Ivory Circle singer-songwriter Connie Hong opens the Denver trio’s latest single “Trigger” with the line “I didn’t mean to pull the trigger, but you gave me the gun and only one way out.”
It's easy to imagine she's singing about a shooting, but Hong says the line is a metaphor for a bad relationship. One of her own, actually. The song recalls a man Hong was seeing who constantly told her that she was “triggering” him.
“That was almost like before it became this really cliché term people use now,” Hong says. “I think it was really profound. It made me realize how often you can be with someone…and something they do can catapult you into projecting past experiences and past relationships or other people, things like that.”
She says she intended the lyrics, particularly the shooting imagery, to be somewhat ambiguous.
“You never really know what happens next,” she says. “It’s not necessarily like she shoots him in the song or she kills anyone. It’s just that it’s the only option to pull the trigger. Whether she shoots it in the air or shoots it at someone, it’s just the catalyst for the end.”
The indie-pop band is releasing the song and a video showing the trio at work in a recording studio on February 14, Valentine's Day. See it for yourself below: The subject matter is decidedly not romantic, but Hong says the release date is just a coincidence, because it’s the day before they take the stage to celebrate the release of the new song.
Hong wrote the lyrics about four years ago, when Ivory Circle was intended as more of a solo project. She dug up the words last year, when she and her bandmates — producer and multi instrumentalist Chris Beeble and drummer Rob Spradling — hit an impasse on another song they planned to release as a single.
“I thought this could be cool with a bigger band arrangement,” she says. “I showed it to Chris, and he liked it. He likes the lyrics that convey more of a visual and imagery. He was really drawn to that song. We started working on it at that spot in the studio and finished it that night. So it came together pretty fast. It just seems like the right song to work on.”
A complex arrangement of bombastic drumming, haunting synth lines and shifting dynamics underlies Hong’s vocals on “Trigger” — a sound that suggests more than three people are playing. Hong says that the band, when it can, will hire extra musicians for live shows to fill out its sound. For example, Ivory Circle’s last headlining gig included a string quartet on stage. For its upcoming show at the Roxy in Denver, Hong says the band is bringing two extra musicians.
“We like to add strings. You can tell from the recording that that's more of an ideal circumstance, but that’s not always economical,” she says. “We do use tracks a lot, and Rob, our drummer, is very good at synchronizing our set list with tracks and additional instrumentation we can’t replicate ourselves.”
Ivory Circle has dropped a trilogy of triangle-themed releases over the course of its existence, but Hong sees the group focusing more on releasing individual songs, at least in the near future. The band has had success licensing its music — including spots on Showtime's The Affair and VH1's Couples Therapy — and she believes that to continue with that success, the group has to keep releasing material.
“We have two other songs in the works,” she says. “We have all been in busy stages in our lives. Chris got married a few years ago. Rob is getting married this next year. We all have so many things going on. Our main focus is studio stuff, and maybe a show or two in the next few months. We will see how it goes.”
Ivory Circle performs with Dan Aid at 8:30 p.m. Saturday, February 15, at the Roxy on Broadway. Tickets are $10 in advance and $12 the day of the show and available at ivorycircle.com.
Listen to Ivory Circle, Dan Aid and more favorites from Westword writers on our Westword Staff Picks playlist.