The Key Studio Sessions Doubleheader: Small Circle / Sorority Noise

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Really, it’s all rooted in friendship. When Hartford, CT founded emo four-piece Sorority Noise began touring on the regular a few years back, they connected with new people in each city they hit; it’s something all touring bands do to some extent, it builds out out a support network of familiar faces in the crowd and couches to crash on after the gig. As singer-guitarist Cameron Boucher tells it, Marissa D’Elia was “our Philly friend” from early on — watching from the front row, chatting them up at merch as the show was letting out.

Flash forward a few years, when Boucher and a couple of his bandmates relocated to Philly — he and D’Elia would get together when he wasn’t on the road and casually collaborate, fleshing out some of the first songs she’d ever written. By 2016, enough music was amassed that the for-fun project was now a band called Small Circle.

The project released its debut EP, Melatonin, on Boucher’s Flower Girl Records back in May; its full-length debut Cyclical is out September 8th via Triple Crown. On both, D’Elia’s voice is hushed and haunting, displaying a quiet confidence as it embraces those moments where confidence fails — take “Please Don’t Touch The Moon,” where she sings “if you are the moon / then I want to be the sky / I’m not one to shine as bright / owning your imperfections by projecting your own light.” Or, from “It’s Just Not Realistic”: “in another universe I’ve had my coffee and texted back / but in this one I stare my ceiling thinking of anything but that.” Call it an introvert’s perspective as they step outside; why, it seems to ask, don’t we accept that most of us have it both ways to some degree, craving company every bit as much as solitude?

Small Circle’s songs were bought to life in Boucher’s Fishtown studio with Sorority Noise members Adam Ackerman on bass and Charlie Singer on drums, who eventually became part of the live band. As we hear in their performance for The Key Studio Sessions, the vibe is more atmospheric and dreamlike then they tend to explore in their other project (thanks in no part to Cam’s expert use of guitar harmonics). The dynamics are even inverted at points — “Reallistic” builds up to what, in the pop-punk universe, might typically suggest an explosive chorus, but instead the instruments cut out beautifully and it’s all air. The band grooves on “Mornings” from the new record and brings the fervent energy when appropriate, as we hear on the driving “We Belong Here,” which you can watch a VuHaus video of above. That song digs into the catacombs of memory, with D’Elia detailing fleeting moments from the past like photographic vignettes, and we can glean from her delivery that she’s not ready to let those moments go, that there’s beauty in them still to be found.

Listen to Small Circle’s performance for The Key Studio Sessions below, and catch the band live at PhilaMOCA on September 5th when they celebrate the new record and kick off a late summer tour; tickets and more information can be found here.

This session was actually Boucher’s second visit to WXPN studios; last summer, he played sax in the blazing full-band lineup of Aaron West and the Roaring Twenties for their Key Studio Session. With the Small Circle set wrapped and his bandmates chilling to the side, Cam performed a short and sweet solo-electric Sorority Noise set — “Julien Baker style” was the concept, and it worked big time.

This spring, the band put out You’re Not As_____As You Think — its third long-player, and a hard-hitting one at that. Boucher unflinchingly unpacks suicide, dependency, death and abandonment on a raging half-hour set that howls in catharsis but brims with hope. For this performance, he re-arranged the song “Car” — which, indeed, is a Cars-esque rocker on the record (or Cars via Car Seat Headrest), but here is a solemn meditation on loneliness in a changing world set to clean-tone fingerpicking. The new song “Fermata” is a beauty as well, depicting the ennui of starting the day and simply trying to exist in an uneventful and unchanging day-in-day-out.

To cap the set, Boucher absolutely slays a cover of “Diamond Ring” from Pedro The Lion’s 1999 outing The Only Reason I Feel Secure — a song that studies feelings of unrequited love both personal and spiritual. It’s devastating in the best way; listen below, and catch Sorority Noise on tour this fall, including October dates at Lancaster’s Chameleon Club and South Street’s TLA. Dates and info can be found here.

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