Thursday, December 2, 2010

Music feature: Boca's Young Circles moving fast in new direction

Left to right:‭ ‬Jeff Rose,‭ ‬Jordan Asher and Dave Barnard.


By Bill Meredith


Jordan Asher,‭ ‬of experimental electronic Boca Raton trio Young Circles‭ (‬www.youngcircles.com‭)‬,‭ ‬refers to the group as‭ "‬three really impulsive guys.‭"

Considering that they were playing garage-band rock under the name Blond Fuzz only a month before‭ ‬--‭ ‬and as Stonefox a few months before that‭ ‬--‭ ‬it qualifies as an understatement.

Vocalist/guitarist/keyboardist Asher‭ (‬age‭ ‬23‭)‬,‭ ‬bassist/guitarist/vocalist Dave Barnard‭ (‬23‭) ‬and drummer/percussionist/vocalist Jeff Rose‭ (‬24‭) ‬have been friends and bandmates since high school.‭ ‬Until recently,‭ ‬they were stunning rock audiences with their mix of Rolling Stones-influenced guitar riffs,‭ ‬Led Zeppelin bombast,‭ ‬David Bowie glam,‭ ‬and modern retro a la the White Stripes,‭ ‬Black Crowes and Stone Temple Pilots.

After having changed names over the summer from Stonefox‭ (‬mostly because it was also being used by a Spice Girls-type act in Europe‭) ‬to Blond Fuzz,‭ ‬the three were leaving clubs and crowds in their wake en route to the inevitable record label signing.‭ ‬They had a tour of the West Coast booked for November,‭ ‬but then a funny thing happened on the way to their late-October release party for a third independent CD‭ (‬and first under‭ ‬the name Blond Fuzz‭)‬,‭ ‬Perfect Breakfast.

‭"‬We've always recorded songs that have never ended up on CDs because they were such drastically different material,‭" ‬Asher says.‭ "‬Dave was going to a music festival in New York,‭ ‬and we wanted an additional CD of more experimental stuff for him to show off up there.‭ ‬So we recorded five songs,‭ ‬listed the band name as Young Circles,‭ ‬and established the website so other people could check them out.‭ ‬Two days later,‭ ‬a public relations company contacted us.‭ ‬We took that as a sign that this was the right direction to go in.‭"

That PR firm is Crash Avenue,‭ ‬based in Louisville,‭ ‬Ky.‭ ‬With a small roster of emerging artists,‭ ‬the independent management and publicity company is run by three music-loving friends who seek out new sounds that feature something different.

‭ ‬"I'm writing about music and bands all the time,‭" ‬says Crash Avenue associate Michael Powell,‭ "‬and whenever I run across a band that's difficult to describe in words,‭ ‬I'm intrigued.‭ ‬Dustin Judah,‭ ‬our radio and and media guy,‭ ‬heard Young Circles and recommended them.‭ ‬They have a sound that's distinct,‭ ‬and it stood out against all the other stuff we were listening to.‭"

"We could tell that they weren't trying to sound like anyone else,‭" ‬says president Jeffrey Smith,‭ "‬which is unique in itself.‭"

Asher says the band‭ “‬hadn't gotten that kind of response in three years of playing garage rock,‭ ‬and this took only two days‭!

“We really weren't feeling it so much as Blond Fuzz anymore,‭ ‬anyway,‭”‬ he adds.‭ “‬It's easy to turn your amps up and be the loudest band in South Florida.‭ ‬I'd rather people remember us for something different.‭"

He's selling Blond Fuzz short,‭ ‬but that's a classic case of being too close to the fire to feel the flame.‭ ‬The band‭ ‬was‭ ‬something different‭; ‬a white-hot mix of blues,‭ ‬glam and retro-rock the likes of which South Florida had never seen.‭

Asher used a Jack White-like setup of separate guitar and bass amplifiers,‭ ‬plus an octave pedal,‭ ‬to eliminate the need for a bassist.‭ ‬Barnard's guitar lines and screaming solos intertwined with Asher's patterns‭; ‬Rose gave no quarter to his drum kit,‭ ‬and the‭ ‬group's three-part vocals added to its impossible-to-ignore aura.

That Blond Fuzz emerged from Boca Raton,‭ ‬of all places‭ ‬--‭ ‬with its strip malls and pink corporate high-rises‭ ‬--‭ ‬gives hope to every original garage band here in cover-centric Margaritaville.

That being said,‭ ‬Young Circles‭' ‬forthcoming five-song‭ ‬Bones EP offers its own intensity despite the musical U-turn.‭ ‬Its keyboards,‭ ‬electronica elements and hip-hop influences conjure up Radiohead,‭ ‬Beck and The Beatles,‭ ‬but there are also exciting new possibilities,‭ ‬especially live.‭ ‬Barnard's guitar playing is now occasionally reminiscent of Reeves Gabrels and Adrian Belew‭ (‬both of whom worked with Bowie‭)‬,‭ ‬and even British fusion experimentalist David Torn.

Belew is part of the modern,‭ ‬21st-century lineup of King Crimson,‭ ‬an uncompromising,‭ ‬41-year-old warhorse that's had a huge influence on Los Angeles progressive neo-metal act Tool‭ ‬--‭ ‬a group that sports live muscle not unlike that of Blond Fuzz.‭ ‬One new Young Circles track,‭ ‬Sharp Teeth,‭ ‬creatively fuses pop and hip-hop elements with shards of Barnard's metallic guitar.

‭ ‬"That'll always be in us,‭" ‬Asher says.‭ "‬’Sharp Teeth‭’‬ and‭ ‬‘Bones‭’‬ were actually the last two songs we wrote during the‭ ‬‘Perfect Breakfast‭’‬ era.‭ ‬And‭ ‬‘Halfway Up‭’‬ is spacey and almost psychedelic on the recording,‭ ‬but if you hear it live,‭ ‬it'll have that intensity.‭ ‬We're really just trying to bring more color to the music we write now‭; ‬make it less black and white.‭ ‬And we're definitely embracing technology to do so.‭"

The keyboards and effects indeed create‭ ‬colorful textures throughout‭ ‬Bones,‭ ‬and hearken back to Asher's first musical love.

‭"‬Before I picked up the guitar,‭ ‬I was writing electronic music,‭" ‬he says.‭ "‬I was‭ ‬16,‭ ‬and had a computer but not a guitar,‭ ‬so I pirated some beat-making‭ ‬programs and just had some fun with it.‭ ‬I knew nothing about it,‭ ‬so I taught myself,‭ ‬making up beats and weird,‭ ‬backward,‭ ‬trippy electronic stuff.‭ ‬That was my first experience with music.‭"

Asher's roots stand out on the track‭ ‬Hellhound Sights,‭ ‬on which his layered,‭ ‬programmed chords sound robotically futuristic.‭ ‬His description of what to expect during Young Circles‭' ‬live shows sounds like an audience's dream‭ ‬--‭ ‬and perhaps a sound man's nightmare.

‭"‬Dave played guitar in Blond Fuzz,‭ ‬but he was the bassist in one of our earlier bands,‭" ‬he says.‭ "‬So he'll be doing both simultaneously with Young Circles,‭ ‬like I did with Blond Fuzz,‭ ‬but he's great at both.‭ ‬The bass playing,‭ ‬and the sounds he creates on a song like‭ ‬‘Lightning‭’‬ are incredible.‭ ‬With my background in hip-hop and electronica,‭ ‬I'll focus on the electronic side,‭ ‬playing more keyboards and percussion and less guitar.‭

“And Jeff will be coming out from behind the drum set and playing at various stations on stage.‭ ‬We took one of his old bass drums and attached legs to it,‭ ‬and bought some pieces of pipe and other toys.‭ ‬He'll be banging away on all of it with sticks and mallets,‭ ‬and he'll be up front with us,‭ ‬which will make things more exciting.‭"

“We're also using a Roland sample pad,‭" ‬Asher continues,‭ "‬to capture the sounds we might otherwise not ever be able to find again.‭ ‬We're setting our sights on Miami,‭ ‬where I think people will really understand this stuff,‭ ‬but we'll take on shows at the Culture Room‭ [‬in Fort Lauderdale‭] ‬and Respectable Street‭ [‬West Palm Beach‭] ‬when they come our way,‭ ‬because those are the right rooms for this material.‭ ‬We'll have to limit ourselves to places with great sound systems,‭ ‬because these songs need to have a larger-than-life sound.‭ ‬We've drawn up stage grids,‭ ‬and realized that we'll need tons of microphones.‭ ‬The sound guys are going to love us.‭"

As for the band name,‭ ‬it does indeed refer to the traffic circle that Hollywood Boulevard turns into between the beach and Interstate‭ ‬95.‭ ‬But there are also multiple other possibilities.

‭"‬The more we talked about,‭ ‬the more we realized that it evoked interesting images,‭" ‬Asher says.‭ "‬When you're young,‭ ‬you're usually pairing off into one circle or the other,‭ ‬so it can refer to cliques.‭ ‬A person who's been through a lot can develop‭ ‬premature bags,‭ ‬or young circles,‭ ‬under their eyes.‭ ‬And there are the circular lines when you cut into a tree that tell you how old it is.‭"

These three unique Boca musicians might not have that many circles in their collective trunk just yet,‭ ‬but one thing is certain‭ ‬--‭ ‬they form one of the few bands that ever could've pulled off this kind of musical one-eighty.

‭"‬Bands like The Beatles,‭ ‬Stones,‭ ‬Nirvana and Wilco all have a chemistry,‭" ‬Asher says.‭ "‬Everyone in those bands was filling out a certain space,‭ ‬and it seems like we're there now.‭ ‬I feel comfortable‭; ‬like I've re-connected with something.‭ ‬I've always had a love for a really strong melody,‭ ‬and I think we've found that again.‭"

Young Circles‭ ‬performs‭ ‬at‭ ‬9‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬Saturday,‭ ‬Dec.‭ ‬4,‭ ‬at the White Room,‭ ‬1306‭ ‬N.‭ ‬Miami Ave.‭ ‬in Miami‭ (‬305-995-5050‭)‬.

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