Late last month Circa Zero made their live debut at L.A.'s El Rey Theater in front of several hundred fans. It's unusual for a new band to headline a thousand-person venue, but when that group features Andy Summers, guitarist for the Police, there will be a lot of interest.
Circa Zero started with Summers teaming with multi-instrumentalist Rob Giles of the band the Rescues, rounded out by drummer Emmanuelle Caplette. The trio has a full album of material recorded and mastered. They're waiting for the right deal before unleashing their alternative-pop hooks on the music world.
100 Greatest Guitarists: Andy Summers
Anxious to get going with a show and album under their belt, Summers and Giles spoke with Rolling Stone recently in the Venice, California studio Summers has called his musical home since the late Eighties. The pair talked to us about why the early days of a band are the best, the Police song that makes Giles take his shirt off and how to find the right deal in the ever-shifting music industry.
Is there a release date yet for the album?
Andy Summers: There's a lot of interest, but it's like everything else now – should we do this or should we do that, go the Internet route or go a different route? There's more than one way to do it now, so we're not quite sure. But we want to get it out pretty soon because we finished the record – it's completely mastered.
Rob Giles: We don't know yet. The industry as it is, we're still talking to everybody, 'cause there's interest. We're not sure who or what label, all that stuff.
I've spoken to many bands who find this early time, when everything is open, really exciting.
Summers: It's a cliché, but when you think back on bands, always the really great time is the first couple of years. Certainly I look back with the most affection about the Police with the first couple of years when we were going like a rocket. It was all so new, and we were going so successful. Five or six years in, we're monsters. You start to get into the five-star hotel, private jet thing, and you get more jaded about it. It's always the first bit because it's new and you're proving it.
Can you give us a preview of the album?
Giles: All our songs trudge like rock. There's one that's an odd time, the ballad, but it's not a power ballad about a girl so much. Everything else is really full energy, not that that one isn't. As a fan of Andy's I enjoy all of his solo work, but fuck that – he gets to rock, and we haven't heard this virtually ever. It is a bit of a long-play-feel album. It's not like filler, really. We love all the songs.
Summers: They've all got a lot of energy. It's almost an album with 10 or 11 singles. They've all got strong attitudes and hooks, which is what we were intending to write.
Was there a song that started you on the path to being a band?
Summers: I think it was "No Highway," actually, because we'd just met and we already felt like we're connecting this. And I had this idea of a song I'd written some time before, but Rob took the main line and sang a very different melody that was really intriguing. I think that was one of the first things we got into. We didn't really know each other, but obviously he's a great drummer, but he plays great rock bass and rock guitar as well. We'd start with guitars or whatever. We connected and we got a number of things going like that, [which] all made the process much easier.
Talk about taking this material to the stage.
Summers: We got a great drummer [Caplette], a girl drummer, who's not here today, obviously, but she's fantastic – very good, intense drummer. Playing with her, the songs really work. We open them up, typically, like you would do from the album, add in little bits and pieces to open them up, make them more live. So I think it's gonna go well.
You know there will be Police requests when you take the stage. Which gets more yelling – "Message in a Bottle" or "Roxanne"?'
Summers: On the applause-o-meter I don't know, but "Message in a Bottle," the minute you play that riff they tend to go nuts.
Giles: First time Andy played it in front of me I actually took my shirt off. I threw it at him, and he was like, "What are you doing? Please put your shirt on."