The shows goes on for Howlin’ Circus
We’ve all probably heard of various reasons why a band decides to dissolve; creative differences, personal matters, or, simply, the band decides it’s time to move on. However, for Howlin’ Circus, some decisions made haven’t exactly been out of choice. And yet, the now Toronto-based band are showing the city what they’re made of, how much they’ve grown, and where they’re headed next.
The ride leading up to now, beginning in 2010 when the band formed, has been a tumultuous one. Originally from the UK, Jafar Hassan, the band’s vocals and guitar, describes the process:
“The band's changed members a lot. I've been the only constant (one) the whole time. We played in London at a lot of shows and festivals and then, due to visa issues, the bassist had to leave the country. After that point, I was kind of tired of it, I didn't want to carry on (the band without him).”
Hassan decided to play as a solo act after the band’s bassist, Sonam Lama, had no choice but to leave the UK. However, Hasan grew tired of the music scene back home in London, and was hungry for something more.
“London is very difficult. It's very busy and I don't think there's that much room for guitar music. I really appreciate that, when I visited Canada, (I noticed) on the radio, there's a lot of guitar music. You get a lot of ‘laptop’ music in London, and I think it’s because the music venues there are closing down. I wanted to try something else. And I like Toronto a lot.”
After making the decision to leave his home for Toronto but before making the journey over, Hassan had a casual conversation that ended up drastically changing his life’s trajectory.
“(Sonam) and I didn't really stay in touch much over the years. It was at a mutual friend's place where I was recording some new songs (our friend) said to me that (Sonam) was moving to Toronto. It was a major coincidence. I messaged him and told him, when he packs his bags and moves to Toronto…to take his guitars.”
After their miraculous reunion just last year, Hasan and Lama found their third band member and drummer, Adam Burnell, here in the city. Hassan feels that his and Lama's reconnection has been reflected in their performances.
“I never thought we'd play together again. And that's sort of the beautiful thing (when we started up again), we were just so happy. I think when you're younger, there's a bit more ego, but when you have a person with you who you never thought you'd play with again, it makes you way more appreciative, and I think you see it when we play. We’re way more grateful. You never know when it's just going to stop and you're just not going to have it anymore.”
Along with their new-found awareness and appreciation for each other, the band has also thought about their purpose as a musical group.
“Our objective is to remind people why they're alive. People don't go to gigs anymore because they've forgotten what music does for them. When someone is actually doing something with their hands to produce that sound, to witness when that all comes together, I think that's why people went to shows. You couldn't really pin point it, but you went there and you felt good. (Art) has the power to remind you, we don't exist to sit in an office all day.”
On an equally powerful note, the band also feels that music can bring people together, now more than ever, regardless of political stances.
“I think if you're in any kind of art, you've got to be speaking to a message that's about progress. Everything that music stands for is about justice and equality for everyone. No one should feel like they're not worthy. I think a lot of what art tries to do is reach to people on a human level. I hope that (anyone) can hear us and go 'This makes me feel something' and possibly connect with others, regardless of what their beliefs are. Sometimes, it's not about changing people's minds, but about changing people's hearts. Any kind of art can have the power to do that.”
The band is described by Hassan as “moody and dark” but also possessing “a lot of light” with its mixture of blues, rock and roll, folk, and more. With a cornucopia of sound wrapped into one trio, the band hopes to have an influential reach on their audience.
“I hope (our music) impacts people in a powerful way. I remember some of the records I heard when I was younger, and it just changed my whole outlook. A good song can change your life. You can walk down the street and put a song on and then suddenly you're like 'Oh, everything makes sense now'.”
As the band has finally settled down after their many twists of fate, they hope to devote the next while to being in the studio, as live performances have been their main focus so far. Wherever they may end up next, the band knows that, through any hardship, none of us are ever really alone.
“I think for a lot of us, our parents had a few kids by the time they were 30, had a house, had their career. And what you see now is a lot of people who don't know what the hell to do with their lives. There's a bit of anxiety of 'What should I do, where am I going', and I think that's kind of represented in some of our songs. It's a bizarre world, but the solace that we can take is that we're all in it together. It's not very rock and roll to have a pension anyway (laughs).”
To learn more about Howlin’ Circus and what they’re up to, check out their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/howlincircus/