And when it seems like maybe that’s not the case, we’ll hang it up.I think there’s something really comforting in knowing that one day this will end so let’s give it everything we have now and not trip out over shit that doesn’t matter.
Switching gears to your side project, Psychic Babble. How did that start?
Psychic Babble was just a thing where I was writing songs on the side for a long time. Probably around the time of On Letting Go I would write something here and there that I knew was not really Circa-ish. It was just an exercise of continuing to record and do stuff on my own. I was like “Fuck I haven’t sang in a really long time.” All the bands I was in growing up, with the exception of This Day Forward, I would always sing and play guitar and I felt like doing that again so I started singing on these songs and you know after three or four years I was like well I have like 15 songs maybe I should do something with this. I found a gap in our schedule and I was like “fuck it, I’m going to go for this.” I took all the stuff I’ve been recording over the years and refined them. Redid tracks, and just kind of did it. I put it out myself and it was a great feeling. It was a great exercise of like, I don’t have to check with anyone else I don’t have to get a label or go through anything. It was very freeing. When you’re recording with a band it’s awesome and there’s a comfort there, which is great. But doing this there was a loneliness that I think was really important for me to feel to come back to appreciate what I have with a cooperation.
Where would you like to see Psychic Babble end up?
I really don’t even care. Whatever happens. For me, it’s cool to have a moniker to put music out under. I’m really into doing scoring type stuff. I did a really short score for a short film last year and loved it; it was such a good experience. And I feel like if I ever do that again I would just do it as Psychic Babble. It’s just something there. There’s not this huge goal for it or anything. I’ll definitely make more records, you know? It’s just good having another reason to do something and it’s a totally different vibe than what Circa is.
You said before that you didn’t plan on touring PB anytime soon. If you were to, what would you want your show to be like?
Well, revising that, I did say that and I stuck to it pretty hardcore in the beginning. I would say I had no plans of touring this. But now the more I have sat on it and the more people have started to appreciate the record and it’s gotten this huge response I definitely want to go out and play shows with it. It just has to be the right time. Basically what I would want it to be is one of those things where people walk away and want to come back the next time I’m there. That’s kind of the only thing I would want to feel.
On top of being in Circa Survive and on your own with Psychic Babble, you’re also a visual artist. How do you find time to paint with such a busy schedule?
You just have to make time. Right now I get up at 8:30 or 9:00 in the morning everyday. I go to the studio, get there by 11:00 and work there until about midnight. Come home and eat dinner with my wife then I’m usually painting until about 4:00 in the morning. That’s just how I roll right now, haha. I have my first solo gallery show in July, it’s just so important to me. It’s just as important to me as music. I just have to make time for it or it will just go away.
Where can people see your art?
Just my name dot com. colinfrangicetto.com or they could go to facebook.com/colinfrangicettoart.
12:42 pm • 11 May 2013
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