By Ben Shelly
Phil Scott is a junior at Goshen College and is part of the three member band, Moral Circus, which recently played two shows in Wisconsin and released their first EP.
Q: How did you become involved in music at Goshen College?
A: I used to just make music by myself. The first time I collaborated was freshmen year; we had 11 guys from Miller 1 get together and play an Arcade Fire song and it was sweet. And after that, me and Henry (Stewart) became friends, we were friends with Lauren (Treiber), and it kind of just happened because we were all friends and also played music.
Q: Did you play any instruments in high school or anytime before college?
A: I was always really into music, but I didn’t learn guitar until probably my sophomore year of high school. I just got a free one and decided I wanted to start to learn.
Q: Have you always been into creating music?
A: Yeah, that was the main reason I wanted to play guitar, because I always enjoyed making things of my own. So that was kind of a way to just accompany whatever I ended up writing.
Q: How did Moral Circus come together?
A: That one kind of came into being during sophomore Kickoff. We decided to do the Beirut song, “Goshen,” because it was too appropriate and then we just decided that we really liked playing music together and should do more of it.
Q: How would you describe your music? What genres would it fall under?
A: That’s a really hard question, and I always have trouble answering it. I mean, we call it indie folk. I usually write in a journalistic way, like a diary, but when we write together it’s more like creating a mood, not necessarily telling a story, but more just creating a tone.
Q: Are there bands that are influences on your group?
A: For me personally, I draw influence on music I’m really into, like The National, Bon Iver, Frightened Rabbit. Not necessarily that we sound like them, but I get a lot of influence in terms of lyrics.
Q: Is there a particular style of lyrics you enjoy?
A: Vague, in a very personal sense, is how I would describe it — something that is up for interpretation but it still seems like it’s very personal.
Q: I was especially thinking of one of your songs, “Salt and Vinegar,” which has a unique sound. How did that happen?
A: Henry just had these two chords that we liked, and if you notice those two chords last the whole song. It’s kind of a distant feeling: old and rusted. We put together the instruments first, and Lauren and I talked about the kind of feeling we get from it, and then individually we both wrote our own lyrics.
Q: How does the collaborative songwriting work?
A: It actually works really well because we have the same vision, but I can write for what I sing and Lauren often writes for what she can sing. We don’t always write that way; we’ve done it where we all write together and where just one person writes. However, for “Salt and Vinegar,” we just wrote for our own parts, which I think helps in telling a story. So with that song I kind of see it as a sandwich.
Q: What about the band name “Moral Circus?” How was that chosen?
A: We like it because it can be interpreted in many different ways, kind of like a lot of our songs. But it came into being because Lauren misheard Henry when he said “Memorial Service,” and she thought he had said “Moral Circus.”
Q: How did the title of your new EP, “Aches,” come about?
A: We were kind of just brainstorming something that would sum up the music briefly and simply and we thought that name just kind of described the tone of the songs: aches, but not necessarily pains.
Q: How did the music in “Aches” come to fruition?
A: We had been playing together for about a year, and then we had planned to play a few shows in Madison and we thought, if we’re actually going to go somewhere, we should really have something to offer people. And so we knew we had about a month to record what we had written. The first song we recorded last year was done in the stairwell of the Music Center, but that was a big pain because we’d have to drag our instruments to and from. This year we have a room in the Union where we recorded two tracks in, which worked out for the most part, but you’ll notice if you pay close attention you might hear a door closing. And Joel Jimenez, the sound guy for the Music Center, offered to record a few songs for us. So the last two songs on the EP were recorded by him and he did a really great job on those.
Q: What was the recording process like?
A: We started at around 10:30 p.m. and got home around 1:30 or 2, which is pretty late, but for the fact that we recorded two songs, it would have taken us that long to record one song on our own. We were able to do a live recording for that, which worked out really nice because it gets a much more natural feel to it.
Q: What’s your ideal musical future?
A: I would love to spend some time after college just playing music. Obviously it’s not a very sustaining life goal but I think it’d be a really inspiring one, and fun. I think if we want to really take off we’ve got a long way to go, but it’s a fun process, so I don’t really mind. We’ll just play it by ear. It’s really hard to plan when you don’t know what’s going to happen, but we plan on sticking together this summer and creating things together.
Q: What other kinds of things are you looking at for after college?
A: There’s a good chance I could be an art teacher; that’s what I’m studying to do. I could see myself being a paraprofessional at a school to start off, just feeling out the school system. Or I could do volunteer work. I’m up for anything, I want to have some variety in life. I don’t want to stick to one thing.
Interview has been condensed and edited.