"What a weird interesting time we're in where a lot of art forms are actually considered, what I would say, throw away goods. Temporary items." It's something piercing through the hole of my vinyl collection and closet full of CDs. That quote from guitarist and solo artist Colin Frangicetto doesn't tear down the walls of concert posters I have in my apartment, but it makes a point to why they are hanging there and why Frangicetoo takes his creation of paintings on the road while on tour. It speaks volumes to the value art can have, and where consumers raise and lower that value on a daily basis. I caught up with an old friend I hadn't seen in a while, and we talked about the value of art in music and how Frangicetto's and his friends and bandmates in Circa Survive set out to finally take control and gained even more success on their own terms.
It really interest me that there are fans out there willing to pay that kind of money [for those expensive packages] versus the fans who draw a line on how much something like that is worth. What were your thoughts after reading that column you texted me about?
I feel like it's such an important discussion that seems to be overlooked a lot when we're living at a time like we are, download culture and everything.
What did you think a couple of years ago when there was talk that the MP3 would be the death of the physical medium. I understand that what most were talking about was the death of CDs. Now pressing plants are backed up because vinyl has this great resurgence. Now physical packages are being put together in limited quantities as well. What do you think about that now with those thoughts being mentioned a couple of years ago?
I think partially, I am one of those people. I've seen the writing on the wall for some time. It's not that I thought that record stores were going to die, but visually, I was experiencing record stores dying. I was watching our favorite store try to stay alive. I started to kind of realize a long time ago that this is going to get to a point where physical media is going to be only in existence for people who want nostalgia and something to hold on to. Otherwise, I could see the tide was changing and going the way of digital media. I think now looking at it, everything is transient. I think everything is temporary. I think that records being big now, as a collector...
How long is that going to be?
You can't hold onto anything at this point. But you get this feeling that you're tied to this thing emotionally. That you're a collector. I'm this and I'm that. I think a lot of producers make that similar mistake. Filmmakers, whoever. Kind of scared of that transition from analog to digital. It's the most simple way to put it.
But some bands are caring more about the sound, moving back to analog a bit and backing away from a bit of the digitization of music. Like, "Hey, if we're going to put this much heart and feeling into this, then we'll also get that feeling in the studio."
I do see that. I understand that attitude.
Do you think there's a link between the two sentiments?
Well, yeah. Absolutely. In a general sense, there's a lot of people who play music that reject the idea of physical media dying. They're almost insulted by it. For me, it's not that it hurts me or bums me out. I'm more of a person to accept technology and accept changes for what they are. Try to just roll with it. Go with the flow. When you're sitting there and you're struggling with the current, you just start to swim with the current. I'm not saying that one way is right or wrong. As an artist, you have to realize that sometimes your portals of communication are going to shift and change due to technology and lots of people wanting it a certain way.
So do you think less people should complain about it and more people should adjust to it?
Those people can do whatever they want. What [Circa Survive] cares about is simple. It's about communication to the people who understand what we're saying when we say it. For us, it would be pointless for us to struggle against any technological change. It doesn't matter if we're recording digitally or analog. What does matter is the manipulation that happens there. That can happen with an analog record too if it's fed through a computer. Things like auto-tune, shifting, drum beats and adding samples and beefing up recordings to basically be impossible to ever exist - some of those records are incredible. Some of those records have changed my life. I think, if you're going to revolt against that sense of pop, it doesn't matter if you record analog or digital, just don't do those things. Digital recording can capture a live, raw sound. Just don't fuck with it. That's not to say there isn't a warmth in analog recording that can't be captured in digital, because it absolutely does exist. We're just in the same mindset as someone like David Lynch, who's like, how can I make the most movies possible and say all the things I want to say with using the least amount of capital and the highest quality possible. Often that means taking advantage of what's out there technologically. That side of it, for us, seems simple.
About packaging. Do you think labels and bands finally realized that they have to put a good amount of special work in their physical packaging to make the product that much more special? To make this intimate piece of work?
I think what it was [pause] we took the Kickstarter model of doing things and the options that existed within the model that are higher priced. We realized that there is going to be fans who's dedication to own certain things are tiered. We realized that to satisfy this top tier of fans, we should have something that's meant for them. It was about creating an option that all of us felt we would buy from our favorite band. That's how it was, really. I think all the labels doing that, that's smart. It's cool, limited and extra special from the bunch. If you have the vision to create something cool like that, why not? I love those things, and I've been disappointed when some people don't do it.
What's interesting is that with so much graphic design, you're working more towards painting. Back to something organic in a way. Is that your way of going against the grain. Going back to something more childlike in a way.
For us, the thing that literally means the most is the hand made item. It's made with thought. It's so unique. It really carries the energy of someone who made it. To us, it's unrivaled. I think that, in essence, when you were a kid in school and someone made you a mixtape or wrote you a letter [pauses] I don't know, those items always meant the most to me. Cool things that someone spent a lot of time on meant the most to me.
When you guys were thinking about the pricing, and thinking about the capital that goes into it already and the return to help fund your next venture, specifically this tour, was it scary to look at the final numbers and wonder if it would sell at all?
At times, maybe. Not really. For the the $750 ones, the ones that capture everyone's eyes because it's so expensive, yeah. But, there's only eleven of them in existence. I did a unique drawing for every single one of them. Anthony [Green] had handwritten lyrics for each song. You are the owner of that song, and this sketch that I did that was an interpretation of the song. Comparing that to a lot of the stuff we would see around the high tier of a Kickstarter, it made sense to price it like that and how limited it was. There's a lot of overpriced shit out there, and what we were offering, we felt was fair for how low the numbers were. We made the record for the smallest amount we ever recorded for. It was our money, so it meant the most. It was stuff we saved up, and money we sacrificed as people.
Of this experience, and seeing how much value you can put on art, even with your paintings and doing this on your own, where do you think the industry should go and will go?
To be honest, every time I think I know, I get thrown off by something new. I realize that right now it's in a completely unpredictable place. It's an interesting thing to come out of a record cycle with a conglomerate and you're like, "We spent this much money. These guys backed us this much. They put us all over the place. This is how much we grew." Then you put out a record a different way, and you grow the same amount, if not ten percent more. Basically, if you think about it, every record we've grown a little bit each time. The things we've done for this record are similar to anything a label has ever done, except that we feel a little more responsible with it...ultimately, it's just a sign that we're going the right way.
With going through the typical cycle of labels and now doing this on your own and finding success that way, where do you see the future business end of the band? What have you taken the most from the overall experience of going through the different motions most bands take with moving from a smaller label on up and then back to a more independent growth?
Ultimately, what we've kind of learned is that every band is different. That's why what we're doing works so great for us. I don't think any label we've worked with really knew the "perfect" way to market us. I think the reason why what we're doing is really great is that some bands need a label that specifically tailors to them and what they believe in as people and how they want to be presented and what the music should be priced at. Everything should be according to what the band wants. Unfortunately, there's been a degradation of that kind of attitude in professional music. Some artists are detached from it. They don't want to know about it. "That's why I pay you. You're my manager. You figure it out," or "That's why I'm on your label. You figure it out." For us, that's never been the perfect scenario. For us, the perfect scenario is figuring it out ourselves. It's more stress, but at the end of the day, we have more control. More satisfaction.