Many are going to call ‘Geneva,’ Russian Circles‘ third album, a return to a heavy frame of mind that wasn’t displayed on the band’s last effort, 2008’s ‘Station.’ But for guitarist Mike Sullivan, ‘Geneva’ is much more than a loud record. “There are a lot of unsaid emotions,” he told Noisecreep, while discussing what lies behind the record for himself. For Sullivan, the tucked emotions come from his battle with two major health issues over the past year, with one making him question whether he would be able to play guitar again — and the other if he was going to live or die.
We're all Russian Circles fans here on Guitarist – there is simply no other instrumental band making music as atmospheric, emotional and powerful as this US trio.
Back in issue 326 we featured guitarist Mike Sullivan but now here's the full transcript of our conversation with even more detail on the making of their third album Geneva and Mike's special playing approach.
One of the biggest changes to your sound on Geneva is bringing in musicians outside of the band for a number of tracks – string and brass players. How did that come about?
Mike Sullivan: "The strings were something we had planned out long in advance. We made sure we got together with the cellist and violinist, arranged the parts and had that all worked out.
"The brass came about because Greg [Norman engineer] plays trumpet and trombone. Late at night when we were done tracking he'd be kind of messing around after we'd had a few beers. He's try some stuff out and it started off as a joke but then we'd go away for an hour and he'd worked something out and we thought, these horns sound pretty good – let's do it. It was kind of a last minute thing."
How do you feel about your own playing on this album? In some ways it sounds like you're playing less on a technical level but bringing even more to the atmosphere and mood of the music…
"Exactly. It wasn't a conscious shift but in the evolution of what we've been doing so far, it just seemed natural. I guess we're more concerned about the actual arrangement than how technical it is. It's also fun to do the technical stuff too so I can't say that's behind us but it felt more natural this way for all three of us. We can play off of each other more – it's more open to that. More room for expression."
Russian Circles have been having a busy 2008. They released their second album, Station, and have been hitting the road quite a bit in support of it and will embark on a US tour with Daughters in June.
Our own Jason Gardner recently sat down with Russian Circles' Mike Sullivan to discuss what's been going on with the band.