Squid band interview

Squid inadvertently made an album reflecting the crises of the moment

An interview with the English krautpunk band ahead of their Montreal show this weekend.

Life imitates art … or is it art imitates life? Whichever version of the phrase you fancy, the sentiment could not ring any more true for English krautpunks Squid and their summer 2021 debut LP Bright Green Field

A song like the post-punk burner “Global Groove,” which is really about societal complacency and 9/11, just hits harder with what’s going on in Eastern Europe today. The members of Squid never set out to make an album parallel to international crises, but with music like this, context truly is everything — and with the post-apocalyptic vibe of 2020–2021 and a potential World War 3 knocking on Europe’s door, Squid’s sound has a ton to work with.

“It’s strange how (‘Global Groove’) kind of fits the paranoid times of this exact moment,” says drummer and lead vocalist Ollie Judge from his girlfriend’s flat in London, U.K. 

Judge is inspired by all media, but when he’s working on lyrics, his love of science and experimental fiction always seems to trickle in. Just take the song “G.S.K.,” a brutalist dystopian krautrock stab that references J.G. Ballard’s Concrete Island, a 1974 book where a man is marooned on a dreary slab of land between highways. Judge modernizes this situation, incorporating it into his nightly bus routine, while the music seems agitated with truncated guitar lines and booming bass. It’s a viciously anxious track, and perfectly conveys Squid’s documentarian composition style.

“With sci-fi, the line is totally blurred now,” Judge says. “You can take a J.G. Ballard book and it almost seems real. I find that if it’s a really good book, quotes or themes stick with you and for me, it always seems to be the dystopian-type stuff.”

This paranoid aura is prevalent in most of Squid’s music as Judge, who handles 90% of the lyrics, shout-sings in a sweaty, almost satirical refrain while a whirlwind of frenetic guitars, sawtooth synths and the occasional darkened horn flurry slowly consume. Sometimes it lasts four minutes, sometimes nearly nine. 

Judge’s shout-sing vocal style is one of the core components that makes Squid sound like Squid, but it only happened by accident. Before they reached international acclaim, Squid was playing a show when Judge’s microphone was off for almost the entire show. 

“I just started screaming the lyrics and it stuck. It’s funny because anyone who knows me knows that it’s the exact opposite of me. But it’s nice to get on stage and scream for an hour. So I guess it’s kind of like free therapy,” he says. 

Still, Judge says the next Squid album will be “mellower” and quite different from Bright Green Field

“It’s got a lot more range, but yeah I guess I kind of got tired of the screaming and shouting.  I think there’s a lot more melodic stuff coming. There are obviously the classic, intense Squid seven-minute songs in there but there’s a lot of them we have even been scoring with woodwind instruments. It’s actually quite a hopeful record, which is quite nice.”

Squid’s upcoming tour will be the first time the band has played in Canada and Judge is eagerly awaiting being able to breathe in a new music scene.

“We did America last year and it was kind of a baptism by fire,” he says. “When you tour in the U.K. or Europe, the biggest drive you have to do is like five or six hours, and in America, that doesn’t happen. It’s like 12 hours.

Just wait until he experiences touring in Canada, where it sometimes takes a few days to get out of a province. 

“I think we’re primed and ready and know what to expect,” he laughs. “You know, we know which kinds of snacks not to get.” ■

This article originally appeared in the March 2022 issue of Cult MTL.

Squid perform with openers Deliluh at Bar le Ritz PDB (179 Jean-Talon W.) on Saturday, March 19, 7:30 p.m. sharp, $33.79

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