Howlin' Circus

Created by Toronto-based British-Iraqi musician Jafar Sandouk , Howlin’ Circus is a rock ‘n roll project with an Eastern-inspired psychedelic blues sound. He’s just released the latest single, “Bullet For Your Baby”, a song that “encourages the act of celebrating kindness in a cruel, and dark political climate”. We caught up with Jafar to chat about the new single, the highlight of his career thus far, and his superhero alter ego.

From The Strait: Tell us about the new single, “Bullet For Your Baby”.

Howlin’ Circus: It’s my raw take on watching the world burn over the last few years, and wondering why an alarming number of people can’t be empathetic anymore. Individualism, egoism, but also straight up shithousery has become so fashionable of late. I tried resolving it in my head, rationalizing the absurd cruelty going on, but I couldn’t. The song ends on a positive note, I think. I feel like there’s a point for your own mental health where you say you’re just going to reserve what space you have left in your heart for loving the people and the things in your life that truly matter, and accept that quite a lot of sad, angry people will reserve all of that space for hurting, judging, and ridiculing others.

FTS: What are some artists or bands you can’t get enough of right now?

Howlin’ Circus: I’ve been in the studio a lot lately, so I’m excited to delve into other people’s music once this album is finished. Recently, I’ve enjoyed new-ish tunes from Sleaford Mods, Robert Glasper, Kae Tempest, Bob Vylan, Big Joanie, among others. Once this album is done, I’ll be adding to my record collection again. I love sitting down and properly listening to an album from start to finish. The whole streaming and playlisting thing makes it so easy to forget what you listened to and not give it the proper attention it deserves. Neither the artist nor the listener benefits. It’s just convenient, I guess?

FTS: What’s your favourite – and least favourite – thing about being a musician?

Howlin’ Circus: Living creatively, trying out new ideas and being able to will a song into existence from a tiny melody in your brain or a couple of rogue thoughts. For me, making music is the closest thing to magic. Outside of this creative world, there are so many rules and norms to abide by that limit who we really are. So that brings me to my least favourite thing about being a musician. Even as an independent artist, I’m bound to this great algorithm, which means working to produce free “content” for some of the largest and richest tech companies – all for the slim hope you might be rewarded with more likes and more streams.

FTS: What has been the highlight of your career so far?

Howlin’ Circus: Last year, I went over to Germany with the band to play Decolonoize, an alternative music festival showcasing BIPOC artists. Performing and watching other great bands, in a space where I felt appreciated and accepted, felt wonderfully surreal. The alternative, rock, and indie scene in Canada needs to do a whole lot better in that regard. Beyond that, touring in Germany is just easier. Every booker had accommodation and meals sorted out for us, and they really appreciate musicians over there.

FTS: If you were a superhero, what would be your superpower and name?

Howlin’ Circus: Nearly every venue I’ve played at in Toronto has some kind of accessibility barrier, which prevents many people with disabilities from attending live shows. So my superpower would be, when I see that needless one-step walk up into a venue, and I see all the washrooms located downstairs, I would fix that with a wave of the hand. The Mayor of Toronto, my arch nemesis, would probably call me A Problem, and my fans would call me Accessibility Bandit.

Check out “Bullet For Your Baby”, the new single from Howlin’ Circus!

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