Circles Around the Sun was formed for a specific reason, to make a recording for the five interludes during Grateful Dead’s: Fare Thee Well tour. Denver native, Mark Levy (drummer) was invited to join the ad-hoc group. Levy opens up about his invite into the group, its future and his opportunities since.
Q: When were you first invited to join Circles Around the Sun (CATS)? Who invited you?
A: I was invited to join Circles Around The Sun early April of 2015. Soon after, plane tickets were booked, and I was off to LA for a two-day recording session at Castaway 7 Studios in Ventura, CA. Neal Casal (Chris Robinson Brotherhood, Ryan Adams & The Cardinals) brought me into the group, along with a recommendation from Adam MacDougall (Chris Robinson Brotherhood, Black Crowes).
Q: Before joining CATS what experience did you have playing with Neal Casal?
A: Prior to the recording session, I had played with Neal very little, maybe a total of two or three songs live, tops. He had ample opportunity to check me out during The Congress’ sets opening for The Hard Working Americans earlier that year.
Q: Why was CATS formed?
A: CATS was formed as a recording project to provide the filmmaker Justin Kreutzmann (son of GD Drummer Bill Kreutzmann) with an original instrumental soundtrack to his Fare Thee Well set break/interludes project. Each of the five Grateful Dead Fare Thee Well shows included an hour long set break. Justin’s film/photo reel/video montage was featured on the big screens at the stadiums with our music on the PA, as well as broadcast via the webcast for everyone tuning in elsewhere.
Q: What were the recording sessions like for Interludes for The Dead?
A: The CATS recording sessions were low-key and relaxed, for the most part. We had a big job to tackle in those two days, no doubt, but the approach was organic, for the lack of a better word. We spent two full days in the studio, from roughly noon to midnight, recording for much of that time. Justin wanted to capture the essence of specific Dead songs but didn’t want us to “cover” the songs, so we’d reference a recording of those songs here and there, then go track for an hour or two, take a break, and do that until we were out of time. What you hear on the record is exactly what happened at that moment in the room, no edits, no overdubs.
Q: Since releasing the album, CATS has decided to go on tour. Can you talk about making that decision and what we can expect in the future?
A: Once it became clear our music was resonating with folks, it became a possibility to play live. Our first show was at Lock’n Festival last Summer and was well received. After that, we did a three night run on the East coast, including a night at Brooklyn Bowl in NYC. So now we get to go out on a 4-night run through my home state, including a show at the Ogden Theater in my hometown of Denver! We will also play at The Boulder Theater after Dead & Company‘s performance at Folsom Field in Boulder on Friday June 9th. We are taking things slow, not overextending, and also working around some very busy schedules. We’ll see what the future holds, but from where I’m sitting, it feels like more recording and touring for sure!
Q: CATS has given you the opportunity to share the stage with Phil Lesh. What are some of your most memorable experiences playing with him?
A: Playing with Phil Lesh and the groups he assembles has been a true honor, and the experiences are ones that will stay with me and inspire me for the rest of my days. My most memorable Phil Lesh and Friends experiences would have to be his 3-night birthday run at The Capitol Theater in March and an outdoor show at Terrapin Crossroads last September.