Circus 66 are a UK rock band bursting with blues infused funk overtones, shaken up with enough groove to sink a battleship. The brainchild of guitarist, Matt, aka “The Wizard”, who formed the band in 2013 whilst studying “The Intricacies of Sexual Tension between Drummers & Animals” at university.
For 3 years, they performed as a 3-piece, cultivating a wide musical fan base due to their sterling musicianship and energetic live shows which paved the way for the release of their first EP “Act I” in 2014. They embraced further success on the release of their second EP in 2015 whilst being signed to The Animal Farm record label, resulting in Circus 66, supporting the likes of The Wild Lies, Sons of Icarus, Tequila Mockingbyrd, Massive Wagons, Killit & The Dust Coda.
A line-up change in 2016 steered the band in the direction of reinventing their musical stew… Now with the addition of powerhouse vocalist, Annabelle, whose presence, image, attitude and having “the voice”, they feel they’ve found the missing piece of the puzzle.
In March 2018 the band released their third EP, entitled “Showtime”, which was produced by Adam Whalley (Slash, Richie Sambora, Zakk Wylde, Big Boy Bloater, Wille and the Bandits). This release firmly cemented them as a force to be reckoned with, combining sterling musicianship and dominant vocals with a soulful flair. ‘Showtime’ caters to a wide range of listeners and to fans old and new.
2019 saw the band go from strength to strength with a new lineup consisting of the funk king, Luke, on bass, aka “Mustard”, and groove titan, Leigh, aka ”The Captain” on drums. They are currently in the process of recording their first full-length album, “Follow The Black Crow”, which will be released in 2021
Circus 66 are receiving glowing feedback from the first two single releases, “A Thousand Miles From Home” and “Monster” receiving airplay from a number of national radio stations including Planet Rock, BBC Introducing, Hard Rock Hell, Chat & Spin and Down The Front Media.
Their new single “Jekyll or Hyde” is set to be released on the 5th February (2021) as the third and final single from their highly anticipated debut album
Annabelle Zaychenko – Lead Vocals
Leigh Holley – Drums,
Luke Ward – Bass,
Matt Pearce – Guitars & Vocals
For anyone being introduced to your music for the first time, how would you describe Circus 66?
We’re a big old mash-up of influences! Matt and Annabelle are into the Classic Rock grooves and tones, anything with big guitar riffs and vox. Mustard (Bass) loves his funk and groove and I’m into a bit of pop-punk, a bit of stoner and a ton of Nu-Metal! So I think if you throw that all together you won’t be far off! Clutch meets The Pretty Reckless at Axle Rose’s birthday bash?
How did you form as a band?
Well…we all met at different times really, but the gist of it IS, we all met through Matt (guitar) – the band started as a “uni side-project” 7/8 years ago (or so I’m told!) and has morphed into something a bit more serious these days. I’d been away from the music scene a few years and joined what my wife calls “tinder for bands” ha! I set up a profile and I think it was the next day I received a message from Matt wanting to hook up for a jam (he didn’t even buy me a drink first), it all went from there really. It’s a similar story with Annabelle (vocals) and Mustard (bass), although they probably have a far less elaborate weird cult recruitment version.
Which of your songs would you recommend to listen to for a first timer?
It has to “A Thousand Miles From Home”. It’s our first single, it has a bluesy upbeat groove, some fierce vox and a ton of swing… so you can definitely have a bit of a dance to it. It’s the first time a lot of our fans heard the four of us with the new sound too, so it’s quite special for us.
How have you stayed creative or come together as a band during this extended ‘downtime?
Actually very well. We never bothered with live streams, we know a lot of our friends in bands kept them going, and we enjoyed very much watching some, but we used our time differently. To be honest we needed the time to concentrate on recording, writing, mixing, mastering and just putting together a bit more of a presentable package on who we are. We really utilised the time we spent not rehearsing for shows by sharing and recording ideas with each other and tweaking ideas on the unreleased debut album… it’s given us the time to analyse it a bit more in detail and master our vision for its release.
Who or what inspired you to write and perform music?
Musically and creatively it probably stems back to when I was a kid, my Dad’s a guitar and keys player so he’d teach me songs and show me music etc, that’s where it started. From there I listened to what he loved growing up, Bowie, Deep Purple, Queen etc, then as I went through my teens and college years, I was into loads of mixed punk-rock/Nu-metal genres so Blink 182, Rammstein, Soilwork, Clutch, Slipknot, Korn, Limp Bizkit, Papa Roach etc….that’s my era though and I loved it all and I’m notoriously known for still cranking “Chocolate Starfish” at any given opportunity!! It’s never nostalgia if you play it every day!
Describe your creative process?
We’ve been a four-piece since the start of 2019, so it’s been a bit of a ride since then learning how each other likes to write and add ideas to the table. Often it will start from a guitar riff either from Matt or one of us attempting to play or hum something. We sometimes just send ideas off the back of a simple phone recording or in rehearsals we’ll just jam out a few riffs and normally, just keep trying different chorus ideas or vocal lines… the frilly stuff like adding stops or accents sometimes comes accidentally, sometimes not, but often that can make a track exciting for us.
Congratulations on your upcoming album, what can you tell us about it? (release date?)
You can’t catch us out that easily! Release date is yet to be confirmed, but we were only talking a few days ago about a definitive date, so they’ll be an announcement soon. We know it’s overdue as we get messages fairly often asking us how long etc. Trust me, it won’t be long before it’s out, so keep em peeled! As for what I CAN tell you… It’s great. And part of the reason why it’s taken so long is because we all want it perfect for the fans, and for ourselves. We all have a different idea of what perfect sounds like too, so there’s that! There is plenty of “raw around the edges” sound on the record, we were adamant we wanted this to be authentic, and not overproduced. It’s a personal journey this album, and it’s been in the making for a few years, our opinion is “what’s not to like”.
Would you ever consider collaborating with another artist or band?
YES actually! I personally have thought about it, and I think that will come in time, when we’re a bit more established… we haven’t had anyone slide into our DMs as of yet though! Annabelle has a HUGE voice, and is super talented, so my guess is that it won’t be long before ACDC pick up the phone!
As an unsigned band, what’s the biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome?
Being taken seriously by promoters or pluggers.. or any industry heads really… It’s definitely getting better though, we have found ourselves in a better place with the support networks on social media for emerging new rock bands, people are beginning to understand what goes into the business side of being in a band. Networking is a lot easier than it used to be, and as bands, we talk among ourselves too, we’re often chatting to other bands about this that and the other. But I think it’s safe to say, never underestimate the amount of work that’s needed to get your music heard, for us the most challenging thing is and will be… getting the album in people ears. We’re confident that when they take the time to listen to the album, they’ll get what we’re about, and hopefully tell their mates!
What has been a highlight for Circus 66 so far?
Many many things! Finding our sound was exciting, we really locked in something special that we all loved when we wrote “Monster”, the second single. When something just works, it reminds you why you do it, and when you receive great feedback, the stresses disappear. We’re all so proud of the mini milestones like our BBC Live Lounge performance, and we had a great response from being on Planet Rock too.
What has been your most memorable gig?
Well, we all favour different ones, but ‘memorable’ can be bad too right?! We played this one show in East London, proper tiny little venue that we spent a long time travelling too and from. We arrived for to load in, and there was someone being arrested at the bar, classy, it kind of set the tone for the evening. That night we only ended up playing for around 18 minutes, which doesn’t give us much time to interact with the crowd or do our thing. It was quite poor planning by the promoters, as almost every band was cut really short…We were quite annoyed, however; this did lead us to play the angriest, heaviest, filthiest version of “Monster” you ever did hear, and I’ll never forget how huge it sounded, packed with emotion!
Do you feel photographs are an important part of your show?
A vital part, very much so. If we could, we’d bring our own to every show, and I’m sure we’ll definitely try to as much as we can. Low-light photography is an art, and a very difficult one to get right. We have some fantastic contacts up our sleeve that we call our friends who have mastered the art. It’s so great to have a bit of an end product we can look back on, and even use as a promotional tool. The most expensive thing at my wedding was for the photography, and it was worth every penny, I feel very strongly about this, and we have our fingers crossed that soon we can continue to get these images back in the world!
When publishing or sharing shots, what do you look for in a photograph?
The drummer!!!! I would love to leave this question as a two-word answer. It’s typical to say “eye catching”, but that’s the truth, we all want something unique too. I think a shot that’s really been thought out, and perhaps had some time spent on the edit too. I’m new to it, but I know how much time can go into edits, when you have a killer shot, you want to do your best to represent yourself as a photographer, so you spend time perfecting your vision.
Would you rather see one ‘amazing’ shot of your show, or a few ‘good’ ones?
One amazing one. If it’s captured everything from the raw energy, to the sweaty tall guy in one shot, that’s enough for us! It’s very rare that we’d post multiple images from one gig on our socials, normally we’d get that one great image and display it with pride.
During your promo shoots (which look great) do you take any creative control, or do you trust the vision of the photographer?
Actually yes, the promo shots we did recently were a bit of both. 100% of the trust goes into the photographer, they normally have the best vision, but we’d always spring our ideas to them too. We absolutely love being guinea pigs too. You may have seen a few from the promo with some crystal balls, completely the photographers idea, and they came out fantastic! Ideally, we want to do a shoot monthly. When it comes to press, interviews, magazines and promos, you want to keep the audience engaged and excited, new shots can really help with this… photographers… WE NEED YOU!!
How do you market yourself?
We get marketed sometimes as a “female fronted rock band”, which is not how we market ourselves. I sort of get why they do that, but gender has nothing to do with our sound. I know there is a huge audience for fans who love a female voice in rock, but in all honesty, we just market ourselves as heavy rock, let’s face it, that’s what it is.
What’s the best advice you’ve been given as a band?
Be humble, be respectful and be thankful for those who support you. I cannot stress enough how important it is to not take the biscuit, it really is important to just show as much love as you can. We talk to everyone we can, at shows, through comments or messages – we love it, we love them and we’re just a band having fun.
What can people expect from a Circus 66 show?
Toe-tapping grooves, drinks with us and hopefully a good time! When we play a show we give everything we have and rehearse hard for each show, so you’ll get a decent product when you come and see us. We hang around and watch other bands, normally at the bar so never shy away and come chat! We highly recommend earplugs, it’s normally a loud show as we have a big sound! The set is organised and hopefully we come off as pretty professional too!
If you could open a show for any artist past or present, who would it be?
CLUTCH! Well that would certainly be a hella-fun show! We’d love to play a huge sold-out arena type show, so anyone who can pull and pack an arena would be great. Someone like Extreme, or Metallica would be cool. Bowie or Hendrix, maybe someone like that would have been an awesome experience!
What’s next for Circus 66?
Big things! We’re talking with our management team over at Forge about something quite special for the album launch, but you’ll have to wait to hear about that one! It’s hopefully going to be a great year for us, but we want some killer festival slots for the old CV please! We’ve got our eyes on Stonedead, Ramblin’ Man, Planet Rockstock etc… So if you’re reading this.. hit us up!
Shots Courtesy of Will Carter @ Two Finger Media