I often tell people I meet that I’m from Cincinnati, Ohio, which isn’t entirely true – it’s just easier. A lot of bands do this as well no matter where they’re from, but Circle It is rooted heavily in my hometown of Hamilton, Ohio.
They all attended the Butler Tech School of the Arts in downtown Hamilton and have been a band to count on for plenty community concerts. That’s not to say they haven’t branched into Cincinnati: they have opened tons of shows across the river at the Madison Live and Southgate House venues.
It was recently announced that Circle It would be one of the opening acts for Harbour’s headlining concert at Madison Theater in December. We met at True West Coffee in downtown Hamilton, where lead singer Zach Swelbar was working, to reflect on the band’s past and talk through future plans.
“We were sitting in the band room and someone asked if we wanted to start a band. We didn’t even know each other that well at the time but we started writing songs together and playing show at The Underground. It’s just taken off from there,” said bassist Jarrett Lewis.
Circle It released an EP first, but this past summer released a full length album entitled Nature & Neon. The record features re-recorded songs from the EP, as well as some new tracks, all with fuller and tighter production that fits their sound.
“Our EP was us learning how to write songs, and then our album was us showing our growth as a band,” explained Swelbar. “We recorded our EP in one sitting, one night, which was pretty crazy.”
“It took a long time to record the album, actually,” said drummer Tristen Carder. “We recorded two or three songs at the beginning of the year, and then did the biggest chunk almost five months later.”
The Underground is a music venue near Fairfield, Ohio where people of all ages can attend and play shows, so it’s a great place for kids in middle school to high school. Every year they hold a Battle Of the Bands competition, and the most recent winners were none other than Circle It.
“I was a fan before I joined the band, so I used to go to all of their shows,” said Devon Turner, a recently added guitar player. “Every time I would go see them their musicianship and stage performance was better.”
The transition from high school to college/work is weird for everyone, but having a band on top of that can make things a little complicated. In terms of branding, booking shows, and releasing music, Circle It has come into their own a little more since graduation. That doesn’t mean that it’s been easy all around.
“Before, we could just walk around school and sell tickets. Plus we had younger friends, who had free time and didn’t have to work. But we are definitely looked at as more mature now. I mean, most of the bands we play with are in their 20s,” explained Lewis, over Swelbar’s loud coffee brewing.
Butler Tech School of the Arts, the band’s former high school, recently announced would be closing their downtown Hamilton location and moving it to their main campus. “We definitely are a little disappointed with the decision. It’s kind of disrespectful to the arts in Hamilton and everything they’ve done here in a small amount of time,” said Lewis.
Every time I would go see them their musicianship and stage performance was better.
As with any interview with a local band, it’s important to ask the questions about how a band plans on pushing themselves out of the “local” category. In my opinion, Circle It gave the right response.
“We definitely want to tour…just playing shows and going everywhere we can doing it,” said guitar player Tucker Cowden.
Circle It plays Rock & Bass this Friday at 9PM at The Mockbee.