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

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Image by Holly Whitaker

I don’t know why bands like us, Black Country New Road and Black Midi are getting in the charts. I honestly have no idea why,” sighs Squid mastermind Ollie Judge.

He’s got a point. Squid and their friends make genuinely strange music, guitar music that slaps you around the face and makes you pay attention. The band formed in Brighton in 2016, initially as an ambient jazz collective, before metamorphosing into the surreal, neurotic post-punk unit they are today. Take album highlight Narrator, an epic which morphs from bright, sunny new wave to an apocalyptic Krautrock freakout, replete with unhinged screaming from guest vocalist Martha Skye Murphy. “She was pretty shocked by what she did in the studio as well,” Judge laughs. It’s that sort of hair-raising weirdness and manic energy that makes Squid such an exciting live proposition, and why their gig at Newcastle University Students’ Union on Monday 27th September is one of my most anticipated of the year.

Squid’s debut album is called Bright Green Field, the cover a lush pastoral hillside scene. But the music within is frequently anxious, neurotic, frenzied. “The title contradicts the themes of the album,” Judge tells me. “Modern life can be quite overwhelming.” These songs certainly reflect the overwhelming, information-dense experience of modern life, especially social media’s endless flow of content and communication. When I ask Judge if he uses social media, he admits: “Yeah, definitely. Maybe too much. I’d love to bin it but I just love it. It’s like smoking…I just love it too goddamn much.”

These songs certainly reflect the overwhelming, information-dense experience of modern life, especially social media’s endless flow of content and communication

He’s being ironic there, readers. But the underlying sentiment might explain why the album feels so timely, so in tune with the energy of living in Britain in 2021. When I ask him if he feels a desire to write political music, he’s reticent: “I think that’s quite a dangerous thing to do. I don’t think I should be a mouthpiece for politics of any persuasion.” But, he adds, “anything I write lyrics about is going to have a hint of politics in it…unless I’m writing about an arthouse film or something,” he says with the hint of a wry smile. I think he’s understating things. The twitchy, rickety paranoia of modern life really manifests in these dissonant guitar chords, the racing tempos, the disjointed, surreal imagery.

Having talked up the weirdness and experimentation of Squid’s music, in a way there’s a continuity between them and the post-punky guitar music that was knocking about the UK in the 2000s, sometimes derogatorily labelled ‘landfill indie’. When I ask Judge how he feels about that now unfashionable canon of music, he’s quick to defend it, or at least feel nostalgic for it. Judge waxes lyrical about Donnington dance punk band Late Of The Pier, and clearly feels a kinship with their landmark debut release Fantasy Black Channel, an opinion which sheds an interesting light on Squid’s more experimental trajectory. “Late Of The Pier, what a fantastic band,” he reminisces. “I feel a real kinship with that album, they kind of just did what they wanted and made a really strange and cohesive – but not stylistically cohesive – album, and I took a lot from that.”

Squid play at Newcastle University Students’ Union on Monday 27th September

 

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