Stellar Circuits – An Introspective HauntingMonday, 19th November 2018
With a plethora of bands coming out of the woodworks each day with a rip-off flavor or spending too much time trying to connect to as many of the current trends as they can, it’s always refreshing to find young bands that are willing to go their own way. Hitting the ground and running in 2015, Stellar Circuits may make some nods to the prog scene, but it’s done in a way that takes more straightforward rock and metal elements and gives the listener a strong emotional palette to dig into. The songs are immediately gratifying, but provide the depth and nuance necessary to bring the listener back for more. Their recently released debut full-length, Ways We Haunt, is an invigorating piece of music, so we grabbed vocalist Ben Beddick, who was hapy to give us a few moments of his time to talk about the band’s direction, forays into the atmospheric and emotional, and the importance of influences.
Dead Rhetoric: Could you talk about how the band’s name, Stellar Circuits, and the theory it comes from?
Ben Beddick: It’s just kind of an older theory that was proposed in the ‘70s. It was cool when we came across the name, and it kind of resonated with us a little bit deeper than just the surface. That was what we were sort of looking for, because the kind of music that we make can be described as heady. The music is a little deeper than the surface level, so ideas like that tend to resonate with us, whether its art or ideas – anything touching on existentialism. It took a long time to come up with the name – we felt like any time you come up with something cool, you Google it and there’s like 20 bands with the same thing [laughs]. When we came across Stellar Circuits, it seemed like the right thing and it came at the right time. We were stoked about it.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you feel the band has progressed from your initial EP?
Beddick: I definitely feel like we did progress significantly. We had a few goals in mind when we finished the first EP: things we wanted to improve on sonically, writing-wise, things like that. But one of the things right off the bat, we had Jamie King here in Winston [North Carolina] master our first record. He’s worked with so many great bands like BTBAM and The Contortionist. We were stoked for that possibility, so as soon as we had the opportunity we reached out to him. It was really awesome how it worked out. Jamie is from our town; he lives like 10 minutes from us. People come all over the world to record with him, but he’s right around the corner from where we went to school. It was really cool to work with someone that we could connect with on that same level, being from the same sort of place and digging the same sort of music. Working in his studio was something for us to improve on: working in a better studio with a good producer that was more familiar with progressive music and metal.
Another thing we wanted to touch on was the layering in the music. We wanted to beef up our production and pay attention to those details: more harmonies and guitar layers. Not to overdo it, and over-produce it, but those first songs we wrote in the first few months of being a band so we wanted to focus more on making it more rich and have a more full production. We are really happy about the way it turned out and are excited for people to check it out.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you think that Stellar Circuit’s music embodies progressive metal/rock?
Beddick: I’m not so sure if our music does embody progressive rock. Progressive bands are ones that really resonate with us, and thinking about progressive music, it’s not something that I’ve been aware of or in the know for a while. A few years ago, I started getting into bands like Karnivool and stuff like that. I realized that music that I had been drawn to since I was a kid was music that might have been mainstream, but artists that were pushing the envelope. Bands like Tool, or even as far back as Jimi Hendrix. When I think about those artists, I attribute them as bands that have their pulse on the mainstream and what people resonate with, but at the same time, they pushed the boundaries of what people expected from the mainstream.
Once I got turned on to bands like Karnivool and Animals as Leaders, I felt like this whole world opened up with progressive music, I think with a lot of us. It’s so cool to see that genre opening up and being more accepted these days. Especially bands like BTBAM. They are from Winston and are big heroes for us. I guess I never really thought about the genre of progressive music until the last few years, but just seeing the ground that those guys have broken, being a progressive band and playing their music, it’s really inspiring to have bands like that close to home and see their success.
I’m kind of getting away from the question, but I’m not so sure that our music embodies progressive music. I hope that when people hear our music that it’s more thought-provoking than something you normally hear. I really take pride in stuff that is progressive but at the same time, it can resonate with more fans than just progressive music.
Dead Rhetoric: Many prog bands go for the 10-minute epics, and you were mentioning some influences from bands like Tool that push the envelope but have a larger audience. Is that why the songs stay a bit shorter in that regard?
Beddick: Honestly, for the most part I don’t think we spend too much time in a conscious effort about the length of the songs. It’s something we more assess when they are done. We might look at a shorter song as a better choice for a single or something. We try not to think about that sort of things: we want to write the sort of music that resonates with us. Things that change when we feel like a change is necessary.
It’s not really a conscious effort that we make a song a certain length, I think it comes from the music that we like and what we are turned onto. It’s cool how they work out – we don’t write short songs necessarily but we haven’t written any long epic ones either. We love that kind of music too, I think it depends on you being in that moment when you are writing and creating something where it tells you where it wants to go.
Dead Rhetoric: Could you discuss the concept behind Ways We Haunt?
Beddick: The album isn’t necessarily a conceptual album. With the progressive mindstate, I am always drawn to things that are conceptual, but at the same time, each song can stand on its own as a separate story. It was funny that once we started getting through the better part of half of the album, we kind of saw this common thread within them. When the name of the record came to the surface, it was clearer in retrospect, the theme behind the album. It’s not necessarily conceptual, but when we took a step back and looked at it, we were able to see this really great sequence in how everything played out. It’s just something that was really personal to me that I didn’t necessarily make an effort to be what it is, it just kind of happened.
As far as the theme of the record, it touches on a lot of things. A lot of it is about loss, and changes within our own lives and things like that. A lot of it has to do with losing people that you love. Things I’ve dealt with over the past few years. It’s kind of hard to explain what its about, as a lot of it can tend to be a bit shapeless I feel like, and be left open for interpretation. But I was really excited when the sequence did come together. It sort of touched on this theme of ‘ways we haunt’ being used as a metaphor for a haunted house and it started from your head being like a locked room, and sort of being evolved into a place of many rooms or locked rooms, which evolved into a house.
The whole spiritual and paranormal haunting aspect of it, aesthetically it comes from a place of things that really resonate and make an impact on us. I could spend all day noodling my ideas of what I think it’s about, but I hope that people can see those common themes in the songs and it’s something that hits people in an emotional level, since our goal is to hit people in that aspect.
Dead Rhetoric: In that regard, what sort of emotions do you feel the band portrays?
Beddick: I think that’s something for me to put my finger on exactly. That’s almost an intentional thing for us. One thing we try to focus on is music with a tonal ambiguity. Stuff that sits between major and minor, and things that sit in the middle ground of those two feelings. I really am drawn to music, and try to make music that you can’t really put your finger on and know what emotion it is. I like it to be something different. Where you are coming from is going to influence what you hear. It’s really great to make something that will hit people in a different way at different times in their life.
I get excited about songs that give you a bittersweet feeling, songs that make you feel nostalgic at times, and other times it might give you a bit of a pick-up. It’s hard for me to say the specific emotions we come from, but it comes from a place of being introspective and looking at yourself and the world around you and kind of digesting what that means to you. The most important thing for me is to find those emotions between things. It’s not like, “Oh that’s the angry song. And that’s the sad one!” That’s boring to me.
Dead Rhetoric: So do you like it when you hear responses from people and one person has it one way, and someone else has it entirely differently?
Beddick: I love it, yeah. As much as it’s great to have something right there and know what it’s about through and through, I get more excited when I hear different interpretations of it. Honestly, I’ll have mixed emotions about stuff I write, and the way I feel about something is rarely 100% one emotion. I’m a pretty confused person [laughs]!
Dead Rhetoric: Is it intentional that you have an almost cinematic quality of the videos you make?
Beddick: Yeah, I think that’s something intentional for us. A lot of that credit goes to our director, which is Erez Bader. He has worked with a lot of great bands like BTBAM and Veil of Maya. He’s done a lot of great videos and he’s a great director. I think a lot of it comes from his mind, and where the songs take him as a director. It’s sort of the same thing with our artist Pedro Muniz – it’s great to collaborate with artists that are inspired by what you are doing, and they can use their medium to add to the conversation. It’s one of the coolest thing in the world to collaborate with people who are masters of their craft, which is not even in the vein of music.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you hope that people get from the Under the Surface videos that you are releasing?
Beddick: I don’t really have any expectations or hopes from what people take away. It was an opportunity for us to air sort of a more personal aspect to the band, which is kind of foreign to us. It’s not really intrinsic for us to go behind the scenes and talk about ourselves – it’s kind of uncomfortable, but in this day and age of social media, it’s almost necessary. I just think it’s really nice for people to get more of an inside view into how the band is thinking about the work we create. Like I was saying before, people think differently about it, but I think it’s really cool – if I’m into an artist, director, or writer I want to know more about where that stuff is coming from. If anyone takes anything away from it, it’s cool, but there’s no expectations for it. It is what it is.
Dead Rhetoric: That is true with social media. If you don’t continually hammer people with it, then end up going elsewhere.
Beddick: Exactly. It’s kind of a funny thing to balance. It’s great to have your stuff out there and have people attach to it. But it’s a fine line sometimes about overexposure and beating a dead horse. That’s something that we are always trying to navigate, and it becomes harder when people are telling you to tell everybody about your personal self. It’s a funny thing to work around.
Dead Rhetoric: It’s daunting I would say. As you continue as a band, you start to blur the line between band stuff and who you are personally.
Beddick: Exactly, especially when you are into music that is sort of faceless. I love Pink Floyd, I love Tool. I love bands that kind of let their work speak for themselves. But when you are trying to make a name for yourself as an artist you can’t hide behind the curtain, because no one even knows you are there in the first place.
Dead Rhetoric: As a newer band, how do you feel influences play a part in your sound?
Beddick: I think they play a huge part. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I truly feel it’s like that for everybody. We all have influences and a place we are coming from. We have a reason why we were inspired in the first place to make art. I think it’s extremely important. I’m a huge history buff, especially when it comes to music. I started playing music with the harmonica and just playing turn of the 20th century blues and things like that. I’m very much into lineage and how they very much give way to new forms of art.
I think it’s important to understand and respect that as an artist in any age – to have an eye on where things came before you. If it wasn’t for inspiration, I wouldn’t be here taking about making music because it was the fact that I saw somebody else, or heard somebody else, that lit a fire inside me. I’m always grateful for that stuff, and I wake up almost every day in search of new inspiration. I’m looking for new music or something old I may not have heard. It’s fuel for me.
Dead Rhetoric: With your sound, do you feel there is a sweet spot between more prog sounding and catchy music?
Beddick: I think that’s always the goal for us. To try and find tonally and genre-wise, it’s something we are trying to do is find our place in between. It gets boring doing the same thing and listening to the same music all the time. I’ll go on trips where I listen to a bunch of metal, or a bunch of other stuff, but that is something important to us. We want to be able to have our foot in a lot of different areas, since we are into a lot of different stuff. We don’t want to pigeonhole what we can make because we’ve laid down a template or anything.
Dead Rhetoric: What plans do you have once the album is released?
Beddick: Once the album comes out, we are going to hit the road. We are going out on our first tour, which we have been working towards for a long time so it’s really exciting. We have played a few shows up and down the east coast, but they were one-off things, so this is the first time actually hitting a tour. We are excited to get out there and get our feet wet and sharing this stuff with people live. It’s so important to have a presence online with social media, but why we do this is because we like playing music on a stage in front of people. Soon after that, we are working on expanding our touring and taking it further. We want to tour as much as possible for the rest of this year and into next year.