I literally couldn’t get up in front of the class.
The friendly Circa Waves singer exaggerating relief as he catches my eye.
Five years ago Shudall ascended from building site work, to playing Glastonbury. His nostalgia-pop anthems suggested a young scouser living a cinematic indie dream.
But by second album, 2017’s ‘Different Creatures’, Kieran’s songs had become more introspective. He told the BBC at the time: “Just because you have a great job doesn’t mean you can’t suffer mentally and I think it’s important for people to know that.”
We’re now almost comfortable on stools as Kieran begins to explore the dizzy dichotomy of pre and post show mood. “It can all be an anti-climax.
You can come off stage after a big gig feeling a bit guilty like ‘Why aren’t we jumping around the dressing room, and drinking, like in the films?
Then you’re back at your silent hotel room. I was 26 when we got signed, so I can’t imagine what that must be like for an 18 year old.”
Kieran says Circa Waves was never intended as a live project.
Having been in bands previously, his intention was to focus on songwriting – releasing his recordings anonymously on the internet.
“There are people who have to be on stage and I’ve never been like that.” I note he is a confident frontman. Sipping his coffee, Kieran explains this is learned, rather than innate.
Buried within his stage persona, he says, is an anxious kid, too nervous to even do presentations at college. “I avoided them like the plague, calling in sick, or asking to do a video. I literally couldn’t get up in front of the class.”
He attributes his ability to function on public platforms now to both his wife Heather: “she’s amazing” and practice.
But there is always another challenge around the corner. “Being in a band, you’re constantly doing stuff out of your comfort zone. I’ve just performed on Sunday Brunch and national TV is terrifying for me.
“I worried about it for an entire week on tour, but luckily I had Heather who can build me up. Once I’ve done it, I’ll feel great because I’ve pushed myself to achieve something.”
“It’s funny, I was sat next to a bunch of actors who were also really nervous and I thought they’re anxious and they’re in films with Tom Hiddleston’. It affects everyone. You just learn to hide it.
In his song ‘Out On My Own’ from ‘Different Creatures’, Kieran sings about walking ‘in the steps of the men that you grew up with. But maybe they’re better equipped at dealing with this’. I wonder how modern models of masculinity affect him, as both a touring musician and husband?
“My dad was an electrician, able to fix everything, he could plaster walls and paint the house, do all this kind of stuff and I’m a bit like ‘I can’t do any of that, I’m rubbish’.
“You almost want to be the sort of tough provider.
“But at the same time you have the new generation Z growing up knowing it’s ok to be open and sensitive. I feel us millennials are kind of caught in-between. We’re still trying to figure out what’s acceptable.
“There’s a lot of stuff on Netflix and in the media about being young, sensitive and transparent and that’s amazing. We didn’t have that when we were kids.”
In May, Circa Waves will take their new, more layered expressions to America. “Everything’s built up at a nice pace. Luckily for me, gigs don’t scare me anymore, the bigger the better in my mind, which is something that weirdly happened over time. I feel at home on stage now.”
With Kieran driven largely by the creative process, I wonder how he deals with the scrutiny from music critics?
“It’s frustrating as you can put everything into your work and someone can pick it apart in one sentence. The Guardian did a shit review of our second album but the NME loved it.
“You want everyone to like it but that’s not possible. Also, the more you put yourself out there commercially or the bigger you get, the more the cooler magazines tend to dislike you. It’s a tough balancing act. You gain bigger crowds but lose some of that critical credibility. It’s very hard to have both.”
Kieran laughs: “Bands like Arcade Fire are a bit of an anomaly. I used to strive for both critical and commercial acclaim but now I just try to make stuff as big and as ambitious as possible.”
The Penny Lane resident goes on to explain that it’s also a fine line between artistic expression and keeping your current fans happy: “I don’t think it’s good for art when you try to cater entirely to your current fan base. With our new album, there’s been a lot of people saying ‘Why is there a piano?’ for example.
“But you have to evolve. You can’t make the same album six times. Imagine if The Beatles had done that? They basically went from a boy band to a psych band. Imagine if they’d had the production techniques of today! They would be having a ball making music now.”
I wind up the interview asking how Kieran would say he has changed in last five years since Circa Waves formed? “I’m 31 now and I was 26 when we started. While life is more complicated and there are more responsibilities, I certainly feel more settled in myself.
“I suppose most song writers are kind of sensitive on the inside, so I still have that part of me. I think coming home after being on a tour where thousands of people have been cheering you every night to just going to the pub with your mates and talking about telly and being like ‘Isn’t this beer nice’, just regular things really bring your mind back to earth.
“Whilst we’ve had success, we haven’t toured the world constantly, and have had time at home to readjust back to being just a normal person’. I love my house, I love my cats.”