Stephen Barry – guitarist/keyboardist
Aaron Carter – DJ/bass/vocoder
Laura Derby – lead vocals
Jim Chaney – drums
Its been four years since Cirrus rocked the electronic music world with their unique style of dirty breaks on “Back On A Mission”. This first release for them was full of a bit of everything from the funky jam soup, including rap, chunky guitar beats, wild keyboard rhythms, and a sound that was before it’s time. As a result, they’ve gotten most of their airplay not with videos or songs on the radio, but as guitarist and keyboardist Stephen Barry explains, “We’ve been on tons of games and video games. We get as much play on MTV as anyone because we’re all over their shows. Bioworld, Realworld and other reality shows, which is really good. They just don’t play our videos. But I think MTV 2 is playing Boomerang.”
Boomerang is the first single on their new release, Counterfeit, which showcases the groups maturity in songwriting, which also includes drummer Jim Chaney, DJ and bassist Aaron Carter, and their newest member, Laura Derby on lead vocals.
But as Stephen explains, exposure to the masses still eludes them and the way radio is run in general frustrates him as much as any music fan that’s not into the mainstream. “We don’t get a whole lot of radio play. I listen to KCRW and it’s probably my favorite radio station. If you listen to KROQ for an hour, you pretty much know what they’re going to play for the next month. I listen to KCRW every day and it’s always fresh. They’re way ahead of the curve.”
So was Cirrus four years ago. Stephen looks back on the making of Back On A Mission, “We were a little too far ahead of the electronic/pop/rock crossover scene. It wasn’t until after that release that we saw that style start to become acceptable and explosive. You saw some of the Limp Biskit stuff with the rap rock, and some crossovers with the Lo-Fi Allstars that came out later. Moonshine didn’t know what to do with it and mainstream radio wasn’t ready for it.”
Other challenges Cirrus faced included the making of Counterfeit, which went through different renditions as the years passed by and music changed. Stephen reflects, “It was painful writing this record. We were getting good feed back from the label about a year and a half into it. But all of the sudden the music started changing as far as techno and new school breaks.”
Stephen and Aaron felt these progressive changes would mesh well with their existing style, “We liked where it was going. We decided to change our production style. That accounts for the gloss on the album compared to the previous album. As far as the songwriting and the content – we had been working all along to write song oriented tracks.” The timing also worked well, giving them time to mature their song writing skills and make the kind of music that felt right. According to Stephen, they were now able to finish songs originally slated for Back On A Mission, “but our songwriting just hadn’t gotten there. To put a dirty breaks production on a song like “You Are” or “Half a Cell”, or even “Boomerang”, …it didn’t feel right. It seemed a little cheesy.”
“These songs that we’ve been writing and working on, they’re kind of like our “Stairway To Heaven”. They’ve been there for years. Finally we found the right singer and the right production technique, and our songwriting and matured. Once we had Laura, the singer, and changed our production style, it was a little more polished. It’s always rough around the edges, but everything seemed to work.”
Laura Derby came to the group through their drummer, Jim, who was seeing Laura at the time and was continually recommending her to the group. But at the time, they didn’t take him too seriously. It was during a tour when they were listening to a band Jim had been in before Cirrus and heard Laura’s voice. “So he comes down and he was amazing. She came in and just nailed it,” he says, explaining their first session with her to add the vocal element to “Dragon Lounge”, which wraps a silky sheet of velvet around funky MC stylings. “We were doing a little old school, but we needed a female vocal or it wouldn’t have been proper.”
So after that session we wanted her to do “Boomerang”, which wasn’t called was called “Show Intro” because they had been using the track for a number of years to jump-start their live show. They found that not only was Laura the missing vocal element, she also contributed to the crafting of the songs through her lyrical inspirations. Stephen remembers giving her “Boomerang” to play with, “We played it for her, but it wasn’t really song oriented. She took it home and worked on the lyrics. A week later she came back in with the Boomerang track and we were just floored.”
After the Moonshine execs got a listen, and the track was sent out to a few club DJs, the chemistry of the group was solidified and they moved forward in finishing the rest of the album. Stephen explains how they all worked together, “When it came to the melodies, I would sit with her and the guitar or the keyboard. What she brought to us…we couldn’t have done it without her. If we had gotten any other signer, we wouldn’t have gotten the same results. It was definitely unique to have her on the record and it was magic when we were in the studio. The chemistry was there. Now we’re going out on tour and playing one off dates, and she’s with us.”
The state of the economy has affected everything around us, including groups like Cirrus. To combat this, they’ve created a three-prong tour strategy, doing one-off shows where they just fly in with minimal gear, “With the downturn in the rave market, promoters aren’t ready to pay for five plane tickets and three hotel rooms, and all that kind of stuff. So we’ve just made it easier for them,” he explains.
The scaled down version is what Cirrus will be packing when they perform here in Colorado Springs at 32 Bleu this Saturday. “The full live show takes up a lot of room and costs us a lot of money. As soon as we bring the drum kit out there we need to set up a lot of mics and have an engineer controlling everything. It’s more downtempo stuff and not as dance friendly. If we don’t have the drums, bass, guitars and all that, we don’t need the engineer and just mix everything live on stage like Underworld and some of the other techno acts. We deliver a different kind of mix, we’re talking more of the club DJ stuff so people don’t get confused and aren’t disappointed.”
The misunderstanding can occurs when a person a Dave Mathews fan ran out and bought the Fatboy Slim after hearing a track on the Suddenly Susan sitcom. “Yea, when Fatboy Slim played in L.A., I could see people standing around wondering why this guy was playing his music before he came on, not realizing that this was him.”
They also have a third set, “which is our version of acoustic. We have a laptop, an acoustic guitar, a bass guitar, and Laura. So it’s more for the coffee house type of thing.
When Aaron, Stephen, and Laura fly into Colorado Springs, they’ll be bustin’ the house with tracks that are, “at least 130 beats per minute, so it’s mixed just like a DJ set would be. We’re constantly behind our keyboard rigs mixing and its kind of mysterious as far as what we’re actually doing. Plus we do different versions of our tracks. For instance, we do a faster version of “Boomerang” that’s more for club dancing. So it’s cool to see.”
Their new CD, Counterfiet is currently on sale at all Independent record stores for only $11.98, plus you receive a chillout CD with purchase. Cirrus will kick it all off at 32 Bleu for their show on Saturday. The Kaffeine Buzz crew will be hanging as well, so we hope to see you there!