Gut instinct can count for a lot, as can being spontaneous, and it is a combination which is proving fruitful for Philadelphia four-piece Small Circle. With the core of the band made up of members from one of the leaders of the modern emo wave in Sorority Noise, Small Circle was born out of a leap of faith and trust. When guitarist and vocalist Cam Boucher met Marissa D’Elia at Stay Sweet Fest five years ago, the pair developed a strong understanding of each other and a great friendship was born. And it was from this bond that Boucher knew he wanted to work with D’Ella.
“Cam had sort of planted this idea in my head that he wanted to start a new band and when he asked if I wanted to front it, I laughed,” the Small Circle vocalist told Already Heard. “What I thought was a passing thought ended up being real when I got an email in January 2016 with three songs completely written and recorded without vocals. Within two months I had written for what would become the ‘Melatonin’ EP. Cam had never heard me sing or read any personal writing but he had an idea and for some wild reason believed in me and now we’re here.”
For D’Ella, it was a bit of a step into the unknown as she openly says that the dreamy-indie band is her first band. But she said going into an environment which was so comfortable and judgment-free meant she felt right at home. D’Ella added: “I’m not sure I could imagine myself doing this with anyone else. Even if their other projects were not as established as they are also just some of my favourite musicians – period.”
And it is this ease which has seen the band produce their debut full-length ‘Cyclical’, a record which is full of endearing charm—sturdy musicianship buoyed by D’Elia’s hand-to-pen, unapologetically honest lyricism. Even though the finished project is one of beautiful guitar tones, and sincere lyrics, getting the record out wasn’t as easy as the quartet make it look.
“When Cam and I first started this project I kept saying ‘my favourite songs already exist!’ or ‘this song already describes how I have felt about something!’” D’Ella continues, “It was hard to get out of my head and just write without feeling really insecure about what other people would think about my ability.”
But it is this desire to grow as a writer and a singer which drives the frontwoman and why ‘Cyclical’ doesn’t shy away imperfection but rather embraces it as an intrinsic part of life. Throughout its 10 songs, the record is an ebbing arc of growing pains and triumphs, sadness and happiness, stories of inter- and intrapersonal relationships through the lens of mental illness. And it is all these personal stories which makes the record so accessible for fans.
“To me, every song on the album is so different from the other. I remember first hearing what Cam, Adam, and Charlie had been writing and couldn’t see how it was going to come together,” says D’Ella. “But I think that there is definitely an uplifting instrumental theme throughout and I love that.”
Considering who makes up the rest of Small Circle, there is going to be a lot of crossover interest, and even though Small Circle is very much its own entity there are also going to be comparisons. It’s something which D’Ella is expectant of but still fearful of. “Daunting is definitely the right word. There are obviously a lot of expectations from the fans of Sorority Noise and Old Gray but also anyone who knows or writes about those projects.
"I had to accept from the jump that their role in Small Circle would be the most important to some people before the music or my own role in the band. I also knew that we would not have a typical progression as a band under those circumstances and that some people might have an issue with that and I totally get it.
"But for me, this has been such an unexpected and unplanned experience. At the end of the day, I am just really enjoying that I get to do this with some of my best friends and that I am doing something so out of my comfort zone. Everything that happens around that or as a result is secondary.”
‘Cyclical’ by Small Circle is released on 8th September on Flower Girl Records.
Words by Tim Birkbeck (@tim_birkbeck)