10 Questions with Line & Circle [INTERVIEW]
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Photo: Line & Circle
Line & Circle have been hot on the radar and our playlist since dropping their single Roman Ruins/Carelessness this past July. We recently caught up with the Brians, both of whom were happy to share some insight on their influences, favorite Lower East Side haunts, the new album in the works, and how they know what size shirt Mike McCready wears. Without further ado…
BOWERY BOOGIE: What’s been the biggest change moving from the Midwest to Cali?
BRIAN J. COHEN: Los Angeles is enormous. It’s inspiring that so much is happening here creatively. That was not always our experience in small town Ohio. But of course, it can be that much harder to find comfort in the big pond—especially with people and relationships in general. We had no road map. That process was, and still is, labyrinthine, but also very organic and fruitful. I’ve grown quite fond of Echo Park now especially, though I’m not sure we fit in musically anywhere at all. I’m sort of thrilled with that actually.
BRIAN EGAN: In the Midwest—at least the parts we’re from—just because of the number of people, there becomes more of a built-in community among like-minded creative people. Out here, there’s so many people doing those sorts of things. You have to do more to shape your place within that.
BJC: We were cluelessly hanging out in the wrong neighborhoods and with the wrong people when we first got here. We’d inadvertently wind up at a party with hard drugs and well… prostitutes. Everyone seemed perfectly nice, I swear, but that was not our scene. When you don’t know better, it can be very easy to have the clichéd experience here. It was stereotypically comical and startling at the same time—sort of like living in a cross between Steve Martin’s and Brett Easton Ellis’ versions of LA.
BE: We were just too naïve—and too much trying to take people at face value—to expect the worst. Somehow we keep finding that we sort of unknowingly gravitate toward other people from the Midwest. We eventually ended up with 4/5ths of L&C being from there.
BB: Who or what influenced you to start playing?
BE: Even in high school, being from Dayton, I got way into Guided By Voices. That was a gateway to other lo-fi bands, Pavement probably being the other big one. The idea that you could make your own music with just a cassette 4-track was majorly eye-opening for me.
BJC: For me, it was just time. Maybe there was something about being in a new artist-friendly city like Ann Arbor, alongside 30,000 other bright and interesting kids, which finally lit the match. There was also a lot of British music—old and new—seeping in at the time, which got me thinking more about composition. My older brother’s friend taught me a few chords on his acoustic guitar. I have not improved since.
BB: Did you enjoy CMJ? Hit up any Lower East Side spots while you were here?
BJC: CMJ was actually quite meaningful. We were fortunate enough to do a live session with KEXP, which sounded superb in their space at the Union Square Ballroom. We were on tour with Electric Guest at the time, and the next night in Boston, people told us they’d come to see us because they had heard that session on the radio the day before. That is exactly the kind of interaction we were looking for with listeners, and CMJ helped get that ball rolling.
BE: I love NYC—it’s like the perfect antidote to LA. I had a very rain-soaked walk back from our KEXP session to the East Village, but it was kind of amazingly refreshing. Living in Los Angeles, the thought of an umbrella apparently no longer occurs to me.
BJC: My brother lives in Brooklyn, but used to live at Orchard and Delancey, so I have fond memories of visiting him there. Magician was a favorite. Motor City Bar, Marshall Stack, Clandestino. Are those places still there? More recently it’s been up the road at Kabin.
BB: Yes, those hangs are still there. What would be your best gig story so far?
BE: You mean like the time in Ann Arbor when my car got towed from the back of the venue—while we were onstage—and we ended up in a tow yard in Ypsilanti at 4 a.m.? That was great one.
BJC: Oh my yes, we’ve had our fair share of clunkers in previous bands. But Line & Circle is such a new thing. We played our first show last summer, and I think we played five more shows in town before we went on our first U.S. tour in October. Then we came back and went out again with RNDM—Jeff Ament and Joseph Arthur’s new band—to do West Coast dates. All of those shows were absolutely thrilling. Getting to play these songs to different live audiences night after night is literally a dream come true. Lawrence, Kansas, with Electric Guest was especially so—those kids were incredibly enthusiastic and fun to hang out with. Also, in Seattle with RNDM, Mike McCready showed up to the gig and insisted on buying a 7” and t-shirt, which was quite touching. He’s a medium, in case you’re wondering.
BB: First show you ever attended?
BE: Mine was a Beach Boys concert, which took place following a professional indoor soccer game—the Dayton Dynamo. This was probably early ‘90s…during the John Stamos era.
BJC: Did they play “Kokomo?”
BE: Probably. There were definitely no “Pet Sounds” instrumentals being played that night.
BJC: My parents took us to see Simon & Garfunkel when I was a toddler. I remember thinking we had traveled to New York City, but really we were just in downtown Akron.
BB: What are you currently listening to?
BJC: I’ve fallen into a serious Bruce Springsteen black hole. We saw him last spring, and I haven’t stopped thinking about the show since. Also Merchandise.
BE: I just went through a big Replacements phase, where I got pretty deep into Pleased To Meet Me. Also some old Sinatra-Nelson Riddle stuff for good measure.
BJC: My housemate is currently recording songs with Haim in the studio in our backyard in Echo Park, so I’ve been hearing that stuff as well.
BB: When you’re not making music, what are you up to?
BE: Usually we’re just stuck in traffic.
BB: What is the inspiration behind “Roman Ruins?”
BJC: I have been to Rome, but I wasn’t intending the song to bare literal references necessarily. As a setting, though, it seemed to be a fitting metaphor for the scope of what is happening inside the song emotionally. There is reflection backwards towards intimacy-gone-wrong, as well as apprehension about whether or not this tendency is inevitable. When something deeply private and personal begins to collapse and disintegrate beyond your control, it can feel like all of civilization is also coming to an end, no?
BB: What do you want fans to take away from your music?
BJC: Whatever they take away, I am grateful—hopefully something personally visceral. I suppose that could be induced just as easily by love as by hate?
BE: Yeah, probably nothing super specific. I think the music—and really the art, in general—that I respond to the most tends to allow the audience to internalize it and make of it what they will. There’s something to be said for ambiguity, which seems to be kind of a dying art. I love it when we can work on a song and find out that even we ourselves have differing interpretations of the
mood/spirit of the song. I tend to think that tension is a good thing.
BB: Is a full length in the works?
BJC: Yes. We have more songs than we can use. We were testing out some of them on the road this fall, which was deeply revelatory for their development as well as for ours as a band. Since we got back in December, we’ve kept writing and now there are some brand new ideas that will definitely contend for spots on the album too. The competition is getting stiff, but it’s incredibly exciting to have so many options that we’re really truly in love with.
Many thanks to Brian J. Cohen and Brian Egan for taking the time to answer our questions. We look forward to the album!