When you’re right in the middle of transforming a 17,000 square foot industrial warehouse into your new studio, having just come off a three month tour, and about to leave for Germany on Wednesday, about the last thing on your mind would be to call some writer in Florida to chat. Nonetheless my phone rang, and lo, it was Aaron Carter, co-founder of Cirrus. “I wanted to make sure we called you on time,” he explained. “You’ll be doing the interview with Rene as soon as he gets back over here. I’m sure he’ll lay the charm on you.” That would be Rene Padilla, vocalist addition and general new boy in the funky-Long Beach-big beat trio completed by Stephen James Barry. There is some small talk, while Rene paints the drywall. “Er, Carole?” says Aaron. “Looks like I’m your subject for the evening.”. Aaron’s quite a charmer himself. Off we go.
Give me an adjective that describes each one of you.
Stephen Barry — arrogant prick! No, I’m sorry. He’s technical. Right now me and Rene are painting and he’s in there tweaking the computer and fixing our problems. Rene? Shit, what is Rene? I’m still trying to figure out why he’s around! He’s the personality of the band. Me, I’m responsible. I make sure everything gets rolling and we do it. Talk is cheap.
Besides the fact that you had more equipment making Back on a Mission than for Drop The Break , what is the difference between the two releases?
The first one was pretty much an experiment on our part. We got lucky with a record deal after sending in a single. They dug it and wanted us to make an album. At that point we weren’t very focused. We tried to cover various genres of dance music so that we wouldn’t be locked in to one particular style. The newest one is a lot more focused in whatever way that may be. I still don’t know myself, but we dig it.
What’s with the hidden tracks at the end of both releases?
It’s our little joke. On Drop The Break it was just to be cool and cheesy, and to commemorate the occasion. Now, it’s tradition. Every Cirrus release will have a bonus track. Those are us having fun and whatever goes. We call the new one “Backwards Ass Country Funk.”
So tell me, was “Nassau” inspired at all by Transatlantic Move or vice-versa?
It was totally inspired by Transatlantic Move. Back then we were really new to the idea of traveling around and then all of a sudden we got this amazing gig! A cruise to the Bahamas with some of the best DJs in the world. We had a great time, still talk about it to this day, and we have pictures. While we were on the boat we talked about writing a song about that place, so we called it “Nassau.” But even though tours are fun, they are soooo long. You miss your home, you miss your dog, your wife, kids, whatever you may have.
What was going on with the song “Abduction”?
The one with the poetry? You know, that was my Grandma. I told her that we had an idea to do a story by an older lady, about her growing up and seeing space ships and stuff like that. We tweaked her voice! And that’s my mom singing “give us a break” on “Give Us a Break.” We like having hidden or double meanings. It was like “give us a break, we’re a new band,” as well as a dance floor anthem, “give us a break Mr. DJ.”
So what was Cirrus’ big break?
I don’t think we’ve had one yet. They say even overnight successes take a year. It’s gonna be a while before we get to a point where we’re satisfied. This Epic/Sony deal that we just finished up in Europe is going to help us out a lot. One of the best things is that we have the freedom to do what we want. We’re ready for round 3, chapter 3, the third album. Then promoting and touring….it’s a great experience. We have the greatest job in the world! We love what we do.
Now it’s hokey question time. How did your name become Cirrus?
It was Steve’s idea and it’s a corny, true story. We sent in a tape to Moonshine. They wanted to release the single and needed the name of our band. We said “We don’t have one. We’ll call you back tomorrow.” Steve went to hang out at the beach with a friend. I think they were smoking a doobie, laying on the beach, and looking up at the clouds. Steve wanted to know what kind of clouds they were. His friend said he thought they were cirrus clouds, which are the highest in the upper atmosphere. From this little experience, we decided to call ourselves Cirrus. It also stands for the Chillin’ Illin’ Rock and Roll Underground Sound. We’re layin’ it down, yeah! White boyz with funk, oh yeah! That’s the chorus from “Abba Zabba.”
And what is the “dirty little hole” to which you refer in that same song? Not the old studio/house in Long Beach?
Oh yeah! It was getting really run down and the neighborhood wasn’t that great. That’s exactly what it was….a dirty little hole. We were pigs! We’re lazy!
What do you listen to lately?
We just did a raid and got all the new Moonshine CDs. We’ve also got James Brown, Sly Stone, Beastie Boys, Public Enemy, Run DMC, Willie Nelson, Charlie Daniels Band, John Lee Hooker, Miles Davis, Mushroom Jazz. Our musical taste is eclectic.
What do you wish that people would pay more attention to?
Our video. We wrote the story. It was a vision that we had in all our heads and it came to life. It probably won’t blow up or anything, but I’d like everyone to see it because it reflects our personalities so much.
How much would you pay for a hair cut?
Zero. I was getting my hair cut for $10 twice a month, so I was spending $20 a month. I got sick of hair, so I got these clippers for $10 and I shaved it all off. Now my girlfriend shaves my head for free.
You don’t tip her, or anything?
Nothing! Or maybe we’ll make sweet love down by the fire. You know, like Chef on South Park . That’s the man right there: Isaac Hayes!