The ideas of comfort zones, claustrophobically confined boxes and limitations on audiences are completely foreign to the members of Circleslide. For one, the foursome seeks adventure and ingenuity in all forms of communication, from complex musical structures to applicable outreach ideas. The group’s artistic palette covers the gamut of alternative, classic and melodic rock to shades of pop and reverent moments of worship, while boundaries are non-existent when it comes to conveying that spectrum to all audiences. It’s not uncommon within the course of a week for the gang to play a bar or club at night, a church the next morning, a college or coffeehouse somewhere in between and a bookstore for an acoustic engagement.
“The cool thing is we’re not afraid to get in front of any crowd and we’ll go anywhere people are,” says front man Gabe Martinez. “We’ll have no problem telling pastors we invited someone to a service from the bar the night before. One time we were at a conservative mega church and in through the door walked a dozen or so bikers, who were moved by the worship and resulted in one girl becoming a missionary.”
“The same goes with pastors, who we’ll invite to see us at a bar,” he continues. “Once there were three pastors from three different churches in the same town that never knew one another but became friends after that.”
Circleslide’s origins date back to Gabe’s time spent throughout the 1990s serving at Youth With A Mission (YWAM,) an outreach program seeking to convey the gospel with relevance to teens and young adults. The Arkansas based assignment as a musical leader helped refine both his vocals and guitar playing, eventually attracting bass playing brother, Tim, and drummer friend, Fred Mandujano, into the organization. The guys then moved to Missouri and resumed playing concerts throughout the Midwest where they eventually met Circleslide’s final addition, guitarist Aaron Gillies.
“I think that time in YWAM and then moving on to Missouri helped us to be able to connect with those who listened to us and helped us get tighter as a musical unit,” Gabe relates. “It was a bit scary at first stepping out to do this on our own, but we started building up enough of a fan base in a few different places that we kept getting invited to play concerts. Circleslide started as a really grassroots thing, and it just kept building up in God’s time.”
Besides playing live shows consistently throughout the early 2000s, Circleslide also entered in many secular and Christian market competitions, taking top prize in the “Contemporary Christian Band” category come 2003’s Music in the Rockies competition. The 29th annual Gospel Music Association (GMA) event in Estes Park, Colorado put the quartet on the immediate radar of countless industry executives including the lauded John Mays (current A&R representative for Centricity Records and the man responsible for helping launch Nichole Nordeman, Point Of Grace and Matt Redman.)
“We had spent four years slogging it out on the road -which was really tough in and of itself- and had developed relationships with mainstream labels,” traces Gabe. “Then we met John during GMA, who introduced us to Centricity Records and offered us help shopping our demo.”
Though the group’s 2004 four-song effort Connectology was passed on to other labels and kept them on the road (including dates with Tait, Petra and ZOEgirl on ShoutFest) the group realized Mays and Centricity was the most natural, permanent fit. Besides showing incredible support, the label was also in love with Circleslide’s ultra hip blending of sophisticated playing styles and an eternity shaped message, which shouldn’t come as a surprise to those who identified the group’s moniker with The Choir’s catalogue (perhaps one of Christian music’s most influential alternative acts of all time). It was that historic band, along with other spiritually tinted purveyors of creativity (like Adam Again, The 77’s and U2) that continue to shape the guys’ riveting soundscapes.
“Growing up, our dad raised us on singer/songwriters like Bob Dylan and Keith Green and as we grew older, we longed for other artists that went beyond the surface of bubblegum,” Tim recalls. “The Choir’s Chase the Kangaroo absolutely revolutionized our whole musical life to the point where we would drive hours and hours just to see them in concert.”
After signing the dotted line with Centricity, Circleslide hit Nashville to record this year’s official debut album Uncommon Days and were met with an incredibly pleasant surprise relating to that very muse. Aside from re-enlisting EP producer Tommy Collier, Mays arranged for Marc Byrd (City on a Hill, Jeremy Camp, Cool Hand Luke) to sit in behind the boards. Byrd then brought on frequent production partner Steve Hindalong (City on a Hill) and engineer Derri Daugherty (both of whom are from The Choir) sending the guys’ collaborative dreams full circle.
“As the chain of passing on our demo went from Marc to Steve and Derri, they both wanted to be a part of it because they liked what they heard and could tell we were obviously into their band,” Aaron offers. “It was so interesting to hear all the stories and jokes they had to tell, and they made the recording process so much fun.”
Producer Steve Hindalong adds, “Derri and I feel honored that they took their name from our old album, but their music is absolutely modern and relevant. Uncommon Days is a stirring album of emotive songs, and I consider myself blessed to have been a part of the creative team.”
Besides being a blast, the ensuing dozen tracks are likely to build an even more effective bridge between the band and its multi-faceted audience. With vertically slanted lyrics steeped in personal passion and emotional outpouring, along with artiness, ambience and accessibility, Circleslide is destined to delight.
“I feel like listeners are going to get a dose of hooky melodies and a definite maturity surrounding the meaning and music,” Tim observes. “Even though it’s our debut record, we’ve been hashing it out live for five years and have seen the level of impact the music’s had with those we’ve come in contact with. Beyond making cool expressive statements, our bottom line goal is to inspire people and encourage them no matter where they’re at in their relationship with God. We’re here to meet them wherever they’re at and point them to our higher purpose.”
Source: Centricity Records