Even over the phone, Squid feel like a wriggling, hard-to-define mass. Less tentacled sea creature than many-headed hydra, they readily spill over one another with enthusiastic laughter and self-deprecating jokes. We’ve only got three of them on the line from a pub in Bristol – Ollie (drums, vocals), Arthur (keyboards, percussion) and Laurie (bass, brass) – but it quickly becomes an amusing battle in trying to guess who’s saying what. For a five-person band that claims to have no frontman, they might just be telling the truth.
The trio seem in good spirits as they debrief post-practice with a pint, musing over the prospect of a BYOB eatery. Tasked with describing their genre-troubling brand of frequently ambient, occasionally jazzy, and always unpredictable post-punk, they all pile in with a series of non-sequiturs. “Bombastic”, “ribbon crasher” and “raucous” are fired out in quick succession, and then, after a long pause, Ollie adds a somewhat uncertain “good”. “I do actually think it’s good music…” he says, after the chuckling dies down.
When we last spoke to the band in summer, Squid were mid-tectonic shift. Their song ‘Houseplants’ was on the BBC 6 Music A-list, they had a slate of upcoming festival appearances, and they were just about to head out on their first-ever tour, supporting Viagra Boys. “Yeah, when Steve Lamacq started giving us lots of air time on Radio 6,” says Arthur, “That was when we really started seeing crowd numbers swelling.”
Ollie chimes in with his own take: “I knew it was taking off when I realised that being in a band was detrimental to my career. It either had to be one or the other, and I’m sorry to say that it was the work that had to go. Sorry, Domino Records…” Given that the inception for this rapid growth was their tongue-in-cheek social satire ‘Houseplants’, it’s apt that the first cost of Squid’s rise to fame was their day-to-day careers. “Nah, I’m not really that sorry,” Ollie adds wryly after Arthur calls him out.
It’s hard to avoid mentioning ‘Houseplants’ given how defining that single was for Squid’s upward trajectory this year, but the band seem pretty aware of that. It turns out to be somewhat autobiographical too. “I think we all own houseplants – we’re bloody hypocrites at the end of the day,” says Laurie. “It’s nice to poke fun at people, but it’s nicer to poke fun at yourselves.”
“Well, the song isn’t anti-houseplants…” continues Ollie. “What even is it anti? Maybe we’re saying that we all have houseplants, but that’s not an indication that we’re doing well in life. I’ve actually got a fantastic sorrel plant. It’s not your typical houseplant I don’t think – you can use it in your cooking.” An inquiry begins into where the line for houseplant is drawn – basil, parsley, small invasive weeds in your kitchen tiling – but thankfully Ollie has a definitive answer: “If it’s a plant and it’s in the house, then it’s a houseplant.”
Where ‘Houseplants’ saw Squid becoming as ubiquitous up-and-down the country as the titular greenery, their tour with Viagra Boys pushed them up another level. “Yeah, it was amazing. Big learning curve – that was the first tour we ever went on,” says Arthur. “We learned a lot, and it was a really fun tour as well. They’re such nice guys.” The main takeaway? “I think having a bit of outdoor time between van and venue is a must,” answers Laurie.
“We’re actually thinking of starting an “Out of Bounds” division of the management team that’s in charge of all outdoor pursuits. Good walks and wild swimming and stuff,” adds Arthur. “What are we gonna do for our winter sports?” asks Laurie. “Bobsleighing I reckon,” answers Ollie to much whooping.
When the subject comes around to the snowballing hype around Squid leading into 2020, the band seem more cautious. “We’re playing Scala in April, and that just sold out today, so if we wanna make hype about that, that’s great fun because that’s definitely gonna happen and it’s definitely…” “Sold out,” interjects Laurie, laughing. “It’s when there’s hype for something which can’t be put into a box, like ‘Most exciting new band’, I just don’t really listen to that.”
There’s also talk of an LP next year following the successful release of their EP ‘Town Centre’ in September. “Yeah, we started writing it today… wait, yesterday? Nah, today,” says Ollie. “It’s going really well so far,” jokes Arthur. “I’d quite like to bring a choir in. My mum’s part of the Crouch End Festival Chorus. Mum, if you’re reading this, have a word.”
“We’ve just got a new percussion stand and a cornet case which are definitely gonna take prominence in 2020,” adds Laurie. “We got a three-part horn section for one of the tracks at End of the Road, and it’d be nice to be mirror that on the album.” “We’d like to put some nice string sections on there and collaborate a bit more,” continues Ollie. “But I mean, we haven’t even written any of the songs yet.”
For a band clearly brimming over with ideas, it’s striking that all of these contradictory impulses rests easily on top of each other. Choir or cornet case; improvised brass or composed strings, the only certainty is that the end result will be bombastic, raucous… and good.
Taken from the December 2019 / January 2020 issue of Dork.
Words: Blaise Radley