The Neins Circa
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The Neins Circa

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The best kept secret in music

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"The Neins Circa"

By coughing up this droll and brainy debut, the Neins Circa could soon be sharing in the spoils of Vancouver’s ongoing colonization of the planet with smart-ass pop. Local indie kingpin Carl Newman has already taken the band under his wing, and it’s easy to hear why: Cameron Dilworth’s songs are literate and ambitious, with the baroque melodiousness of Love or the Left Banke. “Bull Days” even seems to nod in the direction of Love’s “The Red Telephone”, down to a slightly creepy subtext that’s hard to pin down. Most of the album’s subject matter is difficult to get a handle on, but there’s a force to many of Dilworth’s poetic abstractions, and an undercurrent of the kind of anger you might associate with quiet, bookish types.

Of course, Sunday Anthems is also too clever for its own good in places. “Nora Nora” is a little slight for its five-minute build, and “Father”, which seems to have something substantial to say, is a Jacques Brel–like tango that is undermined by such arch design. Sunday Anthems really succeeds in its unguarded moments, like the dreamy “Overwild”, with its passionate and beautiful trumpet outro. Even better is “The Astoria Hotel”, which combines “Lady Madonna” with the Hollies for a sincere portrait of some rough trade. “Jonathan Livingston Seagull”, the album’s centrepiece and a classic of sorts, is both monumentally silly and surprisingly moving. If Dilworth can fill a second album with songs as good as this one, Newman will have to start breaking fingers. Or pencils, anyway.

- The Georgia Straight


"The Neins Circa"

A basic rule of storytelling is “avoid clichés.” Pedestrian scenarios are unwelcome. Certain phrases are to be avoided. For example: “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.” Fortunately, the story of The Neins Circa and Sunday Anthems evades the trappings of formula. This isn’t an account of four lifelong friends graduating from the garage to the big time. Rather, the path to this band’s first full-length album was blazed by an EP, mass exodus, name change and North American tour with A.C. Newman.

Reclining in his East Vancouver home, band brainchild Cameron Dilworth proves himself an exemplary storyteller. Before tape rolls, he shares an idea for an illustrated children’s story. Later, he segues into an anecdote concerning Roy Orbison’s visit to Lacombe, Alberta. Over the course of the evening, various tales are unfold like extra seating. Many have a humorous bent. One is harrowing. Throughout, the story of The Neins Circa unfolds.

The band began as The Neins in 2002. With a Steve Wood-produced EP in tow, their collective aspirations were modest. “Then, Carl [Newman] came along [in spring ‘04] and asked us to go on tour,” Dilworth recounts. “I said yes before I even asked anybody else in the band.” However, when faced with the prospect of an entire summer away, other members found themselves in a crisis of faith. Ultimately, only Shaun Brodie (trumpet) was willing to continue on. “Things had to change. I wanted to see what it was like to be the sole songwriter,” submits the singer/guitarist. He readily acknowledges the quandary presented by such a situation. “It’s tough to get a huge level of commitment from people who aren’t as invested in the creative process.” Reinforcements were eventually found in Elaine Fung (bass) and Sean Gilhooly (drums). Partway through the North American tour, the four-piece received a cease-and-desist email from a Portland band that shared their moniker. Consequently, The Neins Circa were born.

As a songwriter, Dilworth is an interesting study. Comparisons often prove cruel dance partners. However, it rarely deters one from taking to the floor. Thus, it could be suggested that his songs often evoke a speculative reality where Jeff Magnum took an active interest in Village Green-era Kinks. Muses are myriad. “I’ll be into taxidermy one day, so I’ll get the bird out,” he suggests while gesturing to a stuffed bird sitting nearby. “The next day, I’ll be into elephants.” Such borderline ADD tendencies carry over to the compositions. “Flo” is armed with an album’s-worth of gleaming hooks. It’s indicative of a collection of accomplished and engaging songs that threaten to burst with concepts. Lyrically, Dilworth oscillates between the unpretentiously clever (“customs are unaccustomed to change”) and elegantly macabre (“I’ll see your arms explode/and in their place will grow/new wings/it’s such a pretty thing”).

Another song, “Jonathan Livingston Seagull,” owes its name to Richard Bach’s allegory concerning uncompromising ambition. It seems a poignant reference, given the circumstances that lead to the official release of Sunday Anthems on May 17th. Despite the enthusiastic support of an established artist like Newman, the band still finds itself embroiled in age-old indie struggles. “It’s been almost impossible to book a tour as an unknown band,” Dilworth notes with chagrin. Undaunted, he philosophizes, “but you have to just keep moving forward.” It seems The Neins Circa have found their wings.

- Terminal City


"The Neins Circa"

Sunday Anthems kicks off with an epic, seven-minute track entitled "Flo" - which, through its references to The Commodore concert hall in V-town, may bring back happy memories of sipping cocktails while taking in the sweet sounds of D.J.-powered dancehall tunes. Or even better, it might remind you of your favourite band surpassing expectation from their perch atop the venue’s imposing stage.

You don’t usually hear songs that are set in specific watering holes, but then The Neins Circa aren’t you’re usual band. Their lyrics and melodies are absurd, sometimes bordering on being totally ridiculous. Song structures are just as unconventional as accompanying words, and the bouncy, oompa-oompa tempo that’s epitomized on tunes like “Happy” and “Bloody Stars” adds to the strangeness of their creations.

But give Sunday Anthems a few listens and you’ll quickly find yourself absent mindedly humming lead singer Cameron Dilworth’s raw and infectious if goofy melodies in your spare moments.

The synthesizer-heavy outtro to “Bull Days” is definitely a high point on the disc, but there are bits of each track that’ll make your ears smile. And with bits of poignant, sincere, hit-you-when-when-you-least-expect-it wordage thrown into the mix (ie. “and if you love yourself / then we can’t help / but fall in love with you”), this first recording is sure to see the band’s fan base swell, as well as establishing the The Neins Circa on the Canadian indy music scene.
- Umbrella Music


Discography

Still working on that hot first release.

Photos

Feeling a bit camera shy

Bio

The Neins formed in Vancouver in Spring 2002. They quickly became a live staple in the Vancouver scene. In 2003, the band recorded their first independent release, a self-titled EP. The personnel in the band seems to be changing all the time with the exception of Cameron Dilworth (vocals, guitar) and Shaun Brodie (trumpet, flugelhorn, glockenspiel, percussion). Two former members, Elaine Fung (bass, keyboards, vocals) and Sean Gilhooly (drums, vocals) joined Shaun and Cam for their North American Tour with A.C. Newman of The New Pornographers as well played on the soon to be released album, Sunday Anthems, recorded at Little Red Sounds.