Squid's debut album Bright Green Field is out now! We caught up with Louis Borlase and Arthur Leadbetter to chat about the release and more.
Image: Holly Whitaker
Last week, British five-piece Squid unveiled their hotly anticipated debut album, Bright Green Field. We caught up with band members Louis Borlase and Arthur Leadbetter to discuss the record, their out of this world visuals, forthcoming tour and so much more!
Across Bright Green Field, the group constructs its own realm, illustrating the places, events and architecture that exist within it whilst conjuring images of monolithic concrete buildings and a dystopian landscape. The record is deeply considered, paced and intricately constructed, covering a variety of scope. Fusing together a curious sense of exploration and navigating the uncertainties of the world, Squid bring plucked guitars and precise rhythms to the body of work, whilst evocative lyricism and captivating vocals run wild. The record is made complete with a number of field recordings, a distorted choir of thirty voices and a horn and string ensemble featuring the likes of, Emma-Jean Thackray and Lewis Evans from Black Country, New Road.
Formed in Brighton, Squid is the brainchild of Louis Borlase (Guitars & Vocals), Ollie Judge (Drums & Lead Vocals), Arthur Leadbetter (Keyboards, Strings, Percussion), Laurie Nankivell (Bass & Brass) and Anton Pearson (Guitars & Vocals). Squid thrive on the vitality of each band member, with each musician playing an instrumental role in the creation of the record whilst also working together as one.
Bright Green Field is out now! Read our interview with Louis Borlase and Arthur Leadbetter below!
To kick things off, can you just kind of tell us a bit about how the band formed and why you're called squid?
Arthur Leadbetter: Yeah, so, um, the band formed when us five were meeting up in each other's bedrooms at university to share records and little musical ideas, and we really had a strong inclination - strong tendency to just jam around like one tiny little idea for ages and ages and ages. That slowly developed into us calling ourselves squid and playing music stood up in all sorts of venues. I can't remember how we chose the name squid. It just seemed to fit, you know it was short and easy to say it's just slightly memorable, so we just, they just stayed with us.
Congratulations on the debut album, such a good record. The record kind of builds its own world, illustrates the places, events and architecture that exist within it, conjuring images of monolithic concrete buildings and a dystopian landscape. What prompted you guys to take that conceptual approach of building a world on this record?
Louis Borlase: Waking up and leaving the house usually and experiencing the world in quite a mundane and, you know, just the relative day-to-day dystopia that you see, um, it's nothing extreme for, for most of us. it's just usually something that is relatively tedious and it is gruelling and politics is routinely repeating itself and it's, you know, it's monotonous. And I think that's kind of the pattern that we noticed between the more exciting type of dystopia that we were reading about in novels that were written in the sixties, interesting texts on issues that are really fucked up. That are sometimes hidden behind the kind of concrete buildings. And there was a kind of duality, I think, between monotony and a very dark bleak dystopia that we latched on to. But at the same time we're also very kind of mindful and aware of our natural environment. I think that's kind of maybe where the album title comes from a bit. We will, when we have free time, can never really think of anything nicer than spending it together outside of the city. So I think that balance of, of brutalism and kind of natural architecture of fields and and Woodland was something that was pretty inspirational for us and moveing between those two.
And how do you think the themes and concepts explored on the record fit within the over arching narrative.
AL: That’s quite a difficult question to answer for me, I think.
LB: It's kind of difficult to answer, I think without asking all five of us, if we were in an environment, because we all kind of very differently attached to the thematic content of this argument in different ways. And I think based on that fact, there's a kind of almost nonsensical aspect to our music, which you could see as surreal maybe in the sense that our five brains are physically connected. They're very much just connected in a way that is very subjective and liable to change. So I'm kind of, what do you think, Arthur? I mean It's, yeah, it's just a hard one to answer basically. Yeah. Sorry.
Could you kind of walk us through your creative collaborative process when writing this particular collection of songs?
AL: Yeah, there's no formula and there's no set in stone way that we choose to work on the song. Someone will come with a small idea or will come with just like a rhythm or a melody and they'll just grow out of this seed and we just keep adding and keep taking away. And, you know, sometimes it works and sometimes it works better than others. Over the years, we came to have a collection of songs that we now call, Bright Green Field. But before we even started thinking about the album, we had some of the songs, but there wasn't a Bright Green Field. So, you know, more than anything, like I think the world will like people, everyone who listens to this album will see this album as, you know, that those tracks from Bright Green Field forever, which is interesting because for us, they weren't always like that.
LB: Mmm yeah.
AL: Do you know? Like they can change their status within how you see it and can change. So, you know, it's quite flexible. It's always quite flexible.
LB: It's interesting when you think about the collection of songs, Arthur, and you're talking about at what point they became the album. It reminds me of the grain of sand paradox, where you have a pile of sand and you take away a piece of sand and you've still got a pile of sand. And at what point, when you keep taking away that just become one pile of sand and you've got a pile somewhere else. I think for us, there were one or two tracks that we were always kind of thinking right at the last minute, 'if this song wasn't on the album, or if this one wasn't on the album, would it be the same?' And I think it was a resounding, no, it won't. It was just because they were coming from different times as well, where we're writing from different perspectives physically down to the fact that we were younger when we wrote some of the tracks. We were older when we were at some of the others. We had to work out whether or not they were truly coming from the same place. And in order to do that, we had to realise that they all need it to be that they will need to, to have the same level of mindfulness behind them so that we could take them as seriously as one another, which we ended up being lucky enough to do.
How did the album kind of evolve and change whilst you were writing? You touched on it a bit that there are songs that you started with that maybe didn't make the final cut, are there any songs that you think might have their own life in the future?
LB: Yeah, I mean, well, we were really lucky because the album contained songs that were written from drastically different writing positions and perspectives and Narrator and 2010 and maybe one or two of the others, maybe Global Groove were kind of incepted when we were, when we were down staying at a friend of ours house in Margate, on the South coast of the UK and Martha Sky Murphy was able to come down to one of those writing sessions where she improvised, um, with all Ollie's lyrics and we let it ride for ages and decided we should record this properly together. And then there were other ones that we were writing when we were in the rehearsal room, ready to go on tour, a tour that never happened. Some of them were written in a much more private domain because of the fact that we'd just gone down into lockdown. So we were working on 'Boy Races' just as the pandemic struck. So the internet became a really, really powerful tool for us to try out something we'd never done before, which is to let ideas grow just using these new set of mediums that were available to us. But yeah, that's pretty much it really, I think.
How did you arrive at the sonics and sounds we hear throughout the album? Was there a lot of experimentation that led to your signature sound?
AL: Yeah we just try and keep it changing as much as possible you know? I f there's something that we've been doing, a lot of, we try to steer away from it a little bit. I feel like my instruments that I use, I want them to constantly be developing. So I'm not, you know, hopefully not going to be playing with same thing, same instrument next this time next year, you know, like, so it's always going to be changing in that sense. So you never know what's going to be quite brought to the table.
Something I really love about the tracks is the use of field recordings. Church bells, bees, mics swinging from the roof. What prompted you to utilise the audio and how do you think it sets the scene for the songs?
LB: The field recordings were I think was something that we did naturally because of the fact we were all in isolation and one of the only things you're kind of allowed to do is to have a daily foray into your kind of immediate surrounding and environment. So for me, that was the park next to my house, and there's a church on that park. It's got really nice bells and when it's windy, they sound like they're all modulating. I went and recorded those the night before we went up to London to record the album with Dan. And just like that, Anton was in Norfolk and he had a beehive living in the wall of his parents' house, where he was staying at the time. So he recorded that. And then Arthur came up with a really nice idea because we hadn't seen our friends for a long time and to put together a couple of questions about how they're feeling, what they'd been up to, you know, some thoughts for the future and let them respond in their own words, just through something as simple as like a WhatsApp voice note. And I think those things, as much as they didn't at the time feel like they were going to become kind of key structural threads for the album, they've actually become this kind of thematic content, which helps us remember the album for what it is and where we were at the time and who was involved and all the people we were missing. And you know, every time I like hear the church bells, go next to the park next to my house, now I'm like, 'Oh my God, the album's about about to start'. It feels very vivid in that respect. So yeah, the field recording is really special and I'm really glad we managed to make them make them what they were.
So if you guys had to pick three songs off the albums, play to someone who'd never heard your music to make them an instant fan, which three do you think you choose and why?
AL: Ooooo, Maybe the first three songs on the album, one, two and three, so that they then listened to four or five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10, and 11 in order. That'd be nice.
LB: I think for me, I think I'm thinking purely from the perspective of what it's going to feel like to play live again. And I can't wait to play Global Groove. I can't wait to play 2010 and make the loud bit even louder than it is on record. And I can't wait to play Narrator, but have Martha Sky Murphy come in and perform it.
Shifting to the visuals now, the music video for Narrator is a mind blowing behind the scenes glimpse into virtual creation whilst exposing the artifice. How involved were you guys in conceptualising the visual and how did it come to be?
LB: I think we were, we were pretty there, especially at the start in terms of trying to find somebody that would be able to interpret the music in a way that they could then flip around and say 'here's my view about what things should be like'. We met a guy called Felix Silvestris who is an amazing 3D designer and he uses video game graphics platforms to put together these kind of virtual worlds. And we were like immediately, 'this is the person we should be working with here'. And again, like with the album artwork, we were interested in trying to find out a way to more objectively about what the album might look like. And so we got in contact with a scientist in Japan, Yukiyasu Kamitani who has an AI algorithm and an MRI scanner, which allows a subject to go in and be played stimuli, whether it's audio or visual stimuli, and allow an image to come back of what their brain is literally kind of, how their brain is reacting and re transcoded into an image. That became what you see with the single artwork, and the grass on the front cover is made up of those brain scans. So I guess we were kind of as involved as we needed to be, but as soon as somebody appeared to be the person for the job, it was then nice to take the back seat and just let them ride because it's theirs now. And we don't want to meddle with what their artform.
And so how important are the visuals to you when it comes to portraying the stories and themes present throughout the album?
LB: They’re massively important. It's just a completely new way for us to be able to communicate with the audience and just give completely new lives to the songs like, you know, we would have never been able to kind of like guess, or even, I don't think any of us had anywhere near the amount of inspiration to like come up with anything close to what Felix kind of thought of to do for that video and then subsequently for any other videos coming out in the future, or the way that the artwork for the cover was designed. We need these people to come into our lives to help us make these songs way, way more interesting. And it's so amazing to work with these people who can do that. They're really humbling and really inspiring because they're so amazing at what they do.
Are you guys still hitting the road this June? Or, has that changed because of restrictions?
LB: Oh, we are. And we're really excited now because mid-May is the time that we are in a very kind of precarious position as a country, things are opening up and that opening and opening up at a much more rapid pace than the rest of Europe, which is bizarre considering how guileless our government tends to be when it comes to the coronavirus things. But we are about to embark on a tour called the 'Field Works' tour, which we're going to be using as a way to play a lot of new music. And when we say new music, it's newer music than Bright Green Field. We have so much that we've been working on that still very embryonic and it's in its state. And we kind of have always been a band that needs to have an audience in order to let the songs grow. You know, like that's, that's the way that we kind of do things. We see how an audience or a group of audiences respond to a certain structure or a certain sound or musical idea and let that be the kind of governing force. And we haven't had that for a year and a half now. So that's going to be mid-May until kind of quarter of a way through June. We're going to be going to a lot of places more off the beaten track in the UK, a lot of places that are in a rural setting, or maybe, you know, places have newer venues or have never really seen bands coming and touring that way. So it's going to feel new for us and hopefully it will feel quite new for the people in the audiences as well. I think it's kind of what everyone needs on both sides of the stage.
Apart from like new music, what can audiences expect from one of your live shows?
AL: Um, maybe like just, just a good time, you know, and just like come and have some fun .
LB: Good chat.
AL: Yeah. Good chat
LB: Maybe a beer.
AL: Yeah. But nothing too, nothing too serious. Hopefully
Well hopefully you guys make it down to Australia!
AL: Oh god yeah!
Biggest musical influence?
AL: Um, my biggest music influence as band is, um, Miles Davis.
LB: Oh, Nice
An album that has had the most impact on you?
LB: Explorations by the Bill Evans Trio.
If you could create the soundtrack of any film, which film would it be?
AL: Star Wars.
Hannah Montana or Miley Cyrus?
LB: It's gotta be Miley Cyrus.
An album you would listen to on repeat on a road trip?
LB: I don't know, Dark Side of the Moon.
Best concert you've ever attended?
LB: Atoms For Peace at Melt festival in Southern Germany.
If Bright Green Field was a piece of preexisting visual arts, like a painting, a sculpture photograph, anything like that, which like, would it be excluding the albums artwork visual?
LB: I’d say it'd be, uh, is it green on red by Mark Rothko?
If you could tour with any artist who would it be?
AL: Kamasi Washington,
An artist you think has had the most influence on the music industry?
AL: Maybe Kanye West
What advice would your current self give to your future self a year from now?
LB: Year from now? Um, I'd say go buy a new synth.
The moment you wanted to be musician?
LB: I think when I saw people playing really cool instruments at the back of a jazz band sat down in the rhythm section, I thought that's what I wanted to do.