Squid The Whale is one of those bands that are on the verge of breaking out and doing some big things in the scene. The band is similar to a lot of other bands in the respect that they boast a strong vocalist in Bradley Walden. The band is different from the rest in their approach; their last release, "new war.", was filled with some of the most raw lyrics i've seen in awhile.
I had an opportunity to chat with vocalist Bradley Walden about their recently postponed tour with Chiodos/DRUGS vocalist Craig Owens, "new war.", and an upcoming date on this year's Warped Tour. Oh yeah, did I mention Bradley was offered the position of Emarosa vocalist after Jonny Craig was kicked out?
First off, where did the name Squid The Whale come from? It's definitely an original sounding name, as opposed to some variation of "skyline" or "noun the verb".
We spent a few weeks off the coast of Mexico to whale watch in Puerto Vallarta. Our bonding experience, Brandon (our guitarist) and his infinite curiosity decided he wasn't to be bound by the restraint of our ship. "Squid chase!", was the last thing we heard and saw of him for a solid 2 weeks before he was found washed up on shore. Long story short, we went with it.
Did you guys assume him to be dead soon after?
He's a tough guy, we didn't worry too much. If the coast of Puerto Vallarta can't kill Koobs, nothing can.
So how soon did he wash up on shore? What was he doing from that time until you found him?
I can't say for sure and he doesn't much like to talk about it but from the bits and pieces I've got, he stumbled across a very advanced species of whale. It was honestly a good 13 days before he washed up on shore. I don't want to speculate but all I know is he never knew how to juggle until he washed up on that shore, Jake. He never knew...
That's real intense! How did you guys end up forming the band prior to this incident?
It's your classic boy meets band scenario. They were dating this one singer and it just didn't seem to be working out, I had just gotten out of an abusive relationship with my old band so I was looking for those special someones. It ended up being right place, right time. Their singer quit, it was a very easy transition as I was a fan of the music and they were a fan of my voice. Now we've been going steady for almost a year and I'll probably spend the rest of my life with them.
How would you describe your band to someone that has never heard of you guys? What's the first song you'd show them?
That's such a tricky question. We've come to the agreement that our sound is "Rock & Soul". It's cliche to say, but it's hard to explain our sound to someone. We just played BLEDfest 2012 and had that question asked to us countless times. We've had a few "Recommended If You Like" bands told to us: Gatsbys American Dream, Envy On The Coast, Anarbor and Maroon 5.
As for a first song? We have a video for our single, "The Greatest Way". I think that's always a great song to show people, they get the visual as well and helps connect with the song. There's also "Drown", which is our slower acoustic song. It shows the diversity our songs have, and there's a lot of emotion in that song that I think is undeniable.
Drown is definitely my favorite thus far.
Yeah, we'll probably be recording a full band version in the future.
Is there any sort of direction you'd like to take that song with a full band version? Would you like it to still be scaled back, or would you like it to be super crunchy?
We already perform it live full band, I think it comes across very powerful. My only reservation with re-recording it would be capturing the emotion that we got with it the first time around. I remember after finishing the vocals on that song I broke down, and called it a day. I wouldn't look forward to reliving the moments that made that song and that's what I would ultimately have to do, to record it again. In a live setting, I feel like it's done tastefully, we've received a lot of compliments on the transition.
What sets you apart from other bands in the scene with strong vocalists? Is it the emotions that come through on songs like that?
Lots of bands have emotion, lots of bands have good vocalists. Lots of bands have both, I think what I really enjoy is that we don't see it as competition or how we can be different from everyone else. We just be Squid The Whale. We don't really think "How can we stand out?", I honestly just think we do. I like to believe that people see we're a real band; writing music we want to, singing about things that mean something. It all sounds like a stupid cliche' but it's true. I dont' know, maybe its the good looks and dance moves.
Not to mention that the vocals wouldn't be anything without the instrumentation. Squid could be an instrumental band if we wanted to, everything just compliments everything. Everyone in this band is an integral part of the band. If one member were to leave, we wouldn't be Squid. Squid The Whale, real name no gimmicks.
So is the bar set pretty high as far as dedication level? I mean, we're in a scene right now where people come and go.
Absolutely, we're all in it for the long haul; living together, some of us have been homeless crashing on couches, struggling to eat. There's plenty of rock bottom moments, but we laugh at them eventually. We're a family. No matter how hard it gets, we never question what we're doing it for.
Yeah, but you know, I had Craig Owens tell me everything was fine in the DRUGS camp in February...and then we all know what happened.
I can't speak on his behalf or on behalf of DRUGS. I can only speak for myself; family is family.
So with that in mind, it was pretty easy to turn down that offer from Emarosa, right?
Emarosa is a band full of great dudes, I genuinely hope the best for them and I'm a fan of their music. Sometimes things just aren't meant to be. Like I said, family is family. I love Squid and that's where I'm staying.
I have all the confidence in the world in Emarosa and wish them the best, they're ridiculously talented and will carry on I'm sure.
Coming back to Craig Owens, what's your relationship with him? I know you guys are both representative of the Michigan scene, but how did you first connect?
It was once we started talking about opening his solo tour that him and I actually started interacting. We played with DRUGS on their tour in Michigan and I think that's when it kind of started. I was very thankful he decided to have us on his solo tour, unfortunately things happen and it was postponed. Once the dust settles I'm looking forward to making that happen. He's been very supportive of our band and I'm thankful for that.
As you're getting picked up for cool tours like that, how's it feel to start getting support from more well known companies like Stheart?
Well Aaron from Stheart has been a friend of mine for a long time. I have the Stheart logo tattooed on my wrist. He was the first person who ever believed in me (apart from family and friends) as a singer to put it out there and represent me with his company. It's been a unofficial thing for a long time, he's a great friend and I believe in his company completely. As we're reached out to by more and more by companies and labels wanting to represent us, it's a very comforting feeling to know people are interested in what we're doing. It's a weird feeling to watch the popularity grow. Who would say they don't appreciate that?
What's your plan now as far as touring goes? It was just announced you're doing at least a day on Warped this summer, that'll be cool.
We're submitted for quite a few things, I can't say for sure who we'll be going out with or when it'll happen because nothing has been 100% confirmed, and I don't want to start any rumors. We're definitely hoping to be hitting the road in the next few months though.
I'm very much looking forward to Warped, it's odd that we won the Ourstage competition for Pittsburgh. We're from Detroit, I don't know how it happened, but I'm very thankful to the people of Pittsburgh for voting for us.
Any bands you're looking forward to seeing in particular on that Warped date? Any bands that people will warm up to by the end of the tour?
Taking Back Sunday, Koji and Lostprophets (for the nostalgia). Last year I really wanted to see Bad Rabbits, I hope that band blows up and is the biggest band ever made, next to Squid. I don't really know of anyone I'm hoping people will really warm up to. If you're on Warped you have a great opportunity in your hands, so make people remember you.
Just to confirm, Squid The Whale won't be performing in the parking lot around the other dates, right?
Nope, no parking lot sets. But we'll be playing Pittsburgh and possibly Detroit.
Let's talk about your last release, "new war."; it's been about 10 months since you guys put it out. What can you tell us about the EP lyrically?
It's a very angst driven, vindictive record for the most part. This is the first record I've ever had the opportunity to vent and tell real stories. The songs are my way of getting closure on something, or just getting it out so it's not bottled up anymore. People need something like that, they need an outlet. Being able to tell these stories in a blunt but also creative way at times is my outlet. Each song has it's own distinct meaning and purpose.
You have songs like "The Greatest Way", which is really an anthem for people who keep getting told no. To say "fuck it" and do what you want and love, etc. Songs like that have been done before, but I still needed to get it out for myself. There's "Tennessee", for a terrible father and husband. It's just really really honest and real. Every song is a personal experience...an experience that has ended up defining the kind of person I am.
Moving forward, you've been writing for a new album; what are we going to see not only lyrically, but also musically as well? How does it compare to new war?
We've written a lot and are still continually writing. When we wrote "new war.", we had just started becoming a band. We wanted to put an EP together and see what we could do. See what came of it. Now, we're a band. We've found this niche that seems to fit. We're in a really comfortable place and these songs that are coming out are so diverse. Instrumentally it's what you expect and what you don't expect. It's that Rock & Soul vibe that we're shaping into. If you're a fan of the EP you're going to enjoy what's next.
Lyrically I'm trying to go even more personal into my life and the lives of some people very close to me. There's a lot of taboo topics that I'm flirting with and it's exhausting. When you're writing lyrics, ones that actually mean something, you have to relive what you're writing about. Sometimes that's the hardest part.
I first became familiar with the band through a Michael Jackson cover on youtube that you did; what led you to start recording covers?
I love music, I love all genres of music with very few exceptions; I like to pay respects to music that I respect or love. I was raised on Michael Jackson, I was raised on pop music. I grew up on Fall Out Boy, I love artists like Bruno Mars. I guess it's my way of expressing how much I love that music. I never had any intention of putting them on YouTube until the past few months. Just kind of an exposure marketing tool for the band. I'm sure I'll continue doing them.
Is it a far off possibility to see a full band cover song on the new record?
At this point probably fair to say that won't happen on the record. Once you try to sell a record with a cover on it there's a lot of logistics with copyrights etc. The last cover we did of "Rolling In The Deep" was really good for us, we just gave it away. I think we might do something like that again in the future. Just give it away. We dig free music and a lot of other people do too, clearly.
Coming back to touring, it's more than likely that you'll be touring in some way, shape or form in the Fall after Warped?
It depends -- unofficially, we're going to try to get into the studio this year. So it will definitely depend on the schedule of studio time and what potential tours open themselves up to us. Things can literally change at any minute. We like to keep an open mind and a very flexible guideline for the next year. The industry is forever changing and you have to keep up with it.
I'd honestly be on tour every month for the rest of forever, if it were feasible at this point. Usually tours start picking back up after Warped has come and gone. The possibility for a Fall tour is definitely there.
What's one thing you've never mentioned about you or your music before in an interview?
I was married once. Also, I almost sang for the nu metal band Strata a long time ago.
Wow, that's pretty interesting.
I've lived a life, brother.
What's one book and one band that you'd personally recommend to anyone that listens to your band and why?
My favorite band is Acceptance, I'd recommend that band to anyone regardless of what you listen to.
As for books, my favorite book is Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller. However, if you don't want to read that then I'd suggest Bright and Shiny Morning by James Frey
Get out of town, Blue Like Jazz is MY favorite book! Have you seen the movie yet?
I didn't know there was a movie, that's so awesome.
Wrapping up, is there anything else you'd like to mention?
Squid the Whale hooked me almost a year ago now. It's crazy to think it's been that long and that short all at the same time... I've seen them play about 3 or 4 times and I'm lucky enough to call them friends.
It's a cliche at this point, but honestly, Squid is the hardest working group of talented young musicians I've ever met. I have so much respect for what they do. If you haven't seen them play, do it, become a fan for life sooner rather than later.