Where did the art of performing go? If you asked the members Creem Circus – aptly named after their two favorite music magazines from the 70’s, they would tell you there is a severe lack of performance based rock and roll in this day and age, and they have set out to change that.
Composed of Chris DiPinto (Guitar, Vocals), Rob Giglio (Drums), Jim Cara (Guitar) and Dave Janney (Bass), the foursome was raised on the theatrics and impressive instrumentals of 70’s and 80’s stadium and glam rock are aiming to bring it back. A genre which depends just as much on the proper flare of your bell bottoms as it does the bends in your solos, we’re not talking about “four chord stare-at-your-shoes” rock n roll - these songs are the real deal.
Based out of the Fishtown section of Philadelphia, PA, Creem Circus released their first record Rock And/Or Roll in 2015 and have been vigorously touring since. They’ve all tried their hand at other genres at different points in their careers, but were one by one drawn back to the style of rock that inspired them from the beginning. We had a chance to chat with the band about those inspirations, what glam rock means to them, crazy stage antics and what sort of breaks they have received along the way.
AMS: How did Creem Circus come to be a band?
Chris: I started it about four years ago, just playing in bands in Philadelphia, a bunch of different styles; anything from indie rock to bluegrass to heavy metal, I was doing a lot of different things. I always wanted to do glam rock… like full on outfits, 70's pop style, T Rex David Bowie sort of thing, Thin Lizzy, all the guitar rock I loved growing up with. I was ready to do it and I found a couple other people who were interested. It coincides with a world of music that is very dressed down these days, it's not a performance oriented world of music and we wanted to do something that really lit it up and it's fun, and that's really where it came from.
Can you go more into what led you to Glam Rock and made you want to do it?
Chris: I'm a child of the 70's and, that shows our age, I saw Elton John in 1974, granted I was 5 years old, but I was into it at that point. I was wearing my aunt's high heel shoes and putting on the glasses and stuff trying to look like him. It's always been in me. I lived through the 80's, amazing wild shows and wild outfits, and then I watched it disappear, and I didn't want it to go away. I went with the whole indie rock scene for a long time and I was just ready to bring it back, I just think it has to come back someday and I have been jonesin’ for it for so long.
So how did everyone else get into it?
Jim: I was in retirement. I wanted to come up here and meet Chris since he builds guitars and I build guitars, so I wanted to meet him. He builds all these cool surf guitars and I came in expecting to meet this guy in a surf outfit and flowered shirt, and I walk in he's got Deaf Leppard and Thin Lizzy posters up, and I thought this is a guy I want to play in a band with. Chris asked me if I wanted to play in this band, so I got my stuff out of the basement and I thought 'man that's so awesome, if this guy was gonna ask me to pull from the stuff that I love from the years gone by it'll be the greatest band I'll be in my life.'
Rob: I actually kind of lobbied and elbowed someone else out of the band to be in it because I just loved the style and the energy of the songs. It was just something I wanted to be a part of.
Chris: And Dave, we stole Dave *laughter* Dave's the newest member he's only been in, what four or five months?
Dave: I played in another band, more of like a punk rock band, we played a show with these guys and as soon as I saw them I was like “man these guys are awesome." I was playing guitar then but they needed a bass player so I sold my guitar and bought the bass.
Chris: He's an insane guitar player and great frontman too so he's just everything we needed.
So how would you describe Glam Rock to someone not familiar with it?
Chris: Glam Rock is theatrical music, there's no getting around it. There's no walking on stage in your jeans and a black shirt and sneakers or even shorts for god sakes. I mean this is designed - *laughter* someone's wearing shorts right now - it's designed to light up the stage. But, you don't do it until you have great songs, because let's face it, you put on some of these old records, you put on T Rex and who cares what they're wearing at that point? But then you go to the show and you see the outfits and it's amazing. So I wasn't going to do this band until the set was awesome, the songs are great and we play them right, and the outfit is just the icing on top. So that's what it's about, is it hitting it on all levels, putting it on a silver platter and handing it to the audience.
Jim: You can't just dress up and go out there either, like Chris was saying the music has got to be there, but even if you're dressed up you can't just go out there and stand there and expect to entertain. We put a lot of entertainment and a lot of energy into this and I put it up against mostly any of the bands I have ever seen who are out there. Especially the newer bands who just stand there and look at their shoes the whole night.
Rob: Yeah I keep saying that we're the best shoe gaze band around because people love to gaze our shoes!
Has anyone gave you guys a break throughout your career?
Dave: Yeah I don't man, no one gives us any breaks.
Rob: Coming from the start of Punk Rock DIY aesthetic, everyone was very supportive of each other and that was, for me, when I started playing, that was cool because there was some support there and it was all about having fun and getting out there.
Chris: Yeah, there's a community here, we've gotten a lot of help from people who've seen this band and want to be a part of it, a lot of artists, like our photographer and the guy who shot our latest video Dominic Episcopo. He's shot some huge bands, and he did us for like nothing, because he wanted to be involved. And Jim Miles he's the guy who edited the video.
Jim: I gotta throw props to Gene though, Gene Simmons, I really do. He found me out of nowhere making guitars and brought me in with those guys and brought me into his camp and I got to see how KISS did a lot of stuff that people didn't get to see. Like how they manage shows and how they pull stuff together and a lot of the professionalism and scheduling, stage antics and things that nobody gets a chance to see. I get handed down some clothing and some cool stuff too. A lot of that trickles down into the band and the band's stage show, so yeah I have to contribute a lot of my personal success and what I bring to the band to those guys.
What does practice consist of for the band, do you run through the whole show outfits and all, or is it mostly music focused?
Chris: When we first started and we realized we had to be on stage in four inch heels and stuff, I think we put the shoes on just to make sure we weren't going to kill ourselves. We got pretty confident, these songs are really difficult and we gotta buckle down on a lot of the dual leads and a lot of the parts where the drums and bass are synched up. This is no joke this music, it's not just three chord fun pop, these tunes are difficult. We gotta get up on stage and do it with outfits and then there's this whole other element which kind of comes out on stage and it's taken a bunch of shows to get it actually.
Jim: I don't like the standup practice because the parts are kind of hard and Chris kind of yells at me when I mess them up and he makes me sad.
Chris: So no, we don't get dressed up for practice, but I have to say when you get dressed up, before you walk on that stage, that's how you get adrenaline going believe me, you're going to walk on that stage dressed basically like a crazy person in this day and age, and you either gotta bring it or not, and believe me you're excited and I think that gets us into it.
Any favorite props or shenanigans you like to incorporate to your shows?
Chris: Oh it gets crazy at the end, we kind of do this song called Revolution, it's a cover of a Spacemen 3 song but kind of done like MC5 and it gets insane. I end up standing on some barstool or table which probably could fall over on me at any point. Jim's on stage and he's got one of his smoking guitars, one he made for Ace, but his has light shining out of it so it looks like it's on fire.
Jim: Then I usually look for a hot chick in the audience to give that guitar to, she takes over the guitar then we plug another guitar in and it's just total freakin' mayhem.
Rob: What we like about this band is, obviously we're very well-rehearsed, but I think there's a little bit of urgency when we're on the stage, and a little bit of danger - I know it sounds corny, but at any moment it can blow up… in a good way.
Chris: We try and channel newer styles into e-pop, you know that sort of energy, MC 5, even The Who...because you could just stand up there and play these songs and it would be fun but I don't know man, it's all about standing on the edge and almost falling off.
Any favorite venues?
Chris: We opened for KIXX out in Lancaster. That was a sold out show, there was like 500 people in that venue, that was a great, great show. Johnny Brenda's was a lot of fun to play. There's a lot of great venues in Philadelphia there's a great music scene here.
How much weight do you put into music videos for such a performance based genre?
Chris: I love them, I would do them every day if I could.
Rob: I think they're very important, especially for what we do, and we've been very lucky that videos have been well-received. Our song Riff had a lot of hits and gave us a lot of exposure.
Dave: When I tell people that we dress up and the getups we wear and the platform shoes and all about the music, but after I show them the video is the best way to get it all to them at once. I always tell them watch the video and it'll make sense.
Chris: Because you tell them that, it could be really stupid if you think about it, it could be like That 70's Show or something, it could be really bad.
So what's the plan for Creem Circus going forward? Anything else you want to add in?
Chris: The CD we put out got a lot of great writeups, every time they write up our CD they put a big picture of us which is great because the pictures are fun to look at, and now that's going to 12 inch vinyl. And we're recording a new record right now too, so the label wants us back for another one! These are good things.
Jim: One thing I can say about us, is when we're on stage age isn't even an issue, people don't even look and guess what age we are or anything, and I think more people our age should just remember they have instruments in the basement too. Get that stuff tuned up and get new amps and new pedals and get out there and play, find guys like we did that are into the same kind of music and put bands together.