While The Circle have been together for several years now, the band - a supergroup of sorts consisting of singer Sammy Hagar, bassist Michael Anthony, drummer Jason Bonham and guitarist Vic Johnson - have spent most of that time gigging in front of crowds with a setlist consisting largely of classics from the numerous legendary projects they’re associated with, from Van Halen and Montrose to Led Zeppelin and Hagar’s solo years.
“In the beginning it was more about getting together and playing all of the music that we’ve done in our individual careers,” Anthony says. “But,” he continues, “after playing together for a certain amount of time, there’s bound to be some ideas that start coming out.”
Indeed, those ideas did eventually start flowing and, as can be heard on Space Between, the Circle’s debut studio record of original material, there were a lot of ‘em. The new effort runs the gamut from heavy riff rockers (Free Man, Trust Fund Baby) and lighter-waving anthems (Wide Open Space) to hopped-up blues boogies (Full Circle Jam [Chump Change]) and bouncy garage-rock romps (Bottom Line).
And while Space Between is constructed as a concept album - with money, and specifically individuals’ and society’s motivations in pursuit of it, at its core - the songs, true to the band’s onstage roots, have an energetic, almost live-sounding quality to them.
“We’ve been playing together for so long now that when we got into the studio we just said, ‘Let’s see what kind of magic we can come up with,’ ” Johnson says.
Interestingly, Johnson adds that the experience of writing and recording together also served to benefit the band when they got back out onstage. “I feel like we have an even better connection to each other. And it’s been great to add some of these new tunes into the setlists along with all the classics.”
Which is saying something, given the caliber of the material he normally plays onstage with The Circle.
“It’s a trip because I’m doing Montrose stuff and Van Halen stuff and Sammy solo music and Led Zeppelin and even a Chickenfoot song or two sometimes,” Johnson says. “I get to play all these great guitar parts from all these legendary players.”
As for whether he ever finds that intimidating? Johnson laughs. “Well, luckily all the guys in my band can play really good, too. So that definitely makes it easier.”
● GUITARS 1997 Gibson Les Paul Elegant, 1999 Gibson Les Paul Custom, Fender Custom Shop ‘59 Reissue Telecaster and ‘59 Reissue Stratocaster, Martin D-41, Taylor 814ce (Johnson); Schecter Michael Anthony Signature bass (Anthony)
● AMP David Bray Vic Johnson signature 4550, Marshall 100-watt, Matchless, Fender Custom Shop ‘59 Bassman (Johnson); Ampeg B-50R Rocket (Anthony)
● EFFECTS DigiTech Whammy, DigiTech Whammy Ricochet, RMC Real McCoy Teese Wah, Dunlop 535Q Cry Baby Multi-Wah, Xotic RC Booster (Johnson)