In a 2013 interview with Rolling Stone, William Shatner once compared progressive rock to science fiction, saying “Science fiction speculates on what the future might be and look like and how we’ll get there, and yet there’s always a central theme of humanity, or there should be. Progressive rock has the same concept of exploration into the parts of the music world that hasn’t [sic] been explored.”
The members of local experimental rock group Squids follow this explorative approach to creating music with every single note.
Born out of their teenage alternative rock band Campus Thieves—which had a little spot in the limelight after landing a stint on Citytv and playing a live show in Churchill Square in 2013—band members Ryan McCale (vocal/keys), Caleb Steinwandt (guitar), and brothers Spencer and Mac Huddleston (bass and drums) formed Squids in 2017.
“We were always exposed to bands like King Crimson and Weather Report and all the psychedelic prog fusion bands because of my dad,” Spencer Huddleston says. “As we matured, we were able to apply those concepts more and more. So now we try to balance that prog/fusion element without scaring too many people away.”
You won’t hear a true progressive rock song that has a run time of 17 minutes from Squids, but the band does do an excellent job of subtly weaving in influences from 1960s and 1970s groups like The Moody Blues, Yes, and early Pink Floyd—and more modern bands like Animal Collective and Deerhunter—while remaining original and damn groovy.
For a group that walks that thin line of experimental indie to psychedelic prog, Squids is eerily accessible for the average listener. Sure there are enough complex guitar harmonies, effects, and weird time signatures to make a prog purist’s head spin, but the soft vocals and tight-as-fuck musicianship compliment the overall sound.
“My dad would always say ‘Blood in the rhythm section; it’s gonna be super tight,’” laughs Huddleston. “But seriously, we take time on our music and I’d say it’s for our benefit. We’ve written like four songs in the past six months or so and we really take our time recording it and going back until we’re satisfied.”
But like most bands in the prog rock genre, a song never feels finished for Squids.
“We will also go back to songs and recreate it in a completely different way,” Huddleston says.
This aspect also makes Squids a marvel to see live. To Huddleston and his bandmates, a song recording and its live equivalent are two entirely different entities.
“We know how the audience reacts to certain sounds,” Huddleston says. “There’s a huge element of improv in our live show.”
So far, Squids has a self-titled EP out but Huddleston promises a few new singles in the coming months.
“We wrote a grant for an album with Jesse Northey that will hopefully be created in June,” he says. “If we don’t get the grant we will still try and get something out for the summer time.”
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