This album hits a little closer to home than anything else we’ve ever written. It comes from the heart and it is personal and emotional and riddled with doubt and fear and anger and confusion. the songs on this album are much more personal than the last, where we focused on themes of love and loss in the abstract. This album reflects more introspection, and comes from the emotions felt personally from one or more members of the band, based on events that naturally happen growing up. Still love and loss and sadness, but much less distant to us as individual human beings. All of the songs were written in my room like always but it was different this time round. I reflected on my past and events that have presented themselves throughout my life, instead of writing songs that didn’t necessarily have anything to do with me. For a while each song was just imagined in my head until I was able to bring them to the rest of the band. We built these songs up from the ground and practiced and rearranged and changed day and night until we felt comfortable that the songs encapsulated everything we were trying to get across.
released August 14, 2020
Circus Trees Delusions
Following more than three sharply focused years of writing, performing, and paying their dues with seemingly endless support for other artists, the Marlborough, MA slowcore/shoegaze trio Circus Trees are releasing their debut full-length, a rare album that stands as both the sum of its parts and something representative of so much more. In a vacuum, “Delusions” is a striking collection of powerful, focused, emotionally wrenching songs that balance their soft-loud dynamic with a skillful ear and keen emphasis on visceral impact. But look to the peripheries and you’ll find so much of what we all need to support about independent music and, beyond that, the role of family in the development of artists.
It’s easy to look to the ages of the McCarthy sisters that comprise Circus Trees – and indeed it is unique to see three teenagers creating music this mature – and spend all your time lauding that individual aspect. However, on a base conceptual level, Circus Trees is an impressive demonstration of how a strong family backbone can facilitate the blossoming of creative confidence and output. Delusions is both a statement and a culmination, an album where the content and the story are inextricable, a wildly impressive collection whose qualities are indicative of being given the space and strength and to develop without a hint of inhibition.
The album-opening lead single “Wasted Air” serves notice of the growth that’[s taken place over the past three years. Moving away from the sludgy trudge of their early compositions, “Wasted Air” moves with a kind of desperate immediacy, a deft combination of early-2000’s emo stylings, post-hardcore aggression and captivating vocal hooks. Despite having planted their feet squarely in the shoegaze realm, there is none of the modesty typically attributed to the vocalists of that genre; Finola McCarthy has stepped out from behind her amps on Delusions and left behind any uncertainty that may have remained in her voice on earlier material. What a difference even just a year makes. She sounds like an entirely new frontwoman on this record; the power and clarity of her voice have taken a dramatic step into the forefront. Even at such a young age, she is a woman who knows what she wants to say, and now she knows exactly how to say it. The ability to put forth a loud and guttural musical performance was never in question with Circus Trees, but Finola’s determined and confident performance is a thread that ties it all together.
This is not to diminish the roles of the remaining two sisters. The drumming of Giuliana McCarthy that at times took a backseat to the amp assault of initial recordings has taken on a far more significant role, both in terms of her ability to understand when not to overplay and to complement what’s happening around her, as well as the frequency with which she acts as the essential forward propulsion for songs. Edmee McCarthy has moved off of the keys onto full-time bass, and the impact on the low end is undeniable – her presence on Delusions in many ways is the key component in the elevation of this record above everything the band has released previously.
There is a tendency when talking about a band like Circus Trees to want to avoid the ages of the performers or other peripheral elements. It can feel opportunistic to capitalize on these things, and one worries that it suggests the music cannot stand on its own without the story. This is a rare example where everything is essential, and every part of the story connects in a meaningful way. Would Delusions still be a great album if it were written by people in their twenties? Would Delusions still be a great album if it were written by men? (If only we lived in a world where such questions were never asked…) Honestly, yes, it would. It’s a punch in the gut, a tear in the eye, a lump in the throat, an inspiration in the heart, and those feelings can’t be fabricated. This album has value in every sense of the term. But to ignore its roots is to ignore what those roots represent to so many on the listening end. The fact that this album was written by teenagers matters. That it was written by teenage girls matters. That its creation was facilitated by a family unit that far exceeds the usual expectations for parental and sibling support matters. That this youthful band understands the importance of supporting other artists in their local scene and beyond matters. That older bands like Caspian have seen Circus Trees and been inspired to back them in whatever ways they’re able matters. It all matters, and it matters most because the album is so good. Its quality should serve as an inspiration for every teenager, every girl, every family, every artist.
We live in a dark, cynical, uncertain, troubling world that’s seemingly full of people trying to hold others back. You can make the argument that there are few things we need more right now than bands like Circus Trees. We need something to feel good about, damnit, and it’s hard to imagine anything easier to feel good about than this band. Go out, support, feel good, feel sad, feel togetherness, feel something. Then take it back with you, give it to others, and set the world straight, one song at a time.