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Circles Around The Sun

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Circles Around the Sun is a contemporary instrumental rock band that formed with the specific purpose of creating intermission music for Fare Thee Well, a series of reunion concerts played by the surviving members of the Grateful Dead during their 2015 tour.
Those shows celebrated the band's 50th anniversary and served as their official send-off, while Circles Around the Sun was designed to reflect the Dead's spacy and grooving overall feel. After the tour, Circles Around the Sun issued a self-titled album from the Fare Thee Well gigs and supported it with their own road trip. The response was so positive that they remained a going concern and released Let It Wander in 2018, which was less influenced by the Dead and more freeform, delivering on the roots influence of jazz-funk, soul, and fusion. The band underwent a fundamental transition in 2019. After completing the Meets Joe Russo EP and recording most of a third album, guitarist Neal Casal committed suicide. After months of mulling it over, the band decided to continue with Casal's longtime friend Eric Krasno in the guitar chair.
Video director Justin Kreutzmann (son of GD drummer Bill) approached guitarist/composer Neal Casal (Ryan Adams' Cardinals, Chris Robinson Brotherhood, Phil Lesh & Friends) about creating five hours of music to accompany his biographical visuals to be shown during the Fare Three Well concert intermissions. Casal enlisted keyboardist Adam MacDougall (a fellow member of the Robinson Brotherhood and Lesh's Friends bands), bassist Dan Horne (Beachwood Sparks, Jonathan Wilson), and drummer Mark Levy (the Congress). Casal explained that "...the idea was to not only show reverence for the past but to ultimately move it forward," adding "If there's anything to be learned from the Grateful Dead, it is to dissolve your boundaries, push your limits, and discover your own voice in this world."
To that end, this new band entered the studio without having prepared any material. They composed on the spot and recorded live for two days with engineer J.P. Hesser. They kept the process pure by not adding anything during post-production. While most involved with the project assumed these sessions would just end up as background music that concertgoers would pay little attention to, they were wrong. The response by attendees was so positive that Rhino Records decided to issue a proper release. A two-disc set culled from the original five hours of music was released independently as Interludes for the Dead in late November 2015. The complete recordings were made available as a triple-disc set included with the Dead's mammoth 19-disc (audio and video) box set that documents the complete run of shows and is titled, appropriately, Fare Thee Well. In the aftermath of this release, rather than splitting and going their own ways, the quartet played a series of shows that were well-attended and received, and response to the album was also positive. They returned to Castaway 7 Studios in Ventura, California in early 2018 for two weeks, this time with no set goal or structure in mind. They recorded seven instrumentals that diverged sharply from the content on their debut offering, and released it as the double-length album Let It Wander in August with music that ranged in scope from jazz fusion ("The Impossible") to wrangling funk ("One for Chuck," as in Public Enemy's Chuck D).
After a tour, the band took a short break; during the summer of 2019, they began working on a third album with Grammy-winning producer Jim Scott at his Southern California studio. With most of the album completed, they turned in a crowd-pleasing late-night set at the Lockn Festival in August, and also finished an EP with Joe Russo on drums. On August 26, less than a week after their performance at Lockn, Casal committed suicide. In the aftermath, keyboardist Adam MacDougall, bassist Dan Horne, and drummer Mark Levy, all in a state of shock, grew closer than ever before and spent a couple of months deciding whether to continue as a band. After committing to the October 18 release of Meets Joe Russo, they made a collective decision (along with Scott) to issue their third album, which had been completed the week before Casal's death. Circles Around the Sun enlisted Casal's longtime friend and collaborator Eric Krasno (Soulive) to take up guitar duties. ~ Thom Jurek, Rovi

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