5 Questions: Howlin’ Circus

Last week, we checked out Howlin’ Circus’s debut video “Run The Wrong Way.” After that, we were able to catch up with the group’s lead singer Jafar Sandouk to ask him five questions. Check out what he had to say.

What is the inspiration behind your track “Run The Wrong Way”?

I’d written like half of it in London, which is where I’m from, and it was kind of at the time when I was moving to Canada. Then I’d finished in Canada, and I think it was just a bunch of things going on. I think the main inspirations were just kind of that feeling of kind of hopelessness, kind of being at sea, kind of lost and not knowing your directional path. I think everyone goes through this at some point in their lives and the tendancies to ask, “Which way to go and what they’re doing is right.” You kind of look at other people and may be comparing yourself too much.

Yeah, I think it kind of turned into kind of a defiant thing, like, well, you should just kind of go do the wrong thing. That was kind of like saying, “Suck it! I’m just going to do the wrong thing and, you know, maybe that is the right thing.”

I’m trying to make sense of the chaos. And I think it’s kind of a reflection of what’s going on in the world as well. Like you kind of want to be able to find sense in all the madness and the chaos in the world, and it’s very difficult to do.

So what made you choose Toronto when you left London?

I don’t know. I think I knew I would. I actually ended up in Montreal first and then I was like, “I don’t speak French. Might not go down very well.” And then it turned out one of my friends lived in Toronto, so I was like, “Ok, I’ll go there.” And then I thought I thought in my head, I’ll go somewhere else after Toronto.

But I quite like how compact Toronto is compared to London. It’s just very easy to walk around. And it’s got quite a nice community vibe.

I know people say people aren’t very friendly there. I don’t dispute that, but it’s still got a very nice community vibe. I find that it’s the easy to meet people and to kind of find my place here without really knowing that many people.

So you did your debut music video there, showcasing local, well-known spots. What was it like working on a music video, I guess, in a place that you were still kind of learning yourself?

It was actually a kind of a surreal moment for me personally. It was like a culmination of hard work that we put in as a band. Then it was kind of amazing that we we had these really talented people working on the music video. It was quite a large crew working on it, and we know that they were all very excited about it. It felt like everyone was pulling in the right direction together. It felt like there was a kind of thrill.

The last scene we shot was of us outside, it was like freezing, and we were in a parking lot overlooking Toronto’s skyline. It was kind of surreal to see that like, wow, this is all for us. All these people have come here to help us make this music video, to kind of turn our collective vision into reality.

Three years ago, I barely knew anyone, I knew one person. And now I can call all those people my friends. And that’s, yeah, it’s kind of a dream come true.

So now it’s just a case of let’s see what’s what’s next. We’ll just keep working hard on the music and see if we can keep going. You know, there’s a lot of people who who seem to keep rooting for us and believe in us, which is really nice. And I think it kind of comes from us just continuously working hard on our music.

With that in mind, what is your greatest aspiration for your music?

I really just want to make the best music I can, that’s the kind of true to us, true to the world we live in.

In terms of songwriting, in that time it was the best thing to happen. I think we can hopefully do something better for the next one, knowing what we know now.

It was all new to us. We recorded with all kinds of different people throughout the process. A lot of the experiences were bad, in all honesty, and only some were good. Taking from those learnings, we kind of thought, “Ok, well, next time we won’t make these mistakes, we’ll allow more time to produce the best album we can.”

I think the next step is trying to get trying to get more recognition in Canada, but I think with CanCon [Canadian media content] it can be a little bit of a double edged sword.

It is kind of like there’s a limited amount of spaces available. And I think a lot of the tastemakers don’t want to take too many risks by putting on new stuff all the time. They’re going to be a bit more risk averse. But I think that’s probably true for a lot of new bands, they find the same kind of challenges.

I think what kind of separates us from most other rock bands is that the songs have a bit of heart and vulnerability in them. I think there’s something in all of the songs that speaks to everyone in some way. It’d be nice for our songs to have a wider reach, a bigger audience, because there’s a little bit of something for everyone, that can speak to them and speak to our world right now as it is, and the chaos and beauty in it.

So the last question. What is it about music that allows you to express yourself as an artist?

I think for a lot of musicians, I don’t know maybe it’s just me, it’s kind of a form as a form of therapy. It’s good to kind of write down your thoughts and feelings just as jumbled up as they might be in that moment, and then play them out and have the sounds of your voice, the sounds of the guitar, the piano playing expressing that. I’ve always found that very soothing.

As a child music was always comforting to me. It became a way for me to be able to express my identity. But the more I think, you know, growing up in Britain, growing up and even coming here, … when you’re of an immigrant background, my parents were born in Iraq, you tend to feel a bit like an outsider sometimes.

People make fun of your name, your looks, and you don’t necessarily have the same confidence to be who you are. And I think music gives me that sense of confidence when I play on stage. That’s my time to express myself and take up space in a room that’s often reserved for anglophone white white folks. So I think that it’s given me a lot in that sense. So it’s just a great way to always just channel your emotions into something positive and that can hopefully bring light to other people.