Glasgow band Speak Easy Circus have honed a funky, brass-led experimental indie meets rock sound that they describe as being “eclectic, exciting and unpredictable.”
The band began as frontman Jack Avison (vocals, guitars and keys) recording music in his bedroom and releasing it under the Speak Easy Circus name. He soon enlisted the assistance of Jon Wallace (saxophone and keys), Chatonda ‘Chats’ Ridley (bass), Frazer Laurie (drums) and Fenwick (trombone) when he wanted to put a live band together.
The quintet arrived in Glasgow from various parts of Scotland, including Dundee, Inverness and Glasgow, and, slightly further afield, Malawi. They then ended up meeting each other while playing in various bands across the Glasgow music scene.
And on the sound they’ve honed since, Jack tells us: “All of us have come from different musical backgrounds and therefore bring different influences to the band, I think that shows in the music. We really try to make each song unique, we have songs that include big funk riffs, songs that are based around more low-key grooves, acoustic singer/songwriter songs – we really try to bring all of our influences together and create a unique ‘Speak Easy Circus’ sound.”
Our latest taste of this is their new single Sewn Up which, as Jack explains later, is about his favourite pair of jeans ripping. The track opens up with funky repeating trumpet notes that are joined by the trombone mimicking the same notes then drops into a laid-back opening verse. The trumpet notes return with little flourishes and give way to more upbeat and really catchy vocals. The trumpet and trombone continue along with really cool keys support to bring the track to a lively ending.
On the track, Jack told us: “Sewn Up is what we would call a funk banger. The whole song is built around a huge horn riff and the rest of us all filled in around that to give the song its groove. We really wanted the song to have a big sound and we are really happy with how it turned out!” Check it out here:
Sewn Up follows on from a series of singles and a debut EP Bravo Tango Charlie, which was released in 2019 and from which we particularly like funky closing single Balance The Knife. The recent singles include the delicious Lions Should Hunt, which opens with light guitar and stabs of brass supporting Jack’s engaging vocals. That builds up to a funky section of stabbing brass and guitars that you can’t help but jig along to, which drops into more engaging vocals.
Second time around, it drops into fairly intense spoken vocals that drops into a funky saxophone solo, which will once again have you jigging around in delight. Drawn-out brass notes build to another sax solo, which brings the track to a close. Check it out here:
The Speak Easy Circus sound has been influenced by a wide range of sounds and different styles of music, which certainly comes across in their diverse songs. Jack grew up loving rock bands like Guns’n’Roses and Red Hot Chili Peppers, but wider influences for the band include the likes of Stevie Wonder, Vulfpeck, A Tribe Called Quest, Blink 182, Bob Reynolds and Phoebe Bridgers.
And on what inspires them to write music, Jack tells us: “Lyrically I tend to write about things that I find interesting. ‘Sewn Up’ is actually a tribute to my favourite pair of jeans that ripped. At first, I was just going to throw them away, but I decided that I should try to repair them. So I started watching YouTube videos and I taught myself how to sew, and I was able to repair them.
“It made me question why this wasn’t something that was taught more commonly, and the larger context around things like ‘sewing’. They are quite often seen as ‘feminine’ qualities, however, they are skills that are useful to everyone. It saves you money, it is good for the environment, and it means you don’t have to throw out your favourite jeans!”
Speak Easy Circus were recently able to get back in front of an audience and play live shows, which they’re hoping to do more of in 2022. They’re also planning to record more new music at the start of next year, with the aim of “a more substantial release” by the end of the year.