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BN1 talks to Brighton jazz-funk visionaries, Squid, as they prepare to release their debut album, Bright Green Field

SQUID – interview

After smashing onto the scene with a brace of unmistakable singles, Brighton-based funk fusion visionaries, SQUID, have announced their debut album. Produced by Dan Carey, Bright Green Field is already one of 2021’s most highly anticipated albums.

Released on Fri 7 May, the album brings with it the heady promise of more trademark ambitious groove-locked workouts. The collection features field recordings of ringing church bells, tooting bees, microphones swinging from the ceiling orbiting a room of guitar amps, a distorted choir of 30 voices, as well as a horn and string ensemble featuring the likes of Emma-Jean Thackray and Lewis Evans from Black Country, New Road.

BN1 talks to Brighton jazz-funk visionaries, Squid, as they prepare to release their debut album, Bright Green Field

Whilst the album title conjures up imagery of pastoral England, it also captures the band’s fondness for paradox and juxtaposition. Within the geography of Bright Green Field lies monolithic concrete buildings and dystopian visions plucked from imagined cities.

However, for all the innovative recording techniques, evolutionary leaps, lyrical themes, ideas and narratives that underpin the album, it’s also a joyous and emphatic record. One that marries the uncertainties of the world with a curious sense of exploration as it endlessly twists and turns down unpredictable avenues.

As SQUID get ready for a memorable summer, we spoke to Louis Borlase (guitar and vocals) about the album’s recording and pushing jazz/funk forwards.

Has the prospect of creating a full-length album had an impact on Bright Green Field’s songs? Can we expect a narrative of common themes?

There’s a lot of ideas that crop up repeatedly across Bright Green Field, and being the first album there was more space to let observations manifest in different ways, through different words and feelings. I think It was when we started to write GSK that we knew that dystopia as a type of realism was an idea that would keep finding itself at the heart of what we were talking about.

There are some parts of the press struggling to confine you to a simple genre. Is there a favourite one you’ve heard? And is the need for genres a bit tired? Technology has enabled musicians to have so much power in shaping their audiences.

I remember Punk-Funk was a good one I saw somewhere. Everyone needs to make something into an object in order to understand it, so it’s no surprise genre is important to lots of people. On the listening side of things, there’s not one particular style of music that interests us collectively more than any other. But there’s definitely music and ideas that we don’t understand fully and that’s maybe why we don’t know how to write hyper-pop tunes.

BN1 talks to Brighton jazz-funk visionaries, Squid, as they prepare to release their debut album, Bright Green Field

Has music technology allowed new creative freedoms?

Music technology and the internet definitely makes for a certain freedom when writing, we felt that a lot in springtime last year. We’d worked on a load of sets ready to take on tour with us, with a few new songs here and there. The following week everyone was in lockdown and by sending each other stems and loops we worked out how we were going to keep the songs growing whilst we couldn’t meet up. On a more societal level, it can be said that certain technologies are widening many gaps between people to an extreme. It’s impossible not to pick up on this and these huge gaps are referred to on quite a few of our songs.

Squid’s music rewards repeated playing; there seems to be so many layers…

There are no hidden satanic messages on reverse play or anything, but there’s stuff I’ve noticed under the surface since we recorded the album. To be honest I think that’s just a nice reminder of the importance of subtlety and scale here and there, and that we don’t tell each other EVERYTHING we’re planning on playing when we press record.

Do American avant-garde composers have an influence on your music? It seems very progressive and polyrhythmic …

Maybe less so the avant-garde ones. Reich and Glass and Riley and Cage are people we like to listen to sometimes when we’re on a long journey in the van. I think we find more rhythmic inspiration in dance music from all around the world, to be honest.

People talk a lot about how non-conformist punk was, but isn’t jazz the original mass-market music for the adventurous?

It might have been, but isn’t that just by reaction, with epoch having an influence over art, economy and technology? Maybe the special link between the two of these movements is the role of the vernacular: people knowing each other and sharing approaches on a conversational and even subconscious means of absorption. I think there’s still room for conformity in punk music, like there is with jazz.

BN1 talks to Brighton jazz-funk visionaries, Squid, as they prepare to release their debut album, Bright Green Field

Although much of your music is fun and exuberant, there’s also an urgent edge throughout many of the songs. Is it difficult to reconcile these two emotions in songwriting?

I think it’s just that we take the music seriously and have fun whilst we’re doing it.

The video for Narrator is so simple in concept, but really powerful in the sense of the otherworldliness it projects. Was this intentional? Is there an ambition to present the band as providing something alien?

We haven’t aimed to present ourselves as an alien band. But we are interested in the idea of the uncanny. In that video, Felix Green was really good at listening to how we wanted to explore an impossible place, and I’m glad it’s come across as otherworldly in that respect.

Is the band squidas mysterious as their marine namesakes?

I reckon the marine versions go deeper.

Has your idea of what music means changed over the years?

It’s always changing, but right now it feels especially important. It’s a crucial time to look after music, and from venues closing to people not being able to travel freely – everything is on a knife edge. It would be a shame to let the Capitalist Class have their way and fuck us all over, but I have a fond feeling we’re not going to let that happen yet.

SQUID’s deburt album, Bright Green Field, is released on Fri 7 May 2021, via Warp Records. The band also play Brighton’s Concorde 2 on Tues 07 Sept, followed by London’s Printworks on Thurs 23 and Southampton’s The 1865 on Mon 4 Oct         

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Photos by Holly Whitaker

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