Interview: SQUARMS | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Lo-fi, experimental duo, SQUARMS burst onto the North-East music scene in 2018 with their self-released ‘Peace Lover’, which won them a place on SAGE Gateshead’s Summer Studios program. Fast forward to now and they have just been tipped as one of the acts to keep an eye out for in 2020 by BBC Introducing in the North-East.

SQUARMS’ sound brings together elements of Hip Hop, Post-Dub, Vaporwave and experimental tape delay; and offers a glance into the bleak truth of hauntology and retro-futurism. Their latest single, Ivy, has just been released (via all good digital streaming services) and so we caught up with them to find out more.

How did SQUARMS come about? Where did you meet and how did you get together? 
Most prominently I think about the chaotic experimental realms of our days creating free-improv noise music – plugging in an MS20 and vocal delay, some live drums and entering an abyss of sound for hours on end. We played some experimental electronic nights around Newcastle, forged both a psychedelic doom-jazz band and a black metal outfit which went on to support Sete Star Sept at the infamous Little Buildings. This was the rise of Real Sesh, an artist collective born from a weekly DIY radio show we hosted on Culture Lab Radio fuelled by what we were hearing at the time and Tesco £2 cider. Along this journey, we made ‘The Fool’, a song resampling a JOJI tune released before he exploded onto the mainstream. We were Frank fans. The song went viral in a strange lo-fi sect of Soundcloud, quickly breaking 500k plays. For the next two years, we spent our time in solitude finding our sound, writing, exploring, learning. 

Where did the name come from? 
This one comes up as often as you’d expect. I like to say that it’s the best of something that’s usually considered the worst. The ‘dreggs’, the crusts, the last inch of concentrated pint too often left for the barmaid. The best bits of life come from where you least expect, if you expected them they wouldn’t be the best. Everyone likes a surprise. 

Who are your musical influences? 
I’ve found it often changes along with our lives, just as anyone’s listening selection does. The past five years we’ve constantly been bombarded with musical influence through bedroom walls, friends, perhaps above all the internet. A large influence on myself I would attribute to the vast online libraries of obscure plunderphonics and vaporwave that’s out there. There’s an endless animus of dreams and reality’s, soundscapes and lost memories, seemingly experienced but forgotten, evoking nostalgia and a sense of comforting loss. A late night meander through a neon-lit city in the rain. The truth is out there if you look for it… if you can make it past the algorithms. Vocally, we’ve always taken influence from Hip-Hop, Grime and Punk music; but approached in an experimental way, smashing massive tape delays and reverbs wherever they fit. We also make a lot of our music via collaborations with other local artists who we’re vibing with, such as Mr Comfortable & Kv$hnoodle. 

Describe your sound. 
The eternal cyberspace sonically baptised by UK counter culture. 

Tell us about your upcoming release IVY? 
We were recently featured on BBC Sounds ‘The Hot List’ and BBC Introducing In the North East’s ‘Top Tips for 2020’ list, on which we premiered ‘IVY’. I guess it’s an amalgamation of sounds and ideas we’ve been playing with over the years, it brings in elements of our previously mentioned influences and mixed them with a sound that is both ambiguous yet definitively UK. 

You were on BBC Introducing in the North East’s ‘Top Tips for 2020’ list. What does this year have in store for you? 
That’s for the future to know and for us to discover, but what I do know is that what we’ve been working on behind the scenes for a while is finally breaking the surface water. We’re completely honoured with the BBC announcement. We will continue to do what we’ve always done and see where it takes us. Get in the DM’s dear o’ dear reader and join us for the ride. 

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