By Andy Argyrakis, senior editor, gmclife.com
They Will Survive
If there’s a single word to summarize the past four years in the lives of Circleslide members, it’s “resilience.” And we’re not just talking about the typical van breakdowns, record label switches and financial strain (although problems of that nature have certainly affected the band). Serious illness and even death of friends very close to the group, along with losing countless instruments in the Nashville flood, have been normal occurrences lately.
“There were days when my wife was the strong one, and on other days, she needed me to be strong,” notes frontman Gabe Martinez, whose wife Debbie also manages the band. “Sometimes it was a sermon at church, or a Scripture randomly read, or the words of a long-forgotten hymn flooding back into my memory. I remember the sweet phone call of a friend and our families’ much-needed support making all the difference. In the hospital, long lost pals would show up and pray with us. The truth is that God sends grace and strength in the most unlikely ways and places. Sometimes I’d look out during a concert and maybe I’d see a person hearing the words to a song, with tears in their eyes, and I’d know there was a connection being made.”
Nonetheless, the group sounds stronger than ever before, releasing its sophomore CD Echoes of the Light on Save the City Records under the production of Brandon Bee (Stacie Orrico, Jaime Jamgochian). The result is a worship-slanted modern rock record that’s just as epic as it is reflective, sure to find favor with both the arty crowd and within congregational settings.
“Well, the awful truth is that tragedy and struggle can inspire creativity in ways that peace and quiet cannot,” continues Martinez. “I can tell you there’s a depth to these lyrics that wasn’t there on the previous album. Perhaps the biggest influence was that it made us more determined to make this album count. It didn’t feel like sophomore album, but rather, like we were re-introducing ourselves and maybe there was a little chip on our shoulder to not let the trials derail us in any way.”
New Seasons for Sleeping At Last
With a ten-year career that’s spanned tours with Switchfoot, Billy Corgan’s Zwan and Something Corporate, plus appearances on Fuse TV and “Grey's Anatomy,” Chicago’s Sleeping At Last is always keeping fans in both mainstream and faith circles interested. The former Interscope signees turned free agents are fully embracing its DIY roots, in turn, forgoing traditional cycles for an ambitious string of releases – one EP per month for an entire year – in a box set entitled Yearbook.
“We’re just trying to work through it and see what we can get done and just not letting failure be an option,” notes bassist/piano player Dan Purdue. “That’s mentally the state you have to be in, but it’s going to be a tightrope for a lot of it.”
Often drawing comparisons to Radiohead or Death Cab For Cutie, but truly in an experimental class of its own, the duo promises additional variety throughout the vast song cycle, though never at the expense of pop sensibilities.
“Even with a lot of hipper bands popping up, one thing Dan and I talk about is our love for melody and song structure,” confirms singer/multi-instrumentalist Ryan O’Neal. “Sometimes experimentation may sound like a cool idea, but not if it isn’t enjoyable to listen to, so we always keep a pop aspect in our songwriting...When we’re making an album, certain songs and styles might come up that don’t fit the common thread, but across the course of 36 songs, you can stretch out and base the style of each song on the inspiration that’s coming at the time.”
Meet Yancy, Jill-of-All-Trades
When it comes to artistic diversification, Yancy may just take the prize for the most well-rounded. She’s spent time writing for other artists (like Jaci Velasquez and Avalon), developed a thriving independent solo career, led worship, ministered to pre-teens on upward, penned devotionals and launched a speaking series with her father (who’s a pastor).
“I feel at home with all of them,” she asserts. “It saddens to think of not getting to do one. I definitely have always felt called to Christian music, so that allows me the chance to do a mix of both worship and just songs about my faith and journey with Christ. I love writing devotions and such because it's a chance to dig deeper than what a three-minute song allows and also can create community within a circle of believers going through the devotions together. I love it all!”
These days, the vivacious singer/songwriter is releasing the high-octane pop/rock album Stars, Guitars & Megaphone Dreams, which may have young people in mind, but also includes influences as diverse as Pink to Nicole Nordeman that are sure to reach an even wider listener pool.
“I made the record for pre-teen students, which is what the bulk of my touring is for, however I think because of the way I write and produce my music, there’s always room for a much larger audience,” suggests Yancy. “I’ve always had adults enjoy what I do and even people with no kids who say I love the CD and listen while on my way to work. I’m hoping that it's two fold: accessible for pre-teens, but having [enough] depth that an adult can identify with as well.”
About the Writer
Andy Argyrakis is a Chicago-based entertainment writer/photographer who appears in the Chicago Tribune, IllinoisEntertainer, Daily Journal, Concert Livewire, Hear/Say Magazine and Image Chicago (to name few). His record label writing credits include Warner Brothers, Atlantic, Curb, EMI and Universal, with additional photo credits for Fuse TV, Live Nation, Nikon, Pollstar, Celebrity Access, Paste Magazine, MTV.com and Vibe.com. He’s also the author/narrator of "Access Matthews" (an audio CD tracing the career of Dave Matthews Band) and spends considerable time on tour, including outings with Arlo Guthrie, The Guess Who, Madina Lake (on Linkin Park’s Projekt Revolution) and Gospel Music Channel’s very own "Gospel Dream" (where he served as season one judge).