A Chat with Squid: Dystopia, UK Rock and the road to ‘Big Green Field’
Interview & words by Matt Thorley
English experimental rockers Squid have kept nice and busy in the four years since the release of their debut EP ‘Lino’. Amassing a legion of passionate fans the world over, with each single and project receiving greater acclaim and fanfare than the last. Now a fully realised collective – with each expansive track confidently balancing noisy rock with elements of jazz, ambient and beyond – we arrive at their debut full length album ‘Big Green Field’.
We were lucky enough to have a chat with two members of the band: Louis Borlase (Guitar, Bass, Vocals) and Laurie Nankivell (Bass, Synthesiser).
When reflecting on the band’s development since their debut project all those years ago, the band said: “We had no idea what we were gonna sound like back then. In some senses there is a part of ‘Lino’ in the record and that’s definitely something we’re proud of. To be honest, we were five minds with five relatively distinct musical tastes who had no idea what we were gonna make.”
The band have a propensity for expansive and intriguingly structured tracks and nowhere is this more evident than on their recent single ‘Narrator’. “We started writing that when we were in Margate, at a friend of ours’ studios who kindly let us use it for free. Martha (Skye Murphy) just came down because we fancied writing a track and just collaborating – it wasn’t pre planned at all. We had a really interesting and thoughtful writing session with her. It was all before the lockdown so luckily we could go out and feel inspired by things and then we got in the studio and Martha came in and just made 3 or 4 takes, by the second we were all just like ‘woah’, because they were so intense and amazing.”
The track revolves around the idea of a false narrator – which was something the band explored deeply within the record. This concept, hauntology and dystopian imagery were focal points on the album’s development. Along the way they took inspiration from a variety of fascinating novels.
“The main one that we passed around that sort of bled into the writing process a lot was a novel called ‘Ice’ by Anna Kavan. It follows this tale of environmental armageddon through the eyes of a victim: a woman growing up in a very bleak world whereby male dominance is synonymous with environmental decline. We were all really interested in that book because we were chatting about this idea of conflicting narratives and unreliable narrators which led to the track ‘Narrator’.
They go on to explain the influence of JG Ballard in inspiring a lot of the albums dystopian visions, as well as ‘Ghosts of My Life’ by Mark Fisher, saying that “his ideas about hauntology and the cancellation of a future you can never imagine was definitely a good tool book in terms of getting us to think of other possible scenarios in which the future could go.”
With regard to the COVID inspired apocalyptic hysteria, they referenced that the end of the world is already at play – with or without the virus.
“I think that’s the main influence for us is the fact that you can read all of this SCI-FI fiction and these quite alarming non-fiction texts. Read into these different ideas of an impending sense of doom, but then the kind of real dystopia and I think the most nuanced one is just the day to day life that you see and experience when you see when you walk around the city you live in, going between cities and experiencing the world through the 24 hour news cycle.”
But thankfully, this tricky moment for society has inspired a legion of incredible artists in the UK shown through experimental rockers reaching unprecedentedly large audiences.
“I think that naturally often, things are a reflection of the society that they live in and naturally things have been quite bad. Well I guess they have been all over the world, but we’ve got a terrible government, the pandemics hit, as well as Brexit and I think people often want a release from the idea of those things being on their mind constantly and rock music to an extent can give that release”.
A number of these incredible artists have pretty similar origins and thus have been grouped together by the music press, on whether or not they have a sibling rivalry or any connection at all with artists such as Black MIDI, Black Country New Road and Fontaine’s DC they explained:
“With us, Black Country and Black Midi, there’s a particular venue called The Windmill in Brixton (South London), that was pretty monumental in terms of giving us all a springboard as very small bands. Bands that had a very small, if non-existent following, to be able to come and play regularly and for pretty much as long as you want and just get to know people that are working on the door and taking photos. People have started kind of referring to it as a scene, The Windmill scene, and I think they’d be right to do that because it’s not just about us as artists, it’s about everyone else involved as well. I think that recognises that. Musically if you asked all of us, we’d all be pretty aware that we’re pretty different. But there’s things that we all admire and we chat about each other after shows, we’re kind of all in awe. I don’t know when it comes to a scene, it’s difficult to pinpoint what exactly it is, I think there’s just a lot of people that are coming from a similar place, from a similar generation, and for the first time in a while it’s just amazing seeing stuff that’s coming from a pretty different place that is somehow managing to go into organisations such as the charts. That feels pretty new to everyone involved.”
In support of these struggling venues the band are hitting the road in the new UK to hit a number of smaller venues and pubs around the country. Not exactly the tour they could’ve anticipated for their debut album, it’s going to be a mix of old music, new music and even newer music.
“We’re playing music from the future that never existed. We’ve just been writing more music at the moment and I guess cause we felt like we really wanted to get back on the road but wanted to ease ourselves in, instead of going full throttle with the kind of tours we were doing last year. We have a chance to play at some smaller places that definitely need bands to play and need support – since it’s gonna be chronically underfunded by the government for the next 10 years. So yeh! We’re just super excited to see how it turns out!”
Check out the full interview audio in the link above!