Seven Circle Sunrise

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By: Gary Graff
Billboard Magazine
New York Times

"I hope I can someday steer my soul
And find my way back home."

Seven Circle Sunrise is not for the faint of heart or those who want a one-time, disposable listen. This is music with meaning, created from a deeply passionate place and profound experiences that are sometimes heartbreaking but lead to an uplifting resolve. And it rocks like an unbridled beast that just got stuck in the ass with a hot poker.

Seven Circle Sunrise is a band, but the 10 songs on its first album, BEAUTY IN BEING ALONE, are the product of Veno Xavier -- singer, guitarist, songwriter and visionary force. They tell the story of a hard and unsettled youth, marred by tragedy and abuse but also marked by familial devotion, sibling ties and a love of music that put a guitar in Xavier's hands and led him to vent his feelings through a potent, aggressive and dynamically charged songs that make the "angst" of other bands sound like inconsequential simpering. Xavier shares, "I've realized that many times in my life, if it wasn't for that guitar a gun would've easily taken its place. That's what this band is about. It's not about sex, drugs, hookers or blow. If you have had real problems other than breaking up with your girlfriend, than this music is for you. The one thing I am not is vapid."

The very real issues that feed Xavier's music started during his youth in Massillon, Ohio, near Akron and Canton. The product of an abusive household, Xavier and his two brothers, one older and one younger, were sent into foster care when he was eight years old. His father died when he was nine, while his mother suffered with Muscular Dystrophy and couldn't care for the children. "I went from one abusive foster home after another abusive foster home, thrown around like a rag doll," he recalls. "My mother was dealt a shitty hand of cards. My dad was abusive to her, but she stayed with him because of us kids. She would've done anything for us. She was sick, but all those years in the foster homes she did nothing but fight for us."

Xavier's path also led him to what he called "a detention home," where he found solace in the guitar he borrowed from his older brother, who also showed him a couple of chords. "I started playing it day and night," Xavier recalls. "It's the only thing I did literally from then on. I quit going to school and everything. I just wanted to play music and be in a band." Xavier -- who soaked up a wealth of influences heavy in grunge (Nirvana, Alice In Chains, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam) and metal (Metallica, Megadeth) -- began singing and songwriting as well, recording his first song when he was 17. He also formed bands, one of which, Dazend, built a regional following and opened for Chevelle, Finger Eleven, Evans Blue and others.

In 2007, Xavier decided to pick up and head for Los Angeles -- no GPS, no road map, no reservation. "The only thing I knew about California is what I heard from the Beach Boys," he quips. But Xavier, who tried his hand at community college, knew he wanted to take his music further, so he lived in a van for nine months, working as extras in movies and TV shows before meeting his manager, Thomas Scriven, during a stint on NASHVILLE STAR. Xavier hit the studio with Dave Bianco (Tom Petty, AC/DC, Tin Machine, Danzig), but just three songs in he was called back to Ohio.

"My mom ended up going to the hospital with pneumonia," he recalls. "I got a call at 5:30 in the morning from my home town, from the hospital; she was coding and they were asking me whether or not I wanted her resuscitated. It was all pretty much out of the blue. I took the first plane home. I never got to speak to her again, but we were all there when she passed."

Xavier returned to the West Coast and tried to get back to work, but he was in a debilitating funk. "See, I had this idea that somehow, being successful in music would save her from the disease," Xavier explains. "When she was gone, I really had nowhere to go. The purpose was gone. I didn't have anything to focus on." He came back to Ohio and stayed with a friend. "I just laid on his couch and pretty much did nothing for a long time," Xavier recalls. "I didn't turn to drugs or alcohol. I just didn't do anything."

Xavier's manager kept on him, however, and arranged a songwriting session with producer Rick Beato (Shinedown, Bullet For My Valentine) in Atlanta in June of 2009. Xavier started working on new material during the 12-hour drive, but it was later in the session, when Beato took a break to let Xavier work by himself for a bit, that he scored a keeper -- "Another Day." "I was stressed by that point," he remembers, "so I sat down and thought, 'If I had one thing to say to anybody, what would I say?' And the words came -- 'Christ it's me who cried/When you took away my mother.' Within 15 minutes I came up with the song. Rick came down and we recorded it, and I started the record with that track."

BEAUTY IN BEING ALONE finds Xavier coming to terms with his past, exorcising his pain in the crunchy riffs of "Broken Man," "Dead Love Letters" and "Place I was Before," and in the chunky metallic rage of "After All" and "In Hate." Xavier lets a softer side show amidst the melodic dynamics of "Praying For You," asking "Should I make believe that I'm really okay and everything will be all right someday," while the closing "Home" finds him craving peace amidst rich vocal harmonies and ringing guitars.

Xavier and Beato wound up finishing BEAUTY IN BEING ALONE in a 10-day period, and the former then returned to Massillon to put together a final band lineup under the Seven Circle Sunrise name. "It appeals to me in the same way a name like Stone Temple PIlots or Alice In Chains does -- I just wanted something that didn't necessarily mean anything," Xavier explains. "Once people remember it, it stands for the band's music."

And that music, he hopes, will stand for something important to those that hear it. "I do this because I think somebody needs to," Xavier explains. "Facebook and all of the sites have pretty much been lit up with people's comments and messages. At the live shows, I'm approached daily by people sharing something about their dad or their mom passing away, and how these songs hit that spot for them. That was my intention. Beyond self-healing, that is what drives me."

-Gary Graff
Billboard Magazine
New York Times
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Created: March 8, 2016, 5:13 p.m.
Last Modified: Jan. 18, 2017, 9:40 a.m.