photos & story by Jeff Perlman
Our night started at a house in North Center. Squid (Luke, Keifer, Nick, & Max) were gathered around the TV watching Youtube. The coffee table was littered with beer bottles, cigarette butts, and a dabbing bong - what do you call those? The gods of the Guitar World Magazine pantheon played on Youtube in rapidfire succession while we looked on and laughed.
Steve Vai whirled enthusiastically around Ralph Maccio at the end of Crossroads. Max asked “What is this movie? I hope I never see it.” After a brief detour with Scott Stapp playing and acoustic set in a Hallmark store, the videos devolved into a “bet you can’t play this” compilation.
We all agreed we'd heard enough notes for one night. They decided to head to the gas station for Soda, and CVS for more beer. At CVS the guy working behind the counter called out - “Oh hey, what’s up guys! Plenty of Hamms and Old Style in for you.” They must be regulars. We walked back to the house with Squirt, Fantas and Hamms in hand.
The band talked about touring and their upcoming record - aptly named “Soda Pop.”
Emulsion: You just went on tour, right?
Luke: Yeah, it was awesome. We played this small, middle of nowhere town out in Pennsylvania. People were so cool and they have these crazy DIY shows out in this little cabin where they pack like, 30 people in. Everyone that lives in the town - this is what they do. It's like, entirely all you can do.
Emulsion: Like an entire DIY town?
Luke: It is! A town based off DIY cuz there's nothing else to do.
Keifer: They made beer in the bathtub.
Luke: Oh! And then...hold up...this is some paranormal shit. This white dude with dreads, of course, goes "you guys want something? And we go "yeah, what you got?" and he goes "I got these pringles." And he puts them out. Ramen flavored pringles. We taste it, and it was fucking out-of-control, best snack I ever had in my life.
Nick: Yeah it was a dream come true.
Keifer: We went to like 4 different stores the next day.
Luke: We looked everywhere! Just to find that this shit doesn't exist. It's a myth.
Emulsion: So maybe it’s just some wookie-made DIY chips?
Max: They make beer and pringles in the bathtub haha.
Emulsion: Do you guys have any tour rituals?
Luke: A big thing for us is blasting really really bad Phish. We played in New York with this really strange dude and it was all these bros, and the band before us played for an hour and a half and their closing song was The Killers "I've Got Soul."
Max: They did an Encore.
Luke: People were losing their minds though! The bar was packed. The minute we started sound checking, the whole bar just leaves. It was just our friends at that point, so we still had a decent crowd...not really. It was like six people haha. The point is, we were on our way home and this Phish song started playing double speed for some reason. There was an error in the computer system of the Yukon that we rented...so that was a delight.
Emulsion: I'm sensing a sort of “anti-granola” vibe in the band?
Luke: You know what? Deep down...when I was like nineteen, I had a giant Wookie phase. I think it's just me hating on that side of myself. I was into the Disco Biscuits man. I don't wanna talk about it. It was so fuckin bad. Right after that I met you, Max.
Max: Oh yeah. I just like...beat it out of you.
Luke: I had convinced myself it was good music, and now I'm awakening out of that drug haze and I'm like "wow, what the fuck was I thinking?"
Emulsion: So you guys are working on new material. EP or a full-length?
Keifer: Yeah, we're working on the follow up to Watersports. It'll be a full-length.
Emulsion: How will it be different from Watersports?
Keifer: Well we're writing the new one together. Luke kinda generates the majority of the material that we end up shaping, and with Watersports it was just kinda me and Luke playing together and we kinda shaped out these songs. We had this goofy idea to make it about Watersports. Then we got Max and Nick to make the rest of it with us. So that was all kinda...I don't wanna say predetermined or anything, by the time we got to a full band. This one's more collaborative. Everything's coming together more organically and it's more fluid.
Luke: After we got together, I was just like, everyone's learning how I play. Let's see how they do what I play. Keifer's new one is his pop writing, but with a lot of different time signatures and shoegazy elements to it.
Keifer: Yeah we've all kinda learned how to write for each other.
Luke: Two of the songs on this album Nick did and they're some of the best writing on the album. When I talk to people after we play shows, Nick's song “Slush Puppy”...everyone just fucking loves that one song. And Max wrote probably the best melody out of the whole album. It's become a lot more collaborative.
Emulsion: So what are your goals as a band? What does "success" look like to you?
Luke: With Squid the success comes from ourselves. Looking at each other highly and wanting to impress each other with songs and good material. Everyone chipping in in equal ways to craft the perfect song. Our success is just us looking at our own songs and feeling good about them. I mean if people like it that fucking rules, go ahead, we're here for you, we love that...but if it doesn't work out, that's whatever. We're just focused on us. I'm influenced by Nick, I'm influenced by Max, I'm influenced by Keifer in so many more ways than other people in the scene.
Nick: There's always room to get bigger as a band, but I felt successful just being on tour. Driving around, playing our songs to people. That's a huge sense of success in my opinion.
Keifer: Personally for me it's like, after we're gone, having albums and stuff.
Emulsion: So what's the deal with drinks? There's a strong beverage motiff going on.
Max: Yeah, we drink a lot of soda.
Luke: The new record is gonna be called Soda Pop. It was this crazy idea Keifer and I had. What if we did this jokey half-watersports, half soda-pop thing...
Keifer: A couple of songs from Watersports were with our old band, and they were called Jetski and Sailboat. Then when we were recollecting after that band dissolved and working on songs that Luke wrote, it was like "yeah we should take those and make my weird songs be Watersports, and we'll have your pop-oriented songs be Soda Pop."
Luke: What happened was, we wrote these two batches of songs. Now looking back, Watersports was way more of a pop record, but Soda Pop is way more accessible.
Nick: Soda Pop's got some really poppy songs, but also some really dark ones. It's almost metal haha.
Luke: I think there's actually some pure moments when it's like "that's a fucking metal band." But then there's some really light elements to it.
Emulsion: You guys do seem to skirt a lot of genre lines. How have people tried to “classify” you?
Luke: We get a lot of Slint comparisons.
Max: I think we're gotten more Hum.
Luke: Duster. Especially on this new one. We've got this song “Moxy” that's got that Duster like...just straight repeating notes. They made it so memorable with this gloomy haunting melody going on that was so comforting at the same time. That hypnotic wave that Duster puts you in is how Moxy hits. It's almost the same chord progression, but you just get entranced.
Nick: Duster is definitely a huge influence on all of us.
Luke: I've been drawing a lot of influence from Armenian music I was raised on. The first music I was shown as a kid was Armenian music from my Mom's side. I've been going back and getting into stuff I was first exposed to. This really beautiful Oud music with these really evil sounding phrases, that are beautiful played in such a dynamic way. It's just really been influencing the note values. How the notes sound.
Emulsion: And that comes through on Soda Pop?
Keifer: One song in particular. “Tahn” is kinda the Armenian poster child.
Luke: Yeah, we named it “Tahn,” which is a yogurt drink from Armenia.
Emulsion: Does being a Chicago band influence you in any way?
Luke: The thing is, we're a bunch of weirdo cities that met here Chicago. We're Boston, we're Memphis, we're South Bend...You can hear so much of that.
Max: I think in another scene, we would just be angry at different stuff, but we'd still probably create generally the same type of music. Like if we were in LA it would just be like "arg...different douchebags."
Luke: I think Chicago just brings all the weirdos. We all came here. Our sound is definitely influenced by place though. Keifer's guitar is definitely the most Memphis, bluesy-influenced shit. He's got the Strat with the Twin Reverb. It sounds like Big Star or something. And our backgrounds work really weird together. Like, I'm so influenced by New England hardcore growing up. Max was really influenced by Dinosaur Jr and that sort of drumming.
Keifer: And Max has a lot of jazz background.
Max: Yeah I get to apply some of the fusion drumming with some of the strange time signature changes that we have.
Emulsion: How does being in this band fit into your lives? Any sacrifices?
Max: I play in a bunch of bands, so this is just sorta what I do. I wouldn't be doing anything else. This would be what I was sacrificing.
Keifer: I don't really have anything that I do besides this...that I care about. This is my favorite thing and I just wanna do it while we can. Luke's gonna move and go to school and Squid's gonna dissolve or whatever, and I'm gonna manage a Chick-fil-A haha. At that point sacrifices might be made...
Max: Manage a Chick-fil-A? Free sauce, baby.
Emulsion: Okay, between Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Yngwie Malmsteen, and Michael Angelo Batio...who's best, who's worst?
Keifer: Steve Vai tried to spit on my Mom once.
Nick: Fuck him dude!
Emulsion: Wait, what?
Keifer: You know what kids do, where like, it drops and you can suck it back up? He was doing that like he thought she would be into it and she was like "ugh no!" and he sucked it back up while he was playing guitar.
Emulsion: Was your mom front row at a Steve Vai show? Is she a Vai fan?
Keifer: I don't know, she was probably with my dad or something. He was in a touring band in the 80’s.
Luke: Yngwie sat next to my dad on a plane and was a total dick, and elbowed him and shit. Then he told him to watch it.
Emulsion: So the Guitar World Magazine legends have been dicks to multiple Squid parents??
Luke: Haha they're the worst people!
Max: Hey, Michael Angelo is a good fella.
Keifer: I like the ambidexterity.
Luke: Michael Angelo...incredible, just unbelievable human being. If we'll ever be ten percent of that dude… fuck Duster, fuck Hum, fuck Big Star. The gold standard of Squid is Michael Angelo Batio.
Max: Plus he licks the middle of his guitar. Provocateur.