Silver Sircus
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Silver Sircus

Band Alternative Cabaret


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Silver Sircus are a delightfully dark electronic group from Brisbane. Consisting of members of local '90s band ISIS and produced with the help of the acclaimed Lachlan 'Magoo' Gould, their debut EP Sovereignty is theatrical, sinister and hopeful. The creative core of Silver Sircus consists of close friends James Lees and Lucinda Shaw, a duo of very interesting individuals. Shaw, the vocalist, comes from a theatrical background and is currently working on a Tom Waits Cabaret. Lees, the programmer and drummer, is blessed not only with synaesthesia (a trait where one perceives music as colours) but also with a savant-like knowledge of musical artists. With these gifts and years of experience under their belt, the resultant Sovereignty EP is brooding and lyrically brilliant.

"Music is like cooking – it's like putting all together the right ingredients. I think we all have our strengths and weaknesses, and I believe that a good musician is aware of that. I feel like Lucinda and I are aware of that. Since ISIS we've had an almost constant working relationship on various things. It feels like we've been friends for three hundred years!", Lees says on the reasons to play together once more.

Shaw agrees with Lees' comments. "We kept our friendship going. James really liked the music and felt like 'let's not let this go.'"

Lees and Shaw, for explorers of the dark and gloomy, are impeccably polite. Obviously Silver Sircus is their outlet for the 'demons' inside all of us. The two also have a vast depth to their artistic backgrounds, citing artists from Patti Smith and Portishead to David Bowie and Shakespeare as creative influences.

"It's about finding very true human experiences and writing them truly, so when others read it, hear it, listen to it, they're getting from that truth a universal moment," Shaw comments.

"It's my dark side coming out to play. For me art is a brilliant arena to express all the different aspects of human experience. I love artists who embrace that shadow, but turn it into something powerful and hopeful and often tantalising. Lyrics are always going to stem from a lived experience for me and then that will be crafted with poetic license."

Lees continues on from where Shaw finishes. "Anything that's dark or sinister or blackly comic – I'm wired to enjoy it. It scratches an itch for me."

The EP showcases this love of the theatrical and shadowy, with such personal tracks as Acland Street laid alongside the desperate longing of Sovereignty. The EP will be released later this month, and while they are still promoting it, the two artists state that they are sitting on an album's worth of material. Not intent on rushing anything, Lees revales quietly that the album will be out when it's ready, regardless of a time frame. Yet again, their experience shines through. For a shadow-loving group such as Silver Sircus, it is this beacon of know-how that seems certain to lead them to a bright and sunny future.

- Rave Magazine (July 2008)

Playing their last show of 2008, the theatrical/musical ensemble Silver Sircus treat the crowd to their smoky, poetic songs spearheaded by Lucinda Shaw’s powerful vocals and James Lees’s understated drumming. Recent EP Sovereignty is played in its entirety, the dreamy Acland Street bringing back memories of bohemian St Kilda to this (formerly Melbournian) reviewer.
- Denis Semchenko

- Rave Magazine (October 2008)

Formed from the ashes of ISIS, Silver Sircus are cabaret to the core, with drummer/composer JAMES LEES and vocalist/writer LUCINDA SHAW having backgrounds that fuse music and theatre. Lees talks to Baz McAlister about ‘Songs From The Red Room’.

After the demise of the Brisbane band ISIS around the turn of the millennium, Lees and Shaw, with guitarist Brett Collery, formed the first the first incarnation of Silver Sircus. That, he says, is where a lot of the ‘Songs From The Red Room’ material that they’ll be performing at Brisbane Cabaret Festival were born.

“I guess most of the current work that we’re doing is concerned with breathing life into the first batch of music we did back then,” Lees says, “because we never actually got to the point of recording it. We’ve toyed with ‘Songs From The Red Room’ as an album title, but it actually feels like what that collection of songs is called so it has become the name of our current cabaret performance work.”

So what is exactly is the Red Room? Is it a reference to the fear-filled 1894 HG Wells short story? Or did Silver Sircus play a lot of gigs down on the UQ campus at St Lucia at one point?

“Where it comes from is, we used to rehearse in Brett Collery’s recording studios, which is a home studio that’s all painted red,” Lees reveals. “We also like it because it’s got a David Lynch Twin Peaks reference, to that weird red room in the dream sequence with the dwarf who speaks backwards. That Lynchian aesthetic is something that we’re really interested in. And a lot of Lucinda’s writing is about emotional intimacy too, so maybe the Red Room can be a metaphor for something that’s deep inside your soul,” he chuckles.

The band have released a couple of EPs in the past few months – Sovereignty and Dark Back Garden – which both include material from this period. Lees says they have a view to recording a full album in the near future.

“We have a finished, developed demo version of an entire album but now it’s just a matter of resources,” he says. “Like all good indie arts projects we’re not on a deadline, there’s no-one screaming at us to put an album out.”

Lees and Shaw have known each other a long time, and the composer says the have both arrived at the same place – they share a brother/sister-style connection.

“We don’t tend to discuss artistic choices a lot... we kind of just know,” he says. “I guess I’m probably the driving force, providing a vision and framework for what we do, but that is completely informed by the lyrics and peformance style that Lucinda natively produces.

“We’re like in and yang... and it’s nice to be in a band that’s only got two people. Even though other people work with us regularly, it’s quite clear we are a duo. I’m no stranger to all the usual issues of bigger bands.”

“I also look at a lot of other male/female duos bands where the female is the lead singer, and to me it’s a really simple, attractive way to set up a musical project. You look at bands like Moloko, Curve and Eurythmics and I see us in that tradition a little bit, with a guy supporintg a very highly performative female singer.”

Both Lees and Shaw enjoy the performance side of their work; for them, it’s never been just about music, as both have backgrounds in theatre and film. That’s part of what makes them unashamedly a cabaret band.

“Say that word to some people and they think of Barry Manilow and that whole showtuney kind of thing with the movie Cabaret,” Lees says. “But say it to someone else and they’ll think 1920’s, Weimar Republic, Weill/Brecht, prohibition, underground bars with secret handshakes, political music... right up to Diamanda Galas or Karen Finley – stuff that is really about the dark underbelly. My concept of ‘cabaret’ is definitely more rooted in that tradition of theatricality, darkness & experimentation, rather than the cheesier aspects of it. I think another big reference point for us is the work of Laurie Anderson – just that idea of a musical performance presented in a really imaginitive, theatrical kind of way, that really gets into your head.”
- Time Off Magazine (September 2008)


"Sovereignty" EP (2008)
"Dark Back Garden" EP (2008)



The creative core of Silver Sircus is Lucinda Shaw (vocalist/performer/writer) & James Lees (drummer/composer).

From 1994-2000, they were key members of celebrated Brisbane band ISIS who released four CD’s, scored 6 positions in the 4ZZZ Hot 100, toured Australia and regularly packed venues in Brisbane with their highly visual shows and special events. Following ISIS, Lucinda continued her songwriting collaboration with guitarist Brett Collery under the name, Shugafix.

As a writer & performer, Lucinda has produced a series of stage works for La Boite’s ‘Shock Of The New’, Metro Arts’ ‘Cab Sav’ and the Magdelena Festival. As a musician, James has worked with many Brisbane bands (including Chalk, Saturn South, Tylea & The Imaginary Music Score and Speed Of Purple) as well as producing experimental cabaret & performance events (including ArtLoveJam and dreamGAS performance series). Together, they have produced performance & music for ArtLoveJam, dreamGAS, Brisbane Pride Festival & Brisbane Cabaret Festival.

In 2007, their latest collaboration, Silver Sircus, was conceived. Bringing together their shared theatrical & musical backgrounds, the project represents the best vantage point to enjoy their vision of all things dark & shadowy, blackly comic, carnivelesque, beautiful & grotesque.

Siver Sircus have developed a unique hybrid performance style of spoken word, soaring vocals, drums, electronics, double bass & piano. They have performed for Brisbane Cabaret Festival (2007 & 2008), QLD Poetry Festival (2008), QLD GLBT Pride Festival (2008) and The Brisbane Writer’s Fringe Festival (2008).

In July 2008, Silver Sircus released their debut CD, an EP entitled “Sovereignty”. Following this, Silver Sircus quickly released their second CD “Dark Back Garden” which features one extended spoken word piece accompanied by tonal soundscapes and was launched at the 2008 QLD Poetry Festival.

“Theatrical, sinister & hopeful, the Sovereignty EP is brooding & lyrically brilliant”

- Rave Magazine

In October 2008, Silver Sircus debuted their full-length cabaret-noir performance work ‘Songs From The Red Room’ for the Brisbane Cabaret Festival. Combining material from their two CD releases, newer compositions, spoken word interludes and accompanying visuals, this highly stylised performance was described as…

“an underground, inner world that resonates with the beautiful, delicate & vast of the ideas of the private mind… a surreal journey, seasoned with poetic commentary that is open to interpretation and audience projection, we see ourselves in the songs, blurring the dichotomy of pleasure & pain”.

Silver Sircus took the show to the 2009 Adelaide Fringe Festival in March for two successful performances and then prepared new material which was debuted at the Brisbane Pride Festival in June 2009.

2010 sees Silver Sircus expanding to a 7-8 piece musical collective, featuring a string section, guitars and additional vocals. Deluxe digital versions of the two EP's featuring extra songs, remixes, digital booklet and videos are on the way. Later in the year, the band head back into the studio to capture their new more epic, dirtier sound for a new single, expected to be released in November.