skirting around genre // interview: squid

 Photography: Holly Whitaker

 

 

Brighton-formed Squid are the dynamic collaboration of five multi-instrumentalists who have been hailed as ones to watch this year. Skirting around genre, their music is a cluster of different styles, avoiding straightforward ‘indie-rock’ alignments with a smart, varied sonic palette. Their small selection of releases range from dreamy and psychedelic to ‘shouty,’ driven by tight motorik rhythms. Elements of Pavement and Pixies can be heard in the loud-and-quiet structures of some tracks. Their live shows are a burst of brilliant, kinetic energy, where drummer Ollie Judge manages to hold the beat whilst also singing the majority of the lead vocals. 

 

Latest single The Dial was produced by Speedy Wunderground’s Dan Carey, whose process insists upon what he calls the ’Ten-Point-Plan,’ a list of commandments which must be adhered to at all times, while under his some-what unorthodox supervision.

Rule one: ‘The core of each song will be a live take recorded in the dark with smoke and lasers.’ 

Rule two: 'There will be no lunch break during recording and mixing days.’

Rule three: 'Recording of all records will be done in one day and finish before midnight. Mixing will be done the day following the recording, also in one day only. This will prevent over-cooking and faff.’ 

This list goes on. Other recent work from Carey has included explosive new tracks from Black Midi and Black Country New Road. Check it out.

 

We spoke to the band just before their Lexington show over some not-so-dry January pints.

 

 

 Squid – The Dial, produced by Speedy Wunderground's Dan Carey

 

 

 

Hello! Will you introduce yourselves?

Arthur: I'm Arthur, and I play synthesizers, cello and percussion.

Louis: I'm Louis. I play guitar, bass and I sing.

Ollie: I'm Ollie, and I play drums and sing.

Laurie: I'm Laurie, and I play the cornet, which is like a condensed trumpet, the bass and percussion.

Anton: I'm Anton, I play guitar and I do a bit of singing.

 

How are you feeling about the Lexington show that you're about to play? It's sold out and you're playing with Black Country New Road, Our Girl and Gently Tender…

Ollie: I think it may be one of the best line ups we've ever played on. I haven’t been at The Lexington since I was twenty-one.

Anton: It’s my first time here.

Laurie: We haven’t seen Our Girl before, so we’re excited to see them.

 

 

 Photography: Holly Whitaker

 

 

And then you've got the Speedy Wunderground Label Mates festival coming up next week. How was working with [Speedy Wunderground producer] Dan Carey on The Dial? I know his modus operandi is a little unorthodox...

Louis: Yeah, looking forward to that! It was really scary... Well, he made recording scary by turning the lights off and using a smoke machine.

Laurie: I spoke to the Black Country New Road drummer because Dan just released their new single. He said they politely asked him to turn the lights back on.

 

Is the darkness to isolate your hearing or something?

Laurie: No, it's to make you nervous!

Ollie: No it's not! It's for a bit of fun!

Louis: He's a serious guy – but, by that, I mean seriously good. And by scary, it was only scary before. Once we got to know Dan, we realised he's like a big kid. He's lovely.

 

Am I right in thinking you have a good story behind your name? One involving near death?

Laurie: We have a few stories, a few legends.

Ollie: Yeah, we’re called Squid because when I was really young I went to La Tasca with my family and I almost choked to death on calamari. My mum had to hit me really hard on the back to get it out. She saw me talking about it in another interview the other day and texted, “Oh my God, I'm such a bad mother! I took so long to save you from the calamari!” 

Louis: I thought you made that story up.

Ollie: No, that actually happened. I was in the middle of the table, so it took a long time for my mum to get to me. It was kind of like a Last Supper set up.

Anton: Wait, did you just compare yourself to Jesus? Was the squid Judas, perhaps.

 

 

 Photography: Holly Whitaker

 

 

How did you initially get into music, and when did you decide to keep going with it?

Louis: Just playing music in each other's rooms and finding our sound in Brighton, where we all used to live. We tried to be a jazz band, but as soon as we'd done our first gig we were like, let's not be a jazz band anymore.

Laurie: My dad made me hit percussion when I was two-years-old. There’s a video of it that he plays at Christmas.

Ollie: I wasn't good at sports, so I started to play music. All of our friends really like music, but I think we were just quite obsessed with it.

Arthur: My number one goal was always to have a funk and soul band, and I did that. Then I was looking for something new to do. I didn't think it would be a post-punk band though, I didn't even really know what post-punk was. 

 

Would you call yourself post-punk then? 

Arthur: Not really, but it’s always the easiest thing to say.

Louis: Post-funk.

Anton: We all like a massive variety of music, and that's why we end up playing a lot of different styles. Whenever we've heard a record that we all unanimously like, we go “Let's try to make a song like this band, or this band” – so all of our songs are very different.

 

I really like the royal blue that seems to be a recurring album art/photo theme. Has it been intentional each time?

Laurie: Oh yeah, we had those fisherman's jackets.

Anton: For The Dial, Speedy Wunderground releases have, like, a two colour thing. I think we just happened to get blue and orange, right? They chose it. Black Country New Road got orange and... brown? Olive? 

Louis: Beige? Orange and beige?

All: Brown.

Anton: It just kind of fitted nicely, and the video was made after that, to fit in with the colour scheme

 

What're your main musical influences?

Louis: At the moment, we're listening to a lot of XTC because we played a gig last week at the Old Blue Last and someone said we sound like them, so we've just been smashing through the back catalogue. It’s great.

Ollie: I found a Robbie Williams cover of Making Plans for Nigel. It's fucking awful. It's terrible.

Anton: I've been listening to a lot of Pink Floyd recently. Dark Side of the Moon is incredible.

Louis: I've been listening to a lot of Smog. Bill Callahan. A lot of Pentangle as well. Good shit.

Anton: We don't really listen to music together though. We talk about strategy games – like Age of Empires.

 

 

 Photography: Holly Whitaker

 

 

Wait, what’s Age of Empires?

Ollie: It's a nineties medieval revolutionary strategy game.

Louis: But it’s musical as well! The home screen music is kind of like… [all start singing theme tune]. We want to have that as our walk on music.

 

Nice! I was also wondering about how you approach staging with a drummer who sings lead vocals. A lot of the time, drummers are kind of relegated to the back…

Anton: We used to record drums and vocals separately when Ollie sang, but I don't think we'll ever go away from doing them together now. The energy is so much better.

Louis: When we did our EP release, we had a camera on his face and projected his face above the stage so that everyone could see his face. I really want to do that again.

Ollie: I don't know if you used to watch Power Rangers as a kid, but when they were projecting my face, I looked a bit like Zorgon. He was this kind of projected face on a tube.

 

Like The Wizard of Oz?

Louis: Yeah, it was like that! He was this kind of omnipresent face, just staring and shouting at you.

Anton: Yeah, we try to make sure that people can see him, but it's quite hard because we're usually on quite small stages. We often don't have time to move the whole drum kit around.

Louis: We're all quite aware of it. Anton's right-handed, I'm left-handed, meaning our guitar necks face different ways, so we can get this symmetry thing going on with Ollie in the middle.

Anton: We also write songs where Ollie comes to the front to do stuff, which is quite fun because it means there are no drums and we can stand in a line.

Ollie: Stretches my legs as well.

 

 

 Photography: Holly Whitaker

 

 

Isn't it pretty hard keeping the rhythm while also singing lead vocals? 

Ollie: Yeah, it is a little bit. I've found recently that I get very, very tired at the end of shows. It's good though. I don't do any exercise so it's kind of like a workout. In ten years I’ll be fucking stacked! Can't wait.

 

What's your normal songwriting process?

Anton: We usually meet with little ideas and then we just let things grow. I think it's a really important part of our songwriting that we don't get too attached to things. If I come in with an idea, I'm quite happy for them to just change it and make it better. It's often a mistake for bands to get really attached and get upset when things change. There's none of that with us. We recorded a song last year we decided we're never going to release, but one of our new songs, Rodeo, is basically that song harmonically and in terms of chords, just completely reworked with a completely different tempo and a new approach to it. It's just letting things have a bit of space I guess

 

And in terms of lyrics?

Anton: It's kind of whoever's singing, so sometimes it's Louis, sometimes it's Ollie. I do a bit of vocals, but I don't write lyrics very often.

Louis: We treat the vocals like an instrument. So, sometimes the vocals come really quickly, sometimes they come from another thing, but they always follow the instrumentation.

 

 

 Photography: Holly Whitaker

 

 

 

What do you have coming up in terms of releases, are you working on an album, or are you taking things more slowly?

Louis: We're taking making an album quite seriously, in that we're not going to do it when we don't have enough time. At the moment, we're all transitioning from full-time jobs and moving to different places. We're so happy with what we're doing now that we're not in a rush to do an album in the next couple of months because it's not the time.

Ollie: Playing shows is vital as well. If we’re going to go full-time then we can't really stop, which is kind of a blessing and a curse. We don't have enough time to write because we just have to carry on with shows.

Louis: In terms of an album, we're just on different wavelengths, but I think this time in six months, we'll be in a position where all our brains are in-sync. We'll be upgraded, hopefully, to a one Squid brain.

 

What festivals are you hoping to play this year?

Louis: Next week, we're playing a festival in Slovenia. But this summer, we're hoping to play End of The Road and Green Man. We want to go to all of our favourite ones. 

Arthur: Green Man was such an amazing time for me last year, such a good crowd. I’d give anything to play there for years to come.

Louis: Yeah. I lost absolutely everything I owned at that festival. My wallet and my mind. One of the funnest ones we've played was last weekend in Butlins, the Rockaway Beach festival. On the way back, I lost my guitar. If somehow anybody could help me get that back, that would be good. It was my favourite thing ever.

 

Finally, what new bands are on your radar?

Laurie: Black Country New Road. We're very excited to play with them tonight and next week. 

Louis: The Stroppies, from New Zealand. I think they may be coming over to the U.K. this year.

Ollie: SASAMI. She used to be the keyboardist in Cherry Glazerr, and sounds like Broadcast and Stereolab. Very feisty.

Laurie: Panda Bear.

Anton: Lonker See. They're from Poland.

Louis: Lewsberg. Fucking sick. They're a band from Rotterdam.

Ollie: They're super like The Velvet Underground and The Modern Lovers. Good shit.

 

 

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