Beat Circus

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Beat Circus
Beat Circus, Oct. 2011.jpg
Beat Circus performing in New York City, 2011
Background information
OriginBoston, Massachusetts, United States
GenresAlternative rock
Experimental rock
Americana (music)
Dark cabaret
Years active2002–present
LabelsCuneiform Records
Innova Records
MembersBrian Carpenter
Paul Dilley
Andrew Stern
Ron Caswell
Mazz Swift
Gavin McCarthy
Past membersParan Amirinazari
Leigh Calabrese
Curtis Hasselbring
Jim Hobbs
Kaethe Hostetter
Briggan Krauss
Matt McLaren
Alec K. Redfearn
Brandon Seabrook

Beat Circus is a band from Boston, Massachusetts fronted by multi-instrumentalist / singer-songwriter Brian Carpenter, who has been its only constant member since its inception.

Musical style[edit]

The band's songs are characterized by lush arrangements, eclectic instrumentation, and Carpenter's lyrical themes of love, death, religion, and American mythologies. The music draws heavily from several disparate genres including experimental music, modern classical, cabaret, circus music, Appalachian string music, bluegrass music, old-time music, Southern Gospel, and funereal music.[1][2] Since 2005, Carpenter has been developing a "Weird American Gothic" trilogy of concept albums, starting with Dreamland.[3]


Early years and Ringleaders (2002-2004)[edit]

In 2001 Brian Carpenter moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts and formed a collaboration with tenor banjo player Brandon Seabrook, which led to the first incarnation of Beat Circus, originally named Beat Science. Aided by saxophonist Jim Hobbs, drummer Jerome Deupree, accordionist Alec K. Redfearn, tubist Ron Caswell, and musical saw player Leigh Calabrese, the group was a contemporary free improvisation instrumental ensemble which used circus music as a jumping off point. After a summer-long residency in Cambridge in 2003, Carpenter recorded the band's first album Ringleaders Revolt which was subsequently released by Innova Records in 2004.[4][5]

Dreamland (2005-2006)[edit]

In 2005, Carpenter steered the band in an entirely different direction with the development of Dreamland, a 150-page through-composed score for nine musicians containing songs based around a stage play treatment of a story involving the turn-of-the-century Coney Island theme park which burned in a devastating fire in 1911. Dreamland began a shift away from instrumental music to narrative songs about children, dreams, fatherhood, revenge, and redemption. To develop the Dreamland score, Carpenter formed a second incarnation of Beat Circus with drummer Matt McLaren (a long-time collaborator of Cuneiform Records label-mate Alec K. Redfearn), Kaethe Hostetter from Boston, trombonist Curtis Hasselbring, saxophonist Briggan Krauss of Sex Mob, and original members Alec K. Redfearn, Ron Caswell, and Brandon Seabrook. In 2006, Carpenter enlisted New York City-based producer Martin Bisi to record and mix Dreamland in Brooklyn. Dreamland was released on Cuneiform Records in January 2008 and announced as the first installation in Carpenter's "Weird American Gothic" trilogy.[6]

Boy from Black Mountain (2007-2009)[edit]

In late 2006 near the completion of recording Dreamland, Carpenter's son was diagnosed with autism. After coping with this, Carpenter began writing a song cycle for the second part of the afore-mentioned trilogy, entitled Boy From Black Mountain. With the departure of Alec K. Redfearn and Matt McLaren, who wished to focus on their band The Eyesores, Carpenter formed the third incarnation of Beat Circus in 2007, casting himself as the lead vocalist with violinist Paran Amirinazari and violist Jordan Voelker as background vocalists, and introducing a rockabilly-style rhythm section composed of upright bassist Paul Dilley, guitarist/banjoist Andrew Stern, and drummer Gavin McCarthy of Karate. In 2008 Carpenter enlisted producer Sean Slade to record Boy From Black Mountain in Boston. Later that year New York City-based producer and engineer Bryce Goggin was brought on to mix the album. Boy From Black Mountain marked yet another shift in direction, inspired by Carpenter's Southern heritage, Southern Gospel music, bluegrass music, and Southern Gothic writers, and was released by Cuneiform Records in September 2009.[7][8]



  1. ^ Monger, James Christopher (2008-01-28). "Allmusic Biography". Retrieved 2008-01-28.
  2. ^ "Brian Carpenter: Eclectic Jazz, Rooted in Americana". 2011-04-07. Retrieved 2011-11-18.
  3. ^ Elliot, Richard (2009-12-02). "Beat Circus: Boy From Black Mountain". PopMatters. Retrieved 2010-03-20.
  4. ^ Garelick, Jon (2004-09-24). "To Play is The Thing". Boston Phoenix. Archived from the original on 2007-09-27. Retrieved 2004-09-24.
  5. ^ Harrell, Scott (2005-05-12). "When The Circus Comes". Creative Loafing. Archived from the original on 2007-09-30. Retrieved 2005-05-12.
  6. ^ Mason, Stewart (2008-03-01). "Dreamland". Allmusic. Retrieved 2008-03-01.
  7. ^ Sullivan, Jim (2008-01-11). "Notes on Beat Circus". Boston Phoenix. Retrieved 2008-01-12.
  8. ^ Thompson, Barry (2009-01-06). "Southern Exposure". Boston Phoenix. Retrieved 2009-01-07.