If you've haven't seen or heard Atlanta based band, "Seven Handle Circus", then it is high time that you grab some friends, load up the party-mobile, and head to their next show. Their music, unofficially dubbed "Bad Ass Bluegrass", takes traditional instruments, throws in rock, funk, and soul, and injects it with a whole lot of attitude that makes crowds get on their feet and party. Carolina Mixer recently had the opportunity to dig a little deeper into the bands story with members Shawn Spencer, Colin Vinson, Jeff Harrison, and Richard Burroughs. Much like the band's shows, it was an adventurous ride. The resulting tales may or may not be true, but they are definitely entertaining…
So, how did the band come together?
Colin: The band started as a way to not do homework in 2010. We are still not doing homework to this day.
Shawn: A couple years ago, we were all in college and we began playing on the front porch of our fraternity house. We had all been playing together in different projects, but then kind of all came together, and started playing fraternity band parties.
Richard: None of us could lose the musical itch when we left for college. Our two fraternities brought us into the same social scene, and our shared interests found their way into a bluegrass band.
Jeff: 2010 – That was the year we all sold our distortion pedals.
"Seven Handle Circus" is an interesting name. Where did that come from?
Shawn: Seven handles of whiskey, one for each day of the week, becomes a circus.
Richard: It's a whiskey handle for every day of the week, which would be excessive partying. We aim for our shows to fall into this category.
What names were rejected before you settled on Seven Handle Circus?
Shawn: "Skeet Mountain Trio" and "Florida Mountain Boys"…
Colin: Also "Slayer Jr." and "Uncle Danny Loves Breakfast".
How would you describe the style of the band's music, and who are the biggest influences on the musical style?
Shawn: I'd call it Bluegrass infused rock and roll. Or "Grass and Roll". Some of the biggest influences are progressive bluegrass like Bela Fleck, Punch Brothers, Union Station, Old Crow Medicine show, and the rock, punk, and rap music from our youth like 311, Dave Matthews, Led Zeppelin, Green Day, Weezer, Outkast, Tupac & Biggie. Also we have a lot of classical and jazz training that definitely makes its appearance.
Colin: Grass-and-Roll is what we usually say. Our influences really are all over the place, but pretty much anything that results in a good time being had. I like to think of us as an old-time Andrew W.K. tribute band.
Jeff: Really, it's just a high energy, foot stompin' blend of Bluegrass, Folk, and Rock
With 6 members, and a lot of creativity, how does your songwriting process work?
Richard: Logistically, a member writes a song structure and plays it for the group. After working on it and finishing lyrics, we'll put it into our set. We have found that a year or more after performing a song we still find small changes to add. Shawn has been great as our main writer thus far.
Shawn: After the basics are done, then we arrange as a band and add things like collective dynamics and solos.
Colin: Then everyone hammers on it until it becomes a song.
Jeff: I think of it being similar to screwing in a light bulb. One person can do it, but not
when there are 5 other guys standing around watching... right?
Where and when was your first live performance together? Paid or non-paid? How much?
Jeff: It may have been in front of a bunch of drunk college kids, but no one will ever
know... we were partying as well.
Shawn: Very first was at a Sigma Nu fraternity party, and completely unpaid.
Richard: (Unofficially) Park Tavern almost two years ago. Volunteer job, and I'm pretty sure we didn't even get free beer at the bar.
Colin: It was a charity gig for something, I'm not sure what. I think it was pro nuclear proliferation. "Students for Mutually Assured Destruction". Steve was the president. We didn't make any money, but the bartender told my wife he thought I was cute, so I marked it down in the "win" column.
Worst thing that has happened to the band at a show?
Colin: The very worst was the time a random fan gave birth on stage. Second worst was the time we melted all 4 15" drivers in our PA system.
Jeff: Probably the time we were shut down by the police for excessive partying!
Richard: Jeff, we'd better explain…. Now keep in mind we're playing in Valdosta to a bunch of "Jessica Simpsons" (Dukes of Hazzard Edition) from South Georgia, so we're not looking anywhere but at the girls in front of us. A cop walked up to Colin unseen by us and apparently tells him "Kill the music". Colin turns to Shawn and does the hand across the throat motion to "kill it". So Shawn turns to the rest of the band and says, "Hell yea, Killing in the Name of!" and slams the intro chords. It ended better than it probably should have.
Best thing that has happened to the band at a show?
Colin: The very best was the time Steve hit himself in the groin with his mandolin. That was hilarious! Second best was the time we met Mumford and Sons.
Shawn: Mumford and Sons walked in and asked us to come play at the Fox Theater.
As a band, you get to play in some pretty questionable venues, and some good ones as well. What is your dream venue to play a show?
Shawn: Red Rocks.
Richard: Red Rocks, undoubtedly.
Jeff: The Tabernacle, Atlanta GA
Colin: Personally, the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville would be the best. That or Red Rocks.
Everyone has their own ideas of the dream of being in a band, but for true "Road Warriors, what is the best thing about being in the band?
Colin: Free broken guitar strings.
Richard: Gas station food. More options than the Falcons have on offense. Which is relatively a metric megaton. Go Dirty Birds.
Shawn: Long Car Rides and Carrying Equipment.
Jeff: Lugging gear, cheap hotels, fast food, sleeping in cars, benefit shows, porta-johns, axe body spray, flat tires, repairing equipment and hangin' with 5 other dudes who like these things as well.
The band sounds like it started as a fun diversion at college, and the resulting band took off. You guys are getting a lot of attention and interest in a relatively short amount of time. With that in mind, where you would like to see your music career go from here?
Colin: Whatever ends up happening. So far the band has kind of taken on a life of its own. I'm just curious to see where it's going.
Shawn: We would like to tour all around the world and play for as many people as possible.
Richard: I want it to allow us to travel and experience new cultures and influences while helping people to maybe ease a little stress and have a good time.
Jeff: Across the internet at the speed of light!